Why higher education in Pakistan?
|November: The expansion of higher education in Pakistan has become a hotly debated
issue. It is argued that higher education adds to a nation's skilled labour
Talented managers provide innovative leadership; engineers and
scientists are scientific innovators and develop new products; and teaching
professionals prepare the young for future development.
advanced degrees contribute to higher labour-force productivity, production and
national income because research and development (R&D) activities in
industry, as well as in universities, are undertaken largely by those with a
Recent evidence from many countries points to high
social rates of return from R&D by universities. Greater social cohesion and
strengthened foundations for democracy that promote property rights and help
enforce law and order - necessary conditions to create incentives for innovation
- are added social benefits of higher education.
agree that an atmosphere that promotes innovation is necessary for sustained
economic development. Indeed, the children of educated parents grow up with a
greater awareness of the value of investment in education.
expanding university education leads to lower per student costs as the fixed
set-up costs involved in establishing infrastructure are divided over a larger
body of students, in turn raising the social rates of return on investment in a
Considering the centrality of higher education in
human and economic development, it is surprising that only since 2002 has
post-secondary education in Pakistan received attention in public sector
planning. The government doubled the share of post-secondary education in the
education budget to 13.7 per cent by 2005-06, resulting in expanded public
universities and colleges across the country and a more than twofold increase in
The HEC replaced the somnolent University Grants
Commission, signalling increased public sector involvement in higher education
which was too important to be left to the private sector, which could not
adequately capture the associated substantial external economies. In a way, the
change reflected an understanding of social dynamics and helped human capital
Funds allocated to higher education have been used to increase
the academic activities of public sector universities within the Medium-Term
Development Framework 2005, which aimed at faculty development, access to higher
education and promotion of excellence in learning and research. To achieve these
core objectives the plan advocated a massive investment in human capital. Since
then many objectives have been achieved, though challenges remain.
to the HEC's efforts most universities, though initially unable to adequately
handle the larger allocations, now have state-of-the-art computer technology,
and more monetary and non-monetary incentives are now available for university
teachers to perform better. Highly qualified professors who were forced to
retire have been brought back. Financial support has helped universities attract
qualified foreign faculty on short-term and long-term contracts, giving students
and local faculties more exposure to international academics. Further, visits by
Nobel laureates have been arranged to broaden the learning experience of
faculties and students. As a result many university students now aspire to join
the teaching profession, where salaries are now competitive.
study shows Pakistan undergoing a demographic transition due to its declining
population growth, causing a change in the country's age structure. The
percentage of the secondary and pre-secondary school-age population will
continue to decline while that of the post-secondary school-age population
(18-24 year olds) will rise until 2050. Pakistan can benefit from this
demographic dividend only by planning ahead and continuing its emphasis on
post-secondary education. Countries like South Korea have exploited their
demographic dividend by investing heavily in higher education. It is now a
question of our ability to meet the challenges of economic development and
social change, especially in a globalised world.
Based on the current low
student participation rate of 2.5 per cent (the percentage of the population
aged 18-24 attending post-secondary institutions) and the projected population
increase, approximately 450,000 new students will enter our post-secondary
institutes in 2010. The government aims to double this rate (as per the
statement of the president of Pakistan). However, given the constraints of the
existing physical and human resources, investment must be made in
capacity-creation to meet the future growth in both the supply of and the demand
for higher education. We estimate that would mean at least doubling the present
allocation toward current expenses in the higher education sector. Incidentally,
a five per cent student participation rate is still too low by international
standards. India's rate is 12 per cent and is expected to increase. South
Korea's is 68 per cent.
