The leading business schools of Pakistan
The quality of education, to be imparted, is more important than the number of graduating students
By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Oct 25 - 31, 1999
Establishing and running business schools in the private sector became possible only because of inadequate facilities in public sector universities. But, establishing business school became a commercial activity in the country. However, there are some institutions both in the public and private sectors which appear to be a role model for others.
Graduates from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), set up over 45 years back, established a niche market for the MBAs and their higher level of remuneration. Since IBA has a physical limit with a higher demand for business graduates, the demand and supply gap paved way for others to step into the sector and establish business schools.
While the institutions like Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Hamdard Institute of Management Sciences (HIMS), Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), College of Business Management (CBM) and Asian Management Institute (AMI) came up with proper infrastructure, a large number of business schools are Pakistan/Karachi chapter of foreign universities. Some of these campuses have been recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and others are still in the process of getting a formal recognition by the Commission. Similarly, many public sector universities which did not have faculty of management sciences have also started BBA and MBA courses and specialized programmes in banking, finance and information technology.
IBA has the longest history of imparting education in management sciences. It is the oldest centre for business education in the country. It has a history of over 45 years. Many reputed local, multinational and transnational companies operating in Pakistan looks towards IBA for their need for professional managers. The Institute has been constantly reviewing its curricula and introducing new disciplines to meet the increasing demand. However, IBA has never compromised on quality.
LUMS was established in 1985, since its inception it has emerged as one of the leading centers of excellence in management education in Pakistan. LUMS aims to improve the quality of higher education in the country in the areas of management, economics and computer sciences. Its mission is to leave on impact on the theory, thinking, practice and performance in the fields of management, economics and policy, technology and related areas.
LUMS is in the business of knowledge generation (research) and knowledge dissemination (teaching). The University serves and strives to make an impact on diverse groups. Its reputation stems from the value, excellence and relevance of its programmes, the expertise and commitment of its faculty and the dedication and quality of its participants.
SZABIST has a very brief history of around 4 years and many Pakistanis know relatively little about it, but the institute has been termed as number two in Pakistan and number 28 in Asia on the basis of a survey conducted by Asiaweek for the year 1999. The Institute is among the first few educational institutes who developed their website to facilitate the students to know more about the Institute and the courses offered. Another feature which distinguishes SZABIST from other institutes is that at present nearly 40 students are busy in preparing their doctorate theses at the Institute.
The College of Business Management (CBM), Karachi has been making efforts to excel in all the four areas. These are quality of teaching, regular updating of curricula, quantum and quality of research and training for the faculty. CBM is the only business school in Pakistan, which offers foreign language courses (Arabic, French and German) as part of its BBA (Hons) curriculum.
Asian Management Institute (AMI) was established when there was a trend to establish Pakistan/Karachi chapter of foreign universities. An effort was made to establish a local institution which could offer the best curriculum, have its own infrastructure for imparting education and establish its own identity. Instead of starting it in a bungalow they first constructed a 'custom designed' building, got affiliation from a local chartered university and then only students were admitted. Now AMI is a constituent institute of Iqra University which has been awarded charter by the government of Sindh.
The Institute of Business Administration, Sukkur is affiliated with IBA Karachi. It has adopted the same curriculum of IBA as well as introduced some new programmes. The institute is trying to establish linkages with Applied Economics Research Centre, Karachi University and National University of Science and technology.
Institute of Business Administration, Jamshoro, was established in 1979. It started operations from I. I. Kazi Library building. Later it was shifted to new building at the main campus.
When one looks at the curricula and process of evaluation at present, it is evident that it is much different from what it used to be 25 years ago. Now many business schools admit students in BBA after intermediate and there are plans to start this education after matriculation level. The purpose to induct the students after intermediate is to enable them to go through a unified process of higher education.
One may have a different opinion, but, it is true that the process of teaching separate curricula to students of medicine and engineering starts from class 9th which continues up to intermediate level. This is because these students need different basic education and should also possess a minimum qualification to be admitted in the professional colleges. According to an academician, previously the students with BA, BCom and BSc degrees were admitted in BBA (Hons). Their basic knowledge about accountancy, economics, management etc. was not comparable. The result was while some of the students enjoyed advantage many others were at a disadvantage. The entry into business schools after matriculation may help in resolving this issue to a larger extent but previous medium of instruction would continue to have its adverse impact.
What frustrates the graduates the most at the time of employment is that the graduates from certain institutions are given preference on the graduates qualified from other universities. It appears that MBAs from various institutions are not treated at par which also results in a significant variation in their remuneration. To some extent, UGC is responsible for the mushroom growth of business schools but to a large extent the whole education system in the country can be blamed for the discrimination.
According to some academicians, the quality of finished products largely depends on the raw material. Parents and students have their own preferences for institutions. When they are not able to get admission in the most preferred institutions they opt for the second best and so on. Therefore, the 'education standard' of entrants vary drastically in these business schools. Then comes the quality of educators, the curricula and the quality of appraisal of students.
However, the real issue is basic education system in the country. The students desirous of seeking admission in these institutes come from different media of instructions, regions or localities. They have a visible difference in vision, knowledge, perception and the ability to comprehend the text books mostly published outside Pakistan. But, the real problem remains the previous media of education. The students belonging to two distinct media Urdu and English even if they hold the same degree just cannot match, simply because one cannot comprehend the western text books efficiently and unable to express himself lucidly as some other groups can do. Therefore, most of the time and energy of students from Urdu medium are wasted in learning English language rather than concentrating on the subject. Not only this, the Urdu medium students always remain suppressed due to inferiority complex before the English medium students.
