May 2018


As I write this article, here in Pakistan we mark seven decades of independence, seventy years of the British Council in this country and the fifteenth anniversary of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). 

Today Pakistan is host to more than 200 million people making it the fifth most populous country in the world. It is one of the youngest nations on the globe with over 65 per cent of the population being under 25 years old. Their untapped potential, along with the readiness from both public and private sectors make Pakistan a promising land for development in education.

The beginning of 2018 also marks the launch of the recently announced Pak–UK Education Gateway, a joint programme with the HEC which aims to enhance higher education links between Pakistan and the UK in the areas of: innovative and collaborative research, higher education leadership, quality assurance and standard setting, distance learning, international mobility and transnational education. 

The British Council and the HEC are arranging three roundtable events across the UK, which will introduce UK sector expertise to key decision makers from Pakistan to explore the possibilities of further collaboration around shared themes including: quality issues, teaching excellence and research collaborations for Higher Education Institutes in Pakistan. The roundtables will take place:

Monday 25 June 2018


Wednesday 27 June 2018


Thursday 28 June 2018


UK higher education institutions can register at this address to take part in a round table discussion:

Partnerships between Pakistan and UK higher education institutions

The Pak–UK Education Gateway will support the ambitions set by the HEC in Vision 2025 , the document charting out targets for the upcoming years: increase gross HE enrolment by 15 per cent, PhD faculty by 40 per cent, the number of universities to 300 and a total enrolment to 7.1 million.

Pak–UK Education Gateway builds on existing collaborations between the UK and Pakistan that the British Council has facilitated over the years: from knowledge exchange and leadership development programmes, to student and teacher training, scholarships and research collaborations.

Launched in 2010 in collaboration with the HEC, our leadership training programme for higher education leaders has been attended by over 500 Pakistani Vice-Chancellors, Rectors and senior management staff. The programme is refreshed regularly and continues with a range of UK partners.

Since the establishment of the commission the British Council in collaboration with the HEC has so far facilitated partnerships between 160 Pakistani universities and 65 UK institutions. This includes 160 research links involving over 1000 researchers from both countries contributing to sustainable development and institutional capacity building.

Education for women from remote places in Pakistan

The UK is the preferred study destination for Pakistani students and there are a number of scholarships available to them, including the highly sought after Foreign and Commonwealth Office supported Chevening Scholarship Scheme. The beneficiaries of this scheme have increased significantly over the years with 115 Pakistani students benefitting in 2017. 

Other scholarships are the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships, Charles Wallace Pakistan Trust fellowships and the Pakistan Scottish Scholarship Scheme, all managed by the British Council. Thanks to the Pakistan Scottish Scholarship Scheme over 500 women from remote places in Pakistan have been able to access education and complete their masters’ study in priority fields such as education, sustainable energy, food security and agriculture, health sciences and STEM. The scheme has also supported female PhD candidates with the opportunity to conduct part of their research or dissertation in Scottish Universities.

Transnational education is an area which continues to grow. According to the HESA reports for 2015-16 , the number of students studying for a UK award within Pakistan has reached 46,640. This represents an increase of approximately 10 per cent from the previous year, and about 33 per cent over the past five years, ranking Pakistan as the fourth largest host country for UK TNE, after Singapore, China and Malaysia.

To echo the words of the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew CMG, “…the shared history between the UK and Pakistan is a strong foundation for a shared future” and I believe that given the history of trust between the two countries and past collaborations within the higher education sector, the UK will play a significant role in building mutually beneficial partnerships through policy dialogues, capacity building programmes and study tours among other areas.

More information about our programmes in Pakistan can be found here:

Nishat Riaz MBE is the Director Education at British Council Pakistan and a social activist. She is also one of the founding members of Karakoram International University - the first university in mountain ranges of Karakoram and Himalayas, Pakistan. She holds an engineering degree in Electronics and Communications and has the unique distinction of being the first female engineer from Gilgit Baltistan.