Islamabad, September 17, 2014– The United States government launched the second phase of its Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Program (MNBSP) which will benefit 3,000 talented students who are in need of financial assistance to pursue higher education in a ceremony held today at the Higher Education Commission. The new phase of this U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded scholarship program was announced by Gregory Gottlieb, Mission Director, USAID) Pakistan at an event also attended by Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms. Professor Mukhtar Ahmad, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission and Vice Chancellors of USAID’s partner universities were also present.
A total of 1,807 scholarships were awarded in Phase 1 of the program and more than 1,350 of these students have already obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees. The scholarship program also served as a catalyst for other donors to award scholarships at participating institutions, resulting in more than doubling the number of students enrolled since 2004. Based on the successes of the program, needs based scholarships have increased from two to about 70 public and private universities since 2004.
“The U.S. government through USAID has decided to expand the Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Program through HEC by providing an additional $23.1 million to benefit 3,000 more talented Pakistanis. Eighteen additional universities have been included and new fields of study will allow Pakistanis to pursue degrees in the most sought after fields of studies to meet the needs of the job market”, said Gregory Gottlieb, Mission Director, USAID. He added that “half of these scholarships have been set aside for women, and to help ensure that we achieve this goal four women-only universities have been added to the expanded program”.
Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, thanked the United States for its continued support to Pakistan’s education sector and noted that students are selected for the scholarships based on financial need, after gaining university admission.
The Merit and Needs Based Scholarship Program is part of the comprehensive U.S. education assistance program in Pakistan, which includes building or rehabilitating more than 850 schools; establishing centers for advanced studies at three Pakistani universities to focus on applied research in energy, agriculture and water; expanding English skills for more than 5,000 low-income students; and creating accredited degree programs in education at 90 teachers’ colleges and universities across Pakistan.