The actual specialty is yet to have any impact on the country's economy
Nov 25 - Dec 01, 1997
Over the past five years with an increasing influx of foreign private investment into the country and more and more demand for trained professionals in business administration, more universities offering business education have cropped up in the private sector claiming to either represent foreign institutions or being the sub-campuses.
More than 90% of these business schools are located in Karachi alone while the remaining have their regional centres or campuses. The reason for this is the fact that the city is the country's centre of business and financial activities.
With an estimated population of over 12 million, the city has more than 50,000 big, medium and small industries, besides numerous cottage industries, with four major industrial trading estates which provide employment to more than half-a-million workers.
Not only does the city have the headquarter of the State Bank of Pakistan, it also serve as a base for over a 100 financial institutions including 25 foreign banks and other financial institutions as well as a large number of trade organisations which all make use of the professionals in business management.
Realising this need, some local investors saw this as an opportunity, and a large number of business-oriented educators appeared on the scene and launched business schools, claiming to have been affiliated with one or the other foreign university while their curricula were designed as those of the universities they claimed to be affiliated with.
Claiming an affiliation with a foreign university, on the other hand, is a guarantee of getting students because of the preference for foreign things which persist in our culture.
Traditionally, when talking abour business schools, finance and marketing are the areas that always come to mind, but with the mushrooming of different schools in recent years, the emphasis is shifting from traditional business education to economics, technology, engineering, commerce, law and medicine.
The implicit specialisation that has already emerged is that academic business schools are offering long-term programmes which lead to degrees, but with the increase in the competition, and at the broadest level some of these universities now offer degrees in executive programmes requiring attendance during the weekends and for periods of between three and four months only.
Programmes from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi are still considered the best in the country , not only because of its being the premier institute, because it is backed by a strong faculty and a well-structured curriculum, which the others strive to emulate.
Established since 1955, in collaboration with the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania, the Institute later associated itself with the University of Southern California.
Today, the Institute is the largest graduate business school in the Third World and its status was elevated to a degree-awarding institution three years ago.
Under the programmes of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 50 prominent US professors were assigned to the Institute while in turn a number of Pakistani faculty members were sent to the University for advanced studies in business education.
Today, the faculty members of the Institute include Professor Dr. Abdul Wahab, the Director of the Institute, and ex-Vice Chancellor of Karachi University. Dr. Wahab was awarded a national medal 'Sitara-e-Imtiaz' by the Government of Pakistan for his meritorious services in the field of education.
Others include Dr. I. A. Mukhtar, the first Pakistani Dean and Director of the Institute. Dr. Mukhtar who is presently a professor emeritus of the Institute is the chairman, Curriculum Development Committee of the Institute's Academic Board. Dr. Matin A. Khan is another professor emeritus of the Institute which also has the services of Dr. Mahnaz Fatima and Dr. S. Irfan Hyder.
The IBA Karachi has, over the years, established a solid level of credibility in the market for having tough entrance criteria including transparent admissions tests and interviews and a consistent implementation of disciplinary standards.
The Institute offers, among other programmes, a three-year, full-time degree of bachelor of business administration (BBA Hons), followed by a two-year, full-time master's degree in business administration (MBA), and MBA MIS programme (Computer) an MBA banking course, a part-time MBA and a PhD programme.
Although established just a little over a decade ago, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has come to be regarded as the second best institute for business education in the country and has established an assurance and confidence in its meritorious and thorough academic programmes.
LUMS accords a high priority to research, and applied research in particular, which is considered an important element in the achievement of the overall mission of the University.
The University's Centre for Management and Economic Research coordinates and conducts research on major economic and management issues faced in the country as well as the region.
The Small and Medium Enterprise Centre assesses the specific training and development needs of small enterprise owner managers and to design and deliver training programmes addressing these needs.
As a part of their regular curriculum, LUMS offer a two-year MBA and a three-year B Sc (Hons) in Computer and Economics.
The International School of Management Sciences which is affiliated with Newport University in the USA has three campuses in Pakistan one each in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi and offer, in addition to the BBA programme a full time as well as part-time MBA programme, with three semesters of overall management courses.
The Hamdard Institute of Management Sciences of Hamdard University which received its charter in 1991 offer BBA (Hons), MS in Business Informatics, MS in Finance, MS in Advertising as well as MBA.
