TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Jan 07 - 13, 2008

While many private sector universities have an identical prominence to offering quality higher learning education their tuition fees are affordable by only special stratum of the society. The astronomical tuition fees charged by them of over Rs.40, 000 for on-campus four months study conveniently frames out aspirants of higher learning whose household's income bracket in collective exceeds not over Rs. 10,000 per month. After a long a while government has realized its responsibility to citizens and importance of higher learning in faculties of not only practical sciences but also of social sciences. Apart from higher education commission offering indigenous and international scholarships to meritorious students in all fields irrespective of short term commercial boons, public sector universities embark on degree programmes which so far have merely cherished in the private-run institutes and universities. Having quite bearable fee structure, these universities deserve commendation for flourishing higher learning vistas for the benefit of society and economy as a whole. However, to question their mentoring status is unequivocally explicit.

Majority of students still prefer to hold graduation insignias of few famous [private] higher education universities. And, for it they opt to sideline a heavy budget. It is safe for haves yet low income group can not afford to get their kids or siblings graduated from such universities. Some refers reputation of these higher education universities as stereotype.

"I qualified my intermediate examination recently with insignificant percentage but am desperate to graduate in flying colours from quality private institute," Meer Juahar said while talking to the scribe. Since my present pecuniary circumstances do not allow me to do so and I am neither qualified for any institutional financial assistance awarded to meritorious students alone, I have no choice but to suppress my utter desire of higher learning, he detailed in a depressive mood.

Normally, enrolled students of undergraduate and graduate programmes need to pay fees on semester (six months) basis. But many institutes and universities operate on-campus activities for four months. Rest two months are considered as vacations or off-campus period.

Merit: Despite privately-owned higher learning institutes are churning money they have also financial assistance programmes to subsidize fully or partially studies of students only who could succeed aptitude tests. Their pre-determined objectives are to uphold talents with exceptional intelligences. The natural fact slips in designing that every body can not be a godsend. Majority of these martinet pre-entry tests see non-qualified candidates with fees-affordability studying in these institutes afterwards. In fact, the concept of self-finance was initiated by pubic sector universities. Self-finance scheme basically corroborates non-meritorious candidatures of further education. Of course, there are few exemplary private sector universities that do not expel meritorious students on ground of unavailability of or lapse in payment of tuition fees. Yet, the numbers are too disproportional to equate gigantic growth of youth populace of Pakistan.

While talking to the scribe, Research Professor of Iqra University and Hamdard University, Dr. Ayub Mehar said government should bound all private sector institutes not to disqualify students who are incapable in proceeding their higher learning because of financial scarcity. The admission criteria should be topped with "merit" only. Financial problems should not hinder the learning process. He further said government is completely responsible to ensure removal of obstacles in the way of getting society learned. Giving few examples, he said, education from primary to secondary to higher level in Germany is entirely free. Similarly, even top educational institutions in United States of America do not expel students on merit on financial grounds. In our country as well, two or three universities are treading on the same path. Many universities in United Kingdom have very nominal tuition fees for their denizens.

In recent years business administration study has been developed as an attractive career option. Public funded universities have now started to expand outreach of higher learning in social sciences to marginalized students. "To realize that majority of deserving students can not take admission in business administration degree programmes due to the requirement of considerable amount, University of Karachi, which is a public owned alma mater, has started among other programmes MBA and BBA in evening and that are too on affordable tuition fees," said Dr. Abuzar Wajidi, Dean of Management Sciences, KU. In addition to monetary suitability of the programmes, professionals would find it easy to continue their higher learning studies downtime in the evening, he added.

Higher learning education is important to give impetus to economic activities of any nation. Noteworthy are the reference of well developed countries and their wholesome status of quality higher education. There are multitudes of fake and bungled degrees-offering institutes in several developed countries as well. For instance, notwithstanding its efficient and vigilant mechanism to check education standard UK has myriads of one-room degree offering institutes. These kinds of institutes are not undermining the Pakistan's higher education scene more than untrained and unqualified mentors laden with the responsibility of teaching, said a senior career counsellor hailing form Republic of Ireland. UK itself is mushroomed with such so called higher learning quarters. It is marred with the menace. However, one can readily specify and single out quality education there. Furthermore, students of developed countries have always privileges in tuition fees over immigrants, he added.

Typically an institute of higher education in Australia costs around Pak Rs. 800,000 for MBA programme. But, students are guaranteed citizenship upon completion of the programme. Along with, there are numerous foreign institutes which offer quality higher education with colossally expensive fee schedules. The fees are beyond the reach of majority of Pakistani students. As HEC-run scholarships are bestowed only to special few, rest of the students strip off rights to hone their skills and to enhance their capacity of learning at international forums.

Suggestions: Government should give an opportunity of higher learning to all students. Government should restrict private institutes to behold close-budgeted students. In return government must devise a mechanism to support overheads and due remunerations to mentors of private universities; which incur bundle of operational expenditures for laying down attractive physical arrangements and for giving emoluments to faculties.