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Challenges for higher education system in Pakistan

Education is the basic right of every citizen living in any country and this right is provided amicably by all developed countries on a priority basis. But in Pakistan, consumers of educational services – parents and students – have been left with little choice or idea when it comes to seeking higher education. Higher education is a powerful and essential tool for building a modern, knowledgeable, cultured and peaceful society. It imparts in-depth knowledge related to different spheres of life. By giving a wider perspective of the world. Higher education is no longer a luxury, it is essential for survival. The core mission of higher education is to educate, to train, to undertake research and to provide service to the community. In the context of globalization, the scope and demand for higher education is increasing day by day and this demand can only be fulfilled by quality higher education. Improving the quality of higher education is the need of the hour.

Pakistan’s higher education is not ranked anywhere among the world higher education systems in terms of quality. The quality of higher education depends on various factors such as favorable environment for teaching and learning, infrastructure, teachers, curriculum, effective feedback, research opportunities and monitoring systems.

The problems plaguing the educational system of Pakistan are multidimensional. They include the population explosion, lack of resources, scarcity of qualified manpower, inconsistency in the policies of various regimes, political instability, inefficient educational management system, wastage of resources, poor quality of intake, managerial inefficiency, overcrowded classrooms, inadequate student services, inadequate material resources, non-accountability of institutions, inefficiency in teaching, poor research and lack of research opportunities and poor implementation of policies and programs. The institutions have not only been multiplied, the student enrolments at colleges and universities have registered an exceptionally high rate of growth. The demands of higher education have thus increased by leaps and bounds. Despite quality control and consolidation, these problems will continue to grow constantly for a long time to come.

The major structural issues in higher education system of Pakistan are leading to poor governance of the educational institutions and questionable quality of education. Governance differences are present both in public and private sector universities. The private sector board portrays a more efficient system compared to the public sector board that lacks autonomy and is under strong political influence. In most of the private and public sector universities in Pakistan, the board of governors is a combination of alumni, donors, appointees, public figures, government nominees etc. It is very rare to find a member on the board being appointed because they possess knowledge of how universities need to perform, or they have outstanding academic contribution. Private sector universities in Pakistan have grown by a large number in the last two decades. However, at one end, the growth of such institutions provides more variety to students; there are some universities with questionable status.


Organizational structure issues are the main cause of inefficiency of higher education institutions. Institutional autonomy should be advanced in a context which seeks greater accountability from institutions and a more systematic approach to the structure of higher education institutions. The board of governors of universities seems unaware of these structural issues of universities. This leads to universities being unable to cope with the challenges. These challenges include the evolution of new markets and the creation of new professions and vocations.Governance issues at structural, academic, and organizational level are hindrances in quality education. Universities remain so overly centralized that decision making remains distorted. There is a need for decentralization in terms of decision making.

Higher education system in Pakistan is far from developed. The issue of governance and the role of board of governors in both the public and the private sectors are critical and there is need for better management to ensure quality assurance. Higher education in Pakistan is not at par with international standards leaving a dearth of qualified graduates who can help with the rebuilding of the higher education institutions. On academic level there must be right balance between research and teaching, since research is essential for the development of faculty and the improvement of teaching. Unfortunately, in majority of the universities in Pakistan, emphasis is only placed on teaching leading to large class sizes and high teaching loads leaving no room for proper research.

Pakistan cannot progress until its higher education system is qualitatively strong enough because this poor quality is resulting in low employability, low performance of the specialized individuals, and lack of innovative and creative ideas. These are the key elements of success and progress in present time. All in all, there is a need to enlarge the adaptive capacity and quality of the higher education system so that it is more responsive to the changing world and meets the diversified needs of economy — both domestic and global. For this purpose, diversification of the Pakistani higher education system must be pursued as a goal. This can be achieved by having a proper mix of public and private, formal and non-formal institutions. Special initiatives are required to enhance employability. Curriculum and content must be continually renewed through authorities and skill development network may be set up. Collection of data on job market trends, its analysis and dissemination are important. Drawbacks mentioned above need to be transformed into the strength of the Pakistan higher education system, but this can only be done with strong willpower, determination and willingness to change.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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