Born and raised in a poor family in Athara Hazari, District Jhang, Muhammad Usman, 21, thought he was doomed to give up his dream of attaining higher education due to his financial background. With the death of his father, when Usman was just an intermediate, he thought it was all over for him, as there was nobody after his father to support him for higher studies at any reputed university of the country. “When I passed my intermediate exams I had mixed feelings. I was excited but at the same time I was sad. I knew I did not have resources to fulfill my dream of higher education,” Usman recalled. Since, there was a will and definitely there could have been a way and this way was found through the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) indigenous scholarship scheme and he got enrolled in BS Political Science program at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. “Thanks God, HEC was there to materialize my dream. I’m availing this scholarship opportunity and am sure that completion of my education would avenues for me to financially support my family,” Usman remarked. Like Usman, there had been thousands of other students in the past, who suffered due to financial constraints. But, now the HEC stands by them in fulfillment of their dreams of higher education Esha, the daughter of a poor farmer from Muridke Lahore said it was her desire to study at Quaid-i-Azam University but could not due to financial constraints. “With my father’s income, we could hardly run our house and it seemed that as our desires for higher education would die down with the time,” she said. “But, we did not give up and continue looking for avenues for support. Then, fortunately the HEC scholarship scheme came our way as a ray of hope,” Esha revealed. “I secured 4 CGPA and now looking forward to new destinations through my dedication and hardwork.” Muhammad Naveed Tahir, a Ph.D. scholar at the Institute of Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad is another beneficiary of the scholarship scheme like thousands others across the country. A couple of decade back sometimes very brilliant student had to discontinue their education due to paucity of resources. Then instead of emerging as scholars, many among them had to live with low grade jobs.But, then with the introduction of Higher Education Commission in Pakistan, the students and those in-service who desired higher education were facilitated through different programs. “I could have settled after my MS, had there been no HEC indigenous scholarship scheme,” said Naveed Tahir, a resident of Shakargarh, District Narowal. “This three years’ scholarship is covering all my expenses. I’m grateful to HEC for offering me the scholarship.” It is not only the students who benefit from this scheme, but the faculty members and teachers also see it as ‘a welcoming step’ by the HEC. “Merit based national and international scholarships had changed the lives of thousands of students,” stated Assistant Professor International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University Dr. Samar Iqbal. “This initiative is equally beneficial for deserving students all across the country no matter they hail from developed areas or the remote areas of Balochistan, Waziristan, Sindh, South Punjab and AJK,” he added. Director General Scholarships HEC Aysha Ikram says that since 2002, the HEC had been offering scholarships for undergraduate, MS, Ph.D. and Post-doctoral studies at national and international universities. “The main objective of our initiatives was to create qualified manpower for different sectors, with a particular focus on capacity building of our educational institutions,” she said. “The HEC is also engaged with its international partners to maintain the cost and quality issues.” Furthermore, she said, the students from low income families are supported through need-based scholarship with the support of the government finances as well as foreign and local donors and the HEC had so far reached to 30,000 such students since the launch of program.The HEC has 13 international scholarship programs and 07 local scholarship programs at both the undergraduate and post-graduate level as HEC also offers 04 needs based and 05 special initiatives scholarship programs for the students, Ayesha said. The HEC has initiated National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) with an aim to improve quality of teaching, research and governance in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country. “The NAHE provides support in individual and institutional level capacity enhancement and empowering education institutions to self-regulate and deliver quality learning for faculty,” said Rector NAHE, Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali. Besides its other initiatives, the China Study Center by HEC at Karakoram International University (KIU) would also help enhance academic and research ties with China including teacher-student exchange programs and joint training, conferences and workshops. The HEC is also focusing important issues like harassment and drugs abuse at educational institutions as it is diligently working on new strategies to provide a drugs-free environment. Moreover, it has also launched e-courses on ‘Protection against Sexual Harassment’ and ‘Policy for Students with Disabilities’ at Higher Education Institutions to make Pakistani universities safer and more inclusive for students, faculty and administrative staff.