College of Business Management another centre for business education is affiliated not with a foreign university but with Sir Syed University, which was chartered around the same time as Hamdard University.
During the two years of the college, it has managed to gathered high rated faculty members and is endorsed by the city's notables in the business community such as Arif Habib, Jahangir Siddiqui and S.M.Muneer.
The College offers a three-year BBA (Hons) degree besides a two-year MBA degree with specialisation in accounting, finance and banking, management, marketing and MIS as well as a career placement service.
Pak-AIMS, affiliated with Punjab University Lahore was established in Lahore in 1987 and offers a two-year MBA programme with options to specialise in marketing, finance or accounting, as well as three-year Executive MBA, a three-year BCS and a two-year BBA degree programmes.
The City College of Higher Education in Karachi also offers an undergraduate programmes witth one year of study in Karachi and the subsequent two years in Britain. The College claimed an affiliation with twelve British Universities.
Institute of Business Administration and Technology (IBADAT) which claims an affiiliation with Adamson University in the Philippines offers MBA program in marketing management, finance and banking, human resource management, production management and accounting. and its degree is awarded by Adamson University in Manila.
This mushrooming of business schools has created stiff competition within the schools in the private sector and has improved the standard of the ones in the public sector.
The competition among the private institutes is described as 'fierce' and their tactics may be termed 'frontal attack' only in a hidden manner.
"This competition," according to Dr. Shahida Wizarat, "will improve the standard of the education as long as it is a healthy competition."
According to Professor Dr. Abdul Wahab, Director of Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, which is considered to be the pioneering institute not only in the country but in the entire region, the competition among the universities will result in the closure of some of these universities while the remaining will be able to provide quality education in view of the competition and the absorption rate in the job market.
A standard of quality has been established by the Institute of Business Administration of Karachi from the public sector institution and the Lahore University of Management Studies (LUMS) from the private sector. And the graduates from these two institutions are being given job preferences in the market both in the private and the corporate sectors, and at the lower end of the quality are those coming out now to replace the BCom degree holders in the job market and do not really mind what salary they are offered.
Other public sector universities that offer business education include Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Punjab University, Lahore, Peshawar University and Allama Iqbal Open University, but, except for the IBA Karachi, the product of these universities, as far as business education is concerned was generally not welcomed in the market until recent years when they improved their standards due to the stiff competition encountered from the private sector.
Beside the ones that have been mentioned earlier, others in the forefront running include Lloyds School of Business, International University of America which claimed to be a local campus of the same University based in Canada, School of Business and Commerce which is affiliated with Preston University, Institute of Business Administration and Technology, (IBADAT) which claims affiliation with Adamson University of Manila,
According to Professor Dr. Abdul Wahab of IBA Karachi, one of the major problems of the business education in the country is the shortage or lack of faculty members, since the business administration is in great demand, all those who graduated have better offer in the industry where the starting salary range between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 per month as compared to grade-17 (Rs 6-7,000) in which the public sector universities can hire them., therefore no graduate will be willing to make such a lifetime sacrifice.
Another factor is the period of promotion which is very slow in the public sector, while a young graduate can not be considered for promotion to next higher grade in the public sector until after six years of continuous service while on the other hand rise to higher grade is very fast in the private sector depending on one's ability and hard work.
Private universities, on the other hand mainly depend on the services of retired teachers or visiting faculties from well established business schools in the public sector.
The coming of the era of business education has not been without its ups and downs as well, while the private sector universities claimed that they are providing the service which the government had failed to do and, therefore, should be given importance, the government, on the other hand keeps warning the populace to stay away from these institutions in order to avoid being fleeced.
Recognition or approval is another problem that some of these private institutions are still complaining about while the others claimed that the only recognition they wanted was from the market.
About three years ago when the mushrooming of these universities started, there was a sort of war of words between them and the government as to their approval, and at one time, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a notice through the dailies, warning prospective students and their wards not to fall prey to what it called 'dubious and fake institutions.'
It was said then that the degrees issued by these unauthorised universities will not be recognised by the University Grants Commission, the government body that looks into the equivalency of foreign degrees with that of the local ones.
The establishment of foreign universities in Pakistan, according to some, is all right but "the key requirement is to ensure a proper regulatory framework so that standards of business education do not get diluted. "Such a step, however, was seen as "an interference in the private establishment."
