ISSUES FACING BUSINESS SCHOOLS
FOZIA AROOJ (firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 07 - 13, 2008
Business education has become very popular in Pakistan in the last few years. A large number of public and private institutions offer degrees in business education. There are over 100 HEC recognized academic institutions offering business degrees in Pakistan. Of these over 50 are in public sector and around the same are in private sector.
For last decade Pakistani education planners have toyed with grand plans to build MITs and Harvards in the country. Nothing concrete could come to surface.
ISSUES FACING BUSINESS SCHOOLS
The state of business studies in Pakistan is deteriorating owing to a number of issues including lack of qualified faculty, variable quality of business graduates, uncertain demand in the job market and lack of locally relevant research.
The biggest issue is the shortage of qualified faculty. Good faculty is an internationally tradable commodity. Dearth of resources on part of the institutions has inhibited them to retain good teachers and there is a constant brain drain to the developed world. This problem is greatly exacerbated by absence of high standard Ph.D programs. Job market for business graduates is also unstable. Most of the business literates are not on relevant and good jobs. The main factor giving rise to this problem is business skills which are not marketable enough to entice good job for the degree holder. Another element ballooning this problem is too much stress on abstract and bookish knowledge and a lack of emphasis on future oriented practical and technical training. There is no favorable research environment or a strong system of incentives and scholarships for researchers. There are usually a very low percentage of funds allocated for research activities and curriculum development in most business schools.
There has been an emerging curse of fake degrees and institutions also discrediting the genuine degree holders in the international placement market. There are speedily flourishing substandard business education institutions which are noticed by HEC also. While unpleasant, this controversy is important because it addresses the deeper underlying question of the quality and credibility - rather than just the quantity ñ of business education. There exists a university reform strategy which is compounding the problems by underscoring and concentrating on glitzy things like internet access, digital libraries, virtual learning, etc., while ignoring basic problems. If these reforms are allowed to continue they tend to destroy the whole system.
Another factor that affects quality of business education in the country is the proliferation of standards. The problems arising from the multiplicity or more precisely lack of standards are compounded by the rapid rate of technical obsolescence involved in support services. The options for standardization of business education in particular are under serious consideration of the Government. In order to ensure high quality training the Accreditation Council should be constituted so as to collect data on training institutions, rate them as well take steps to strengthen existing business training institutions by encouraging them to upgrade curricula, introduce new technologies through establishing linkages with global entrepreneurs, develop local faculties and provide scholarships to students.
The corrective action policy should encompass some obvious elements .For instance stop the creation of worthless new universities; stop funding and rewarding research that really isn't research; stop dishing out useless PhDs; stop playing the numbers game; and stop feeding academic corruption. There is a need of raising the level of general competence of teachers and students by ensuring that they actually have an understanding of the subject they teach or study, and with increasing the amount of research in specific disciplines. Universities everywhere prepare engineers, doctors, economists, business managers, and other professionals needed to fulfill the stringent demands of a modern society. Pakistani universities obviously need to do the same.
There is also a broader function of universities - to create thinking minds, pursue research in subjects that are important but are not of immediate economic utility. It is a mistake to believe that inadequate financial resources have prevented Pakistani universities from achieving the prescribed goals. In fact, the real need is for deep administrative and organizational reforms, together with the strong political will needed to handle the counter-reaction they would inevitably provoke.
At the PhD level, if the HEC is at all serious about standards, it should make it mandatory for every Pakistani university to require that a PhD candidate achieve a certain minimum in an international examination such as the GRE. These exams are used by US universities for admission into PhD programs. Given the state of student and teacher knowledge, and the quantity and quality of research in Pakistani universities, selection through GRE subject tests would have the welcome consequence of cutting down the number enrolled in HEC indigenous PhD programs from 1,000 per year to a few dozen. The present safeguard of having "foreign experts" evaluate theses is insufficient for a variety of reasons, including the manipulations commonly made in the process of referee selection.
Third, the recruitment of non-permanent foreign faculty, whether of Pakistani origin or otherwise, is essential. Although this country is home to 150 million people, there are perhaps fewer than 20 computer scientists of sufficient caliber who could possibly get tenure-track positions at some B-grade US university. We need better, more transparent and accountable ways to recruit vice-chancellors and senior administrators. What we have now is a patronage system that appoints unqualified and unsuitable bureaucrats or generals as vice-chancellors, and that staffs universities with corrupt and incompetent administrators.