The oldest center of excellence in the private sector

SHAMIM AMED RIZVI, Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Sep 25 - Oct 01, 2006

The Chancellor of Preston University, Dr. Abdul Basit is one of the pioneers in establishing quality institutions of higher education in the private sector in Pakistan. By all standards Preston University is the oldest and largest institution of higher learning in the private sector in Pakistan. Established in 1984, Preston today has the largest network of campuses in the country with total enrollment of over 6000 students.

Keeping in line with the evolving technological advancements and requirements of the global business and national needs. Preston is offering high quality market-driven education in the fast-growing and ever-expanding fields of Business Administration, Information Technology, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Textile Engineering, Engineering, Textile Management and E-Business. Its nationwide network covers all the major cities of Pakistan, namely Kohat, Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Karachi.

Highlighting the achievements of Preston University in the field of higher education in Pakistan, Dr. Abdul Basit, Chancellor Preston University said that Preston is committed to providing university education of the highest quality to prepare students for professional and managerial positions. Its mission is to give students the opportunity for personal growth and development, skill enhancement, or professional career advancement through provision of high quality education. The program strategy of Preston University, Dr. Basit said is to provide university education opportunities of the highest quality at a reasonable and affordable cost.

Regarding the legal status of Preston University, Dr. Basit said the Government of NWFP, in November 2002, promulgated an ordinance (NWFP Ordinance No. LII of 2002) for the establishment of Preston University at Kohat-NWFP, as a full-fledged degree awarding institution of higher learning in the private sector. Preston University, Karachi is also chartered and recognized. It has been chartered by the Government of Sindh (vide act V of 2004), and is duly recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Government of Pakistan. Both Preston University, Kohat and Preston University, Islamabad Campus has recently been upgraded to category 'B' and 'A' respectively by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in recognition of the quality of education it is imparting to the students and the academic and allied facilities that are being offered to them.

PAGE, in an exclusive interview with Dr. Abdul Basit, in his office on September 13, posed the following three questions in order to have his expert views, as an educationist, on some vital issues agitating the public mind. His response to questions raised by PAGE is as follows:

PAGE: What has been the contribution of the Business Schools in the promotion of Higher Education in the country? What has been its role specially in providing trained manpower for the growing economy of Pakistan?

DR. BASIT: First and foremost, the business schools in Pakistan have collectively contributed very significantly towards providing trained manpower for Pakistan. Pakistan's economy, over the recent decades and years, has not only grown rapidly but has had considerable diversity added to it. This has expanded the industry and business, diversifying horizontally to add newer industries and services while at the same time adding depth to each industry and business sector due to expansion both upstream and downstream. All of these developments generated an unprecedented demand for managerial manpower in a wide variety of specialties. Fortunately, the business schools in Pakistan, both public and private, have been able to fulfill this demand in a timely fashion. Another important aspect of the development of Pakistan's economy is connected with the increasingly superior quality of life at least in major urban areas. Consequently, it has placed a great pressure on industry and business to deliver quality products and services. This, in turn, raised the demand for manpower that was trained and skilled to deliver increasingly superior levels of quality. It is a matter of great satisfaction that business schools in Pakistan have met this challenge successfully. In the wake of this phenomenon, one is able to clearly observe a significant improvement in the quality of education delivered by the mainstream business schools. Thus, business schools have contributed towards the promotion of higher education in a significant way.

PAGE: The common complaint is that there has been a mushroom growth in private institutions of higher learning. Large number of these institutions do not fulfill the basic requirements of faculty, infrastructure etc. How do you think this situation can be remedied?

DR. BASIT: It is true that there has been a mushroom growth of private institutions in the country in the last two decades. A wide variety f private business schools have cropped up over the last two decades all over Pakistan, varying greatly on various parameters. There are schools that are chartered and recognized, there are the ones that have loose affiliations, those that have questionable or fictitious affiliations, still some more that have no legal authority to grant degrees, and a few that are simply fraudulent. This is a very unfortunate situation and has been caused mainly by two factors. First is the rapid growth of the economy and the resultant huge demand for trained manpower, as explained earlier. The second factor is that the government failed to realize the interplay of market forces and could not devise and implement its regulatory mechanisms in a timely fashion. Even when the regulations to set up private institutions, were framed, they had serious flaws and the implementation was not uniform. Even today, despite its best intentions, the government is unable to eliminate the unrecognized private institutions of higher education This situation can be remedied by first revising the regulations to reflect realities of a developing country, particularly the fact that the public sector alone cannot meet the demand for higher education for this populous country of 160 million people. Secondly, the overwhelming emphasis on infrastructure and financial investment may be balanced in relation to a greater emphasis on academic quality and delivery of education. Finally, a uniform implementation of such revised regulatory mechanism has to be done efficiently and effectively.

PAGE: There is also a complaint that private sector educational institutions are charging exorbitant tuition fee from the students. Many poor but otherwise talented students, not being able to pay such high fee, are deprived of higher education. Particularly youth belonging to the middle and lower middle class are the worst sufferers in this regard. How do think this problem can be resolved and what measures do you think should be taken to deal with this issue effectively?

DR. BASIT: Well, the private sector institutions do charge higher fees as compared to public sector institutions. The reason is very obvious. At the present time absolutely no funding or grant is being given to private universities. So they have to operate mainly by generating the fee income while raising some funds through philanthropy or private donations, which in any case is meager. There are 52-chartered private universities, none of which receive any aid from the government. Compared to that there are 57 public universities and institutes that have a current-year financial outlay of over Rs. 22 billion! In addition, these public institutions also receive, directly or indirectly, huge funds in terms of foreign technical assistance, grants, research funds and scholarships. It is therefore obvious that private institutions will end up charging higher fees, particularly if they are expected to deliver competitive and high quality education. In my opinion, while the issue of funding private universities is being considered and debated upon, the government should immediately start providing scholarships to talented but financially poor students who get admitted to private universities on merit basis. Many governments of the world fund students at private universities in this way. It directly helps the poor students. Besides, such students even though they are studying in private institutions, constitutionally have the right to demand access to scholarship funds on equal basis with public universities.

Number of Students Produced by Public and Private Sector during












































Source* Higher Education Commission of Pakistan