ISLAMABAD-The Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) will collaborate in sponsoring 50,000 scholarships per year to undergraduate students from low-income families, a statement said on Saturday.

These scholarships will be awarded through Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Project.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar was addressing the 26th Vice Chancellors Committee Meeting convened by Dr. Muhammad Ali, Chair of the VCs Committee to brief them about government’s upcoming Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships.

The formal launch of the programme by the prime minister is planned for next week. Heads of public sector universities across the country attended the meeting at HEC Secretariat.

Chairman HEC Dr. Tariq Banuri, on this occasion gave a detailed briefing to the vice chancellors on the newly conceptualised scholarships, entitled Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Project.

Dr. Banuri said the scheme is the largest ever undergraduate scholarship initiative of Pakistan seeking to award 50,000 scholarships per year to undergraduate students from low-income families.

He said that this is an outcome of mutual understanding between HEC and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) under the auspices of government’s Ehsaas Programme.

In the last 14 years, the HEC has awarded a total of around 30,000 undergraduate scholarships, while this scheme will give 50,000 scholarships every year.

It is a huge paradigm shift. “The objective is that no child should remain deprived of education due to financial constraints.”

The project will award Ehsaas scholarships to low-income students enrolled in four and five-year undergraduate programmes. All students from low-income families studying in undergraduate programmes in public sector universities are eligible to apply. Selection will be based on need-cum-merit, i.e., on the basis of the student’s GPA and family income (below a maximum threshold). The scholarship covers tuition fee and a living stipend.

Fifty per cent of the scholarships will be awarded to female students, while students with special needs as well as those from remote and disadvantaged areas will also be encouraged to apply.

Dr. Banuri emphasised that that universities must disburse the amount justly and speedily so that students do not face problems in pursuing their studies. He also emphasised on strengthening universities’ vetting system to ensure transparency in award of scholarships.

A steering committee, jointly headed by Dr. Sania Nishtar and Dr. Tariq Banuri has been established to formulate policy guidelines. On-the-ground management will be in the hands of the participating universities, which will have to establish transparent operational systems to administer the scheme. “We need to work as a team to make this mega scheme a success,” he concluded.

Dr. Banuri made it clear that the scholarship scheme is no substitute for the higher education sector’s funding. “We request the government to ensure provision of the required resources to the sector and reverse the recent funding cuts.”