Excerpts from an exclusive interview with President and Vice Chancellor, Mohammad Ali Jinnah University

Aug 26 - Sep 01, 2002

Lately there has been a mushroom growth of business schools in Pakistan. A number of universities established business administration deparments. Some of these institutions were unable to deliver quality education.

Mushrooming created serious problems of availability of faculty and consequently the standard of business education suffered. Since this growth took place in a rather short span of time, availability of faculty became very difficult. Business schools were competing directly with trade and industry for business graduates. The industry was offering high salaries compared to business schools, particularly schools in public sector.

Another serious problem was availability of faculty having doctoral degrees. As long as foreign scholarships were available for doctoral programmes, teachers were willing to do Ph.D. under these programmes. But many of them after availing the scholarships preferred to stay abroad or left the educational institutions, which had sent them for higher studies after having served for one or two years.

It appears that there is an over supply of business graduates. There is a feeling that quality has been deteriorating over the years. There is always a preference for acquiring higher education in one or the other discipline. When job opportunities are limited, and graduates find it difficult to get a job or remuneration is not up to their expectations, there is a shift in preference in the selection of disciplines. The educational institutions always face the challenge of a dynamic economic and social environment emanating from national or international events.

In the 1980s, there was a sudden increse in the demand for pharmacy graduates, mainly originating from the US. Several universities responded by establishing pharmacy departments to meet the foreign demand for the pharmacists. Similarly, medical and engineering were the most popular disciplines in the past. As a result of over supply and limited job opportunities in Pakistan, getting a decent job became very difficult, consequently, a number of such graduates entered in totally unrelated government jobs, particularly customs, police, revenue service etc.

The problem with the field of education is that population continuously grows in several countries. Even if there are no or limited job opportunities, parent would ensure higher education for their childern, hoping that the situation will change. Job opportunities and higher education are not always directly related.

Education has other benefits, as a symbol of social status. Therefore, students continue to come to educational institutions and acquire education even in such disciplines which do not offer job opportunities.

It is obvious that good business schools must have qualified and experienced faculty, need-based curriculum, infrastructure and above all admission procedures to select only those who have apptitude for learning business administration. The quality of finished product is directly dependent on the quality of inputs. While it is a must for the business schools to screen students interested in seeking admission, it is also necessary for students and their parents to find out the details and credibility of business schools.

The government has realized the weaknesses in the prevailing system. The University Grants Commission has been given a new name Commission on Higher Education and a new mandate. The main objective is to implement the minimum quality standards for the establishment of new higher education institutions and also to upgrade currently operating institutions. For example, a new university has to offer education in at least six disciplines. It also sets minimum strength and qualification of faculty and infrastructure requirements.

Globally, there is a system of accreditation of educational institutions. Independent evaluation of faculty, curriculum and infrastructure is done by autonomous bodies. In the absence of such a mechanism in Pakistan, it was believed that the charter of a university was sufficient. However, it was felt that the charter was not being followed in true spirit. Now the universities have to either introduce other disciplines, improve the quality of their faculty and infrastructure or relinquish their degree awarding status. This will also help in weeding out campuses of foreign universities of low reputation.

To conclude, I would suggest that business schools should increase linkage with trade and industry to increase job opportunities for their graduates. It is good that the new generation is keen in attaining IT education. However, they must do some basic courses in business administration also. IT is a tool and it can hardly serve any purpose unless used in an appropriate manner in core business activities.