One of the IBA graduates narrating his story said: "I did my basic schooling at a government school with Urdu being the medium of instructions. While I was doing my F.Sc. (pre-medical) I faced the worst time as all my text books were in English and that resulted in poor percentage in final results. Doing my B. Sc. was no fun because a simple graduate had no prospects for job. Fortunately, I qualified the IBA entry test which was possible only because of the efforts of my teachers at schools and college who gave me a vision. I may be an exception, how many students being taught at Urdu medium schools really get this opportunity?"
Some very interesting observations were made at 'National Conference on Restructuring IBA Curriculum'. But, the most important suggestion was 'training of trainers'. It is very pertinent and it was pointed out: "Some of the teachers are still using outdated textbooks and notes which they had prepared or given to them by their teachers when they themselves were students. Teachers have little interaction with trade and industry. We need to produce managers who should be capable to face the challenges of next millennium. Therefore, there is a need to refresh and refurbish their knowledge enabling them to understand and meet the demands of present day's students".
Another observation was that while most of business schools in Pakistan use western textbooks and foreign case studies, the students must be exposed to the local environment. There is a wide gap between the bookish knowledge and the working environment in Pakistan. It was pointed out that internships were not properly planned and executed. The duration is also not sufficient and the minimum period should be one year. The students should be awarded degree only after they successfully complete the internship and their detailed report is thoroughly evaluated.
According to a senior business executive, "There is a wide gap between the bookish knowledge of graduates and the realization of working environment in the country. Once these graduates start working, they have a very high level of expectations but very shortly they experience very high level of frustration. Many of these students are educated and groomed to be the decision makers but in real practical life, when they join, they are not the decision makers. In reality they are often treated as not more than 'dignified clerks'. Many companies even do not use those decision making tools which they have been taught to use. This elusion is mainly due to 'Seth culture' prevailing in trade and industry. The same is also true with a large number of public limited companies. The entry level at multinational and transnational companies is also very low trainee and then their policies, extensive procedures and methods do not allow the graduates to really use their 'brain'.
According to one of IBA graduates, "While we are ready to enter the next millennium, we still have agrarian psyche, we are afraid of education and using modern decision making tools. We do not believe in long-term planning." Most of our plans are reactions rather than being proactive. Research and strategic planning are unknown and unheard words. Therefore, allow me to say that only good quality business schools can provide the vision of managing the business it should have been run. It is also the responsibility of business graduates to apply their knowledge. If this knowledge is used skilfully and in an appropriate manner even the most autocratic decision maker will be obliged to consider it before making his final decision.
While the world now uses participative decision making, in Pakistan many companies still make the decisions at the top level and then the executives are made to implement these decisions. The world is changing so fast that now it is physically not possible for an individual to remain equally conversant in each discipline of business management. The need for professional managers, specializing in various disciplines, is increasing and the demand can only be met by imparting education in management sciences to a larger number of students. This will not only help in controlling production of graduates in the areas having little employment opportunities but run Pakistan's trade and industry in more efficient manner.
In this regard the words of Dr. Javaid Leghari of SZABIST must be remembered: "We have entered from information era to speed era. With the accelerated rate of globalization and availability of information the success lies in processing the information and then making prompt decisions. Therefore, the growth and development of business is in the following of proactive approach and not reacting to the changed conditions.
According to a senior business executive, when a Japanese asked some Pakistani officials that what were Pakistan's plans for next fifty years, he very innocently said, "We do not have 50-year planning, at the best we work on 5-year plan but mostly we work according to annual development programme." One may say that Pakistan is rich in all types of resources but it is a very badly managed country. Therefore, be it a government official or a business executive, it is necessary that every one should study modern management sciences and then apply them in the day to day management to make Pakistan an economically strong country.
One should have the courage to accept the fact that there are 'white collar' crimes and corruption in Pakistan. At a recent seminar on "The Role of Accountants in Eliminating Corruption", Frank Harding, the President of International Federation of Accountants, was the chief guest. This seminar was jointly organized by Institute of Cost and Management Accountants (ICMAP) and Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAP). At the seminar it was suggested that Pakistan should follow standardized and international accounting systems. These systems provide more disclosure and 'qualifying notes' by the auditors. It becomes easier to compare one company with another within a sector and find out if an entity is not being managed in an effective and efficient manner. This can help the regulators to issue timely warning and also facilitate hostile takeovers, mergers and acquisitions to stop the unit from going sick.
In many NBFIs and DFIs, business graduates work in project appraisal departments. The increasing number of sick units shows some structural weaknesses in the process of appraisal. It is due to two reasons: non-availability of authentic data about various sectors and inadequate exposure to local business environment including demand and supply situation in any particular industry. Another issue is the ever changing policy of the government which changes the economics of an industry over night.
All these weaknesses emphasize the need for higher quality of business education. The aim should be to produce the business leaders not the business managers. If these schools are not able to groom future leaders, it is their failure to deliver a product demanded by the market. While enough attention is being paid to redefine the curricula less attention is being paid on the quality of faculty. Business schools just cannot attract higher quality teachers as their remuneration is much below their real worth.