It is said that there is no provision under the law for foreign universities to establish a campus locally without the government's permission while, on the other hand, no private university can function without the approval of the Federal Ministry of Education.
Around that time, the UGC went a step further and published a list of such institutions that were termed fake at that time, following which some of these universities have published between two page-supplement in the dailies about their institutions, some of these supplements even carried messages from the chief minister and the governor as well as the federal ministers and other political personalities.
And not only has the number of such universities increased four-fold during the past three years, the management of some of them has changed hands three to four times during the same period, and some have changed their affiliations with a foreign university and claimed to have affiliated with another while some keep changing names as well as addresses for reasons best known to them while yet more have declared themselves 'centres of excellence'.
Some of these universities were described as 'fly-by-night' because nobody really knows much about their origin except that they claim to have affiliation with universities that, in principle, do not participate in the activities locally, and the students are usually given the option to pay in foreign currency so as to give the impression that the amount is being transferred to the foreign principal.
One such institution was the Barrington American University which, when it started functioning in the city two years ago, claimed to have planned a "nationwide rural programme whereby it will make sure that talented youth from rural areas who cannot afford education are accommodated and sponsored through various serviced clubs in the city, and the idea of starting our own system from primary level is to create our own ISO 9000," said the spokesman of the university while speaking PAGE then. (Pakistan & Gulf Economist issue # 31,1995)
Over the past two years, not only has Barrington American University changed its name four times, it has changed campus almost the same number of times and the management have taken themselves to court on various issues on which these premises were sealed a number of times leaving the students out on the street without education, which the government had earlier warned them about.
And recently, another institute, known as Greenwich Institute, which claimed an affiliatiion with Sountheastern University in the United States is said to have signed another agreement with another university, Bridgeport University, after the former cancelled its affiliation contract with them, all efforts to get a word from the management as to the reason of the cancellation of agreement with Southeastern were fruitless as the person said to be the spokesperson won't return any of PAGE's call.
According to some of the operators of these universities spoken to, 'approval' or 'recognition' indicate that the holder of such degree will be eligible for a government job, but if it is not recognised, "no one cares about the government jobs nowadays in view of the political instability and the jobs that are really not there" one of the students in the private sector, spoken to complained.
The private institutions on the other hand claimed that their affiliation with foreign universities give them greater chances of learning at first hand about the new advancements and rapid changes in the business community around the world than, the ones in the public sector.
There is a divided opinion on the issue of whether to regularise the activities of the business schools in the private sector or not, while one opinion is of the view that is should be regulated others say the schools should be allowed to function freely.
Those who want it a legislation to be passed to regulate the opening and functioning of the business schools say that regularising the schools will minimise the malpractices such as opening of business schools without facilities such as books, library, faculty as well as reduced the false claims of being a campus of foreign university.
While on the other hand, those who disagree with the regulation are of the view that in such society where corruption is very rampant, introducing legislation will only increase the rate of corruption as a number of business schools without facilities will end up getting permission from the authority by paying lot of money under the table and the more corrupt type of enterprenurs that have entered the field will get all sorts of approvals and recognitions.
Another argument against the legislature on business schools said at least these business schools are providing some education, "though may not be of high calibre" while standards of education in colleges in the public sector is falling day by day, the teachers are losing interest and the attendance has falling to ten percent level, therefore the private business schools are at least better than the public schools and colleges.
The business of providing business education have now taking another turn with the intense competition in the private sector, and there are now various specialisations claimed to be offering by these institutions, but the actual specialty is yet to have any impact on the country's economy.
And while the running for more and more schools continue, it is said that the nation run the risk of developing a market inundated by colleges and universities of no credibility or academic standing, competing only through cutting costs and fees and the continual lowering of entrace requirements.
Regulation is one of the best things that could happen to the sector at this stage because that will not only ensure quality education but will save people from being looted in the name of business education.
What is required is a proportionally greater effort on the recruitment of faculty with academic and practical experience and as Dr. Abdul Wahab has suggested, both the government and the industries should come forward to subsidize the cost so as to attract the best faculty at affordable cost for the students.
A strigent regulatory system through which entrance procedure, fee structures and academic programmes are screened is the next pressing requirement. An urgent need is the regulation in order to arrest the situation before it gets out of hand as the other education system in the country is.