By Ameen Amjad Khan.
A high-profile meeting of ministers of higher education and research
from member countries of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic
Cooperation (OIC) has approved setting up a higher education cooperation
forum for developing nations including Islamic states during a meeting
The Higher Education Network (THEN) was approved
during an executive committee meeting held in Baku from 23-26 November
of the Islamabad-based OIC
committee on science and technology (COMSTECH).
Funding for THEN will be sought from the Islamic Development Bank in
Jeddah, which has funded many COMSTECH initiatives in the past.
"Under this initiative, a consortium of academics will be developed to
deliver research-based lectures in their specialised academic areas as
well as offer courses to students in higher education institutions
through video conferencing technology," COMSTECH head Atta-ur-Rahman
told University World News
He said it would be a forum bringing together scholars from around the
world to help enhance the quality of teaching and learning in developing
"The higher education sectors of the developing world are deeply in need
of highly trained scholars to deliver a basic undergraduate curriculum,
but cannot afford to replace local faculty with western-trained
academics," said Atta-ur-Rahman, a former science minister in Pakistan.
The concept of THEN emerged from the Virtual Education Project Pakistan
run jointly by Karachi University's International Centre for Chemical
and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) and the Islamabad-based Centre for
Advanced Studies in Engineering with funding from the country's Higher
The virtual education project involves academics from a variety of
disciplines around the world delivering lectures through video
"For this new network, we have the technology to broadcast these
lectures in universities across the continents," ICCBS director Mohammad
Iqbal Choudhary told University World News
, adding that 25 reputable universities had already joined the network.
During the Baku meeting, the OIC committee of ministers asked COMSTECH
to bring as many OIC member states under the THEN umbrella by the end of
However, the new network will not be limited to OIC states. It will also
include institutions and academics from elsewhere in the developing
In addition, partnerships have already been agreed with the Internet
Education and Research Laboratory whose members include Japan, Korea,
Thailand and other Asian countries; with the Asian Institute of
Technology in Bangkok; and with the Global Young Academy, a network of
Besides a number of Pakistani universities, the US University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of California, University of Geneva in
Switzerland, University of Winnipeg in Canada and the University of
Dhaka in Bangladesh have joined the initiative.