Having completed one successful year of delivery, the British Council and Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan’s collaborative project, the Pak-UK Education Gateway, has worked to improve the higher education landscape in Pakistan.

In December 2020, a three- day virtual conference titled, Rethinking and Reshaping a Resilient HE System, run in partnership with the HEC, brought together senior leaders from the HE sectors in both countries to discuss the challenges and opportunities they are facing, the role of leadership in building resilient HE systems, and lessons learnt from the pandemic. The conference also was a chance to celebrate some of the concrete contributions that the Pak-UK Education Gateway programme has made so far.

Across the three days, a range of senior figures from Pakistan and the UK participated and spoke, including President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi, Federal Minister of Education Shafqat Mahmood, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser, Chair of the HEC Tariq Banuri and other senior leaders from the HEC, FCDO Minister for South Asia Lord Ahmad, and British High Commissioner Christian Turner.

The conference was attended by Vice Chancellors, university administrative staff, academics, students, and colleagues from sector bodies from both countries. Through MS Teams and the HEC’s livestreaming services, the conference was attended by over 7700 people each day. Dr Arif Alvi acknowledged the efforts and outcomes of the Gateway at the closing speech, which aired live on PTV World with an estimated 10 million viewers.

The conference included keynotes and panel discussions on a range of key issues facing the HE sectors in the UK and Pakistan today, including leadership, access, distance learning and international partnerships. A number of senior sector experts from the UK spoke including Vivienne Stern from Universities UK, Alison Johns from Advance HE and Joanna Newman from Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). In addition to the speeches and discussions mentioned above, the conference was also an opportunity to announce a number of new projects and scholarships. British Council also announced the successful grantees under the Gateway’s Research programme – eight UK-Pakistan university partnerships that will now undertake joint research projects on a range of areas from climate change to medicine to cultural heritage. Furthermore, British Council also announced almost 50 new scholarship opportunities for Pakistanis – especially women – to undertake postgraduate study in the UK, and a further 200 scholarships for underprivileged girls to study within Pakistan.