New initiatives must be explored while keeping a
balance between allocations to various academic disciplines. An engineering
university student receives about 2.4 times more, and one enrolled in a medical
university receives 1.3 times more, allocation than does a general university
student. Engineers, doctors and other scientists are perceived to contribute
more to economic growth than graduates in arts, humanities, and social
However, the preliminary findings of a study at the Federal
Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology show that the economic returns
on general degrees are comparable to engineering and medical degrees. University
research and teaching in science, engineering and medicine are necessary for
industrial growth but the fields of social sciences, management science and
humanities are important for social, economic and political development. Perhaps
it is here that a change in the direction of policy is needed in the HEC's
The projected demand for higher education in Pakistan
and the role that the HEC has played since its creation indicate that policies
implemented in the past seven years or so should be continued, and where change
becomes necessary it should be incremental rather than radical. This is how
societies and institutions have developed in advanced countries over the last
two centuries. This is how they will develop in Pakistan too.
It is a
necessity for the advancement of our growing population of youth if Pakistan is
to keep pace with the rapidly globalising world - in which, like in Alice in
Wonderland, one must keep running just to stay in the same place. To outdo
others is a bigger challenge and will require running even faster.
By Syed Ather Hussain Akbari & Syed Nawab Haider Naqvi
writers are respectively professor at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, and
director general, Federal Urdu University, Islamabad. (Dawn)
Post your comments
HEC moves reinstatement of students union summary to education minister
Islamabad: Higher Education Commission has forwarded a summery regarding
reinstatement of students union to Minister of Education, Mir Hazar Khan
The text of the summery revealed that reinstatement of students
union is needed a transparent process, which must be different from the bitter
past experiences, the authentic sources said.
It was also
mentioned in the summery that in order to keep the environment peaceful in the
campuses, it is necessary that intervention of political parties must be banned
strictly. According to the criterion only those students having good academic
record would be able to take part in the election process besides in the good
book of the administration, the sources further revealed.
The sources said
summery also introduced a check and balance formula among the stake
holders-three parties-students, teachers and non-academic staff (Employees). It
was further suggested in the summery that students' intervention in
administrative decisions should also be restricted.
"If a disciplinary action
would be taken against any students by the administration, students union could
not be able to challenge it on the platform of the 'Students Union', the source
Earlier, HEC had established a committee to implement Prime
Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani's decision to reinstate the students union.
According to the HEC officials claims, summery was prepared after complete
consultation of all the stakeholders, as the said committee was consisted over
teachers, students and parliamentarians.
"HEC was facing massive criticism
from some MPs of the ruling coalition to complete its work as earlier as
possible", the sources further informed. In this regard when contacted to the
HEC, Dr Mukhtar Ahmad, Member Operations and Planning Department, while
confirming the news regarding reinstatement of Students Union summery , said
that HEC did complete its work on the students' union proposal that how to
regulate the students politics. †
He further informed that summary was
forwarded even before the appointment of Federal Minister for Education Mir
Hazar Khan Bajrani.
To a quarry, he was of the view that now it was on the
end of the Ministry of Education when 'Students Union' would be made functional,
as his department did its work accordingly. He said that it was a wrong
perception that HEC was becoming a hurdle in the way of reinstatement of the
'Students Union'. He said that HEC never opposed the idea of restore the
'Students Union' but yes there were some reservations in this regard but after
complete consultation now the summery has been forwarded to the Education
Post your comments
IIU staff still not paid 20pc pay raise
Islamabad: The employees of the International Islamic University
(IIU) are yet to get the 20 per cent pay raise announced in the federal budget
of the current financial year.
The University Staff Welfare Association
at a meeting on Friday protested against both the university administration and
the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for not paying them the pay increase even
after four months.
"When we go to the university administration, they say
due to unavailability of funds from the HEC, the pay raise could not be provided
to the employees. Interestingly, they ask us to approach the HEC and get the
funds released so that the increased salaries could be paid to the employees,"
Imtiaz Azeem, chairman USWA said.
He said the government has
reinstated thousands of employees with full financial benefits and would pay
them their arrears since 1993; however, it is not willing to give us our pay
On the one hand the university administration says it does not
have funds to pay the staff their salaries and on the other it is busy employing
new staff on contractual basis, Mr Azeem said, adding they would go on an
indefinite strike if the university did not raise their salaries as declared by
the government. Dawn
Post your comments
Post your Feedback about information available on this page.