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THE LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS OF PAKISTAN

Need for further improvement in the curriculum and quality of faculty

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Aug 25 - 31, 2003

Two factors impeding the growth of Pakistan's economy are said to be lack of entrepreneurial skills and professional management. The root cause of the poor state of human resources has been identified as the prevailing education system. The country produces hundreds and thousands of Bachelors and Masters that only adds to the lot of unemployed. The graduates from business schools are now being considered a better option in the corporate sector. However, it has been observed that the disparity of emolument being paid to the MBAs from various business schools has been growing. Is there any reason for this?

The leading business academicians as well as the employers say that the quality of graduates from various schools is polls apart. This can be attributed to mushroom growth of business schools in the country in nineties. While parents and students were desperate, the stringent entry test and limited number of seats could enroll only a small number. This led to proliferation of Pakistan Chapters of foreign universities and grant of charters to a large number of private universities.

Opening of business schools in such a large number provided an opportunity to a large number of students to get admission. However, disparity in quality of graduates also became too obvious. Two factors are said to be responsible for this 1) acute shortage of high quality faculty and 2) unrealistic curriculum. The obvious fallout was poor quality of graduates. It is heartening to note that with the passage of time the situation has started improving. However, it is also noted that while some of the schools have managed to create a niche market others are still struggling.

According to the management of business schools there are two criteria for evaluating the quality of graduates from a school 1) salary offered at the start and 2) time spent on placement. As stated earlier, some of the schools have succeeded in creating the niche markets by offering special or tailor-made courses, such as specialization in banking and finance and hospital management. The prospective employers have played a key role in the development of course outline and also by arranging for appropriate instructors.

Most of the business schools introduce their graduates to the corporate sector through their placement offices. They are also particular in arranging internship of their students at large corporates. To further cement the relationship with the prospective employers they also invite guest speakers from these corporates. The greater interaction of students with the employers bears fruit, often selection of students before they get the formal degree. The interaction with business community also helps in improving curriculum.

The interaction of students with employers also helps in making changes in the curriculum and teaching methodology. It is noticed that some of the schools are busy in teaching and not imparting education. The sole purpose of education is to equip the students with knowledge and to train them to use this knowledge in managing the business. Pakistan's dilemma has been that the schools mostly use foreign books and also the foreign case studies. This does not give them the taste of local corporate climate. The internship helps to some extent but the problem can only be overcome making the curriculum more articulated.

Lately there was shift from business education to information technology. However, after 9/11 and burst of IT bubble more and more students are seeking admissions in business schools. Realizing the fact that IT is an important tool most of the business schools have added IT related courses in the regular curriculum. The students have also realized that if they wish to become software developers they cannot use the IT skills without having the prerequisite knowledge of management, finance, accounting and marketing.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) was established with the help and financial assistance of USAID. It has an elaborate infrastructure from the beginning, including the facility of a campus in down town. This facility was created to enable the students, mostly working for corporates, joining evening programme. Hamdard University has also been operating city campus and has increased the number of these campuses over the years.

While most of the business schools operating in private sector initially started their classes with highly inadequate facilities, Iqra University first built the custom-made infrastructure and then started admitting students. At present it has campuses in Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. It also has its own sports complex.

The Institute of Business Management (IoBM) has a purpose-built campus spread over eight acres. The building comprises of 57,000-sq. ft. covered area. Over the years it has established two new outfits, the College of Computer Science and Information System and the College of Economics and Social Sciences. Its Business Support Centre provides training, research and consultancy services to public as well as private sector.

FACULTY

One just cannot undermine the importance of faculty of business schools. Ideally it should be a blend of academicians and practitioners. With the opening of a number of business schools acute shortage of qualified and experienced faculty became a serious problem. As a makeshift arrangement a number of schools lured MBAs working for the corporates to deliver lectures. However, it was not realized that working for a MNC or a blue chip company and education are two different ballgames.

One of the weaknesses of hiring management practitioners as faculty members is that they come for a limited time and their interaction with students is minimal. Other issue is that they often demand a teaching/grading assistant, as they are often not willing to grade the scripts.

The root cause for non-availability of qualified and experienced faculty has been the poor emolument being paid by the business schools, be it public or private. However, lately some of the business schools have realized the importance of permanent faculty and raised to emoluments, which seems comparable with the remuneration being paid by the corporates.

As such the country produces a dismally low number of PhDs and the number of PhDs in Business Administration can be counted on the fingers of a hand. Despite having a history, spread over nearly half a century and association with the American universities, IBA's contribution in undertaking doctorate programme has been disappointing. The faculty either did not get a chance to go abroad or some members who got the chance had to be called back because they failed to complete their studies/thesis within the stipulated time.

RESEARCH

It is heartening to note that the business schools operating in the private sector have a large number of PhDs among the permanent faculty. These institutions have also initiated doctorate programmes lately. However, the number of people joining the doctorate programmes is still very low. This attitude can be attributed to overall lack of interest in research.

One of the prime responsibilities of business schools is to carry out extensive research to improve corporate working. In Pakistan, it is often believed that we are doing the things right but hardly any attempt to find out how the others are doing. Though, students are required to complete a project/research project as a mandatory requirement for the degree, the quality of reports submitted is often very poor.

The two institutions, IoBM and Iqra University seem to be making contribution in inculcating the habit of conducting research among their faculty and students. At IoBM, it is mandatory for every full time faculty member to complete one major research study during a year. IoBM also publishes Pakistan Business Review quarterly. Iqra also publishes a journal containing research papers.

LINKAGES

Some of the business schools have already entered into linkage programmes with foreign universities. The prime objective of this arrangement is to improve the quality of education being imparted in Pakistan. Under this faculty members from foreign universities help in developing curriculum and come to Pakistan to deliver lectures. Members from Pakistani schools go abroad for further education and training.

OUTLOOK

While some of the business schools have succeeded in establishing their credentials and niche market, others are still struggling. It was good that the government has granted charter for the establishment of a large number of business schools. However, it is also imperative that the relevant authorities keep a vigilant eye on these schools. They should not be allowed to fleece the students by charging exorbitant fees and not delivering the promise. Students and parents often complain that some schools have become the money making ventures for their promoters.

The government is making constant effort to ensure minimum standards for degree awarding institutions. It also has the responsibility to curb the money making motive and to create self-regulatory environment. This can be achieved by creating independent and autonomous accreditation agencies. Such entities are operating in Europe and America. The minimum standards laid down by these agencies are stated at their websites. At the bes,t some one has to download these standards and rewrite them for Pakistan. This may irritate those who do not wish to follow good governance. However, in the larger interest of nation and to recognize good players introduction of accreditation system is a must.

However, it is also on record that some schools offer scholarships and also help the students in acquiring soft-term loans. Globally, business community provides financial support to students of business schools, mostly in the form of scholarship. However, Pakistan's' community is not playing its due role. They must help in mobilizing endowment funds for the financial support of students, their prospective employees.

After 9/11 it has become rather difficult to go to the US for higher education. Some of Pakistani business schools have the potential to become preferred place for higher studies for Pakistanis as well as the students from other countries in the region. Efforts should be made to highlight the strengths and overcome the weaknesses to make Pakistani schools the world class entities.