MAKING GRADUATES COMPETITIVE

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI 
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Oct 31 - Nov 6, 20
11

The universities of Pakistan recognized or ranked among the international institutes of high stature are very few in numbers. Those, which are put among the top list of foreign universities, are not at the outstanding ranks however.

As per the world university rankings 2011-12 by Times Higher Education (THE), universities of the USA clinched the top three positions. Several American universities were included among top 200 higher learning seats. U.S. is the world's leader in higher education. U.K. follows it.

In all 400 universities that were given different ranks in the latest ranking by the THE, there was no Pakistani university. Institutions from Iran, China and India were also included in the list. THE is the leading London based higher education magazine considered as an authentic source of information by the academicians as well as students for academic pursuits and decision making. The ranking agency assigns to the institutes scores up to 100 based on teaching, international outlook, industry income, research, and citations.

THE in partnership with Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), another British education analyst, continued to publish annual rankings in between 2004 and 2009 before developing new methodology in collaboration with the Thomson Reuters.

QS world university rankings assign scores to arts and humanities, natural sciences, engineering & IT, social sciences, and life sciences in line with the methods of its ex-partner. The body confers above 500th position to the University of Karachi (UoK) every year between 2007 and 2011. However, its ex-partner THE includes only top-200 in its archives and evidently in all its annual documents, did not mention the name of UoK.

University of Karachi is the country's reputed seat of higher learning imparting higher education in the diversified fields to a number of students from all over the country. However, it claim of having an accolade from THE is doubtful.

Considering the rank lists of top higher education institutes around the world, it is unfortunate that institutes from Pakistan are conspicuous in their absence excluding very few professional higher learning seats recognized internationally for their quality education and put in the top list.

Notably, private business administration institutes have been ranked in the top list at south Asian level. For example, Asia Inc., a leading international business magazine, ranked Szabist among best MBA schools in Asia. LUMS and Aga Khan university have also grabbed international recognitions.

Observers say institutes are usually on the good ranking because of huge funds they allocate for running their affairs. The argument is more true in case of Pakistan where class based education system is due to very reason of funds. This argument is contested by a counterargument that it is not the funds but management of them that matter.

Private sector has sufficient capital to deliver quality-learning experiences to their students. Institutes under private management have competitive edge over their state-run counterparts because of handsome flow of funds from heavy fee structure as well as vigilant management of resources.

Government institutes do not charge high fees from the students and lack the resources to breed competitive lots in most of the instances.

Coming in the top ranking signifies that standards of education of a particular institute are up to the international level. It means faculty, learning materials, atmosphere, and employability of students are on par with the international canons of higher education.

Getting recognition of an internationally acclaimed reviewer is also an accolade and endorsement to a particular education standard.

Students aspiring for good higher education have to go abroad since they do not find good institutes in the country. But, since not everybody can afford the luxury of studying in good foreign institute, local study is the only option for them. Those from middle class who under the delusion of foreign study take admissions in economic/moderate segment institutions, have to squeeze up in the standing-room academic centres in U.K. and U.S.A. and render further tiresome struggles out of home to survive. Such bogus institutes befool the foreign-study-obsessed students. Teaching is an important area of consideration. Be it THE, Economist Intelligence Unit, or any other, all well reputed assessors give significant scores to the teaching.

The government of Pakistan introduced tenure track system to encourage meritorious teachers stay in the country and stop brain drains. The salary scales under the system are attractive. To improve the quality of teaching, public sector universities are inducting PhD faculty members. Private institutes are following the suit. This has led to splurge of new breeds craving for doctorates by hook or crook. What may be the outcome is for anybody's guess. Plagiarism is talk of the town and to which authorities are brazenly indifferent. A jostling department of a famous university has two PhDs awarded doctorate on one thesis. Is it not amazing. More is that they belonging to same religiopolitical party are still enjoying perks and emoluments entitled to PhDs.

The government and private sector operate the higher education sector undertaking graduation and post graduation studies in Pakistan. Engineering, medicines, business administrations, social sciences, and information technology are few of the prominent disciplines both of these sectors deal in.

Over the years, few other areas as well as subfields have been introduced in the prevalent structure. However, conventional disciplines continue to grab whatever little population of the society opts in higher learning. An estimate puts the total numbers of students in higher education centres including public and private not more than half a million. Considering the burgeoning youth population forming 60 or 70 per cent of 180 million heads, the numbers are thought provoking.

Higher education plays very important role in improving socioeconomic conditions of a country. Provincial governments after the 18th amendment have an opportunity to leverage all the available resources to bring higher education sector at par with the international standards. They should render efforts in this direction to make local graduates internationally competitive.