HIGHER EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN
S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
May 21 - 27, 2012
Increasing employment and enhancing productivity are at the top of the agenda for policymakers across the globe. For countries seeking to spur growth, creating jobs and raising productivity are primary concerns. For young people, too, these issues are a priority.
Students and graduates everywhere are asking for more and better opportunities to study and work, and learn and create new knowledge and enterprises.
With skilled labor and technological capability increasingly becoming the touchstones of competitiveness in an open and integrated world environment, the role of higher education in economic growth is thus taking on a greater significance. Not only do higher education institutions help impart the behavioral, cognitive, and technical skills that make workers effective in the labor market, they are also increasingly valued as the engines of research that can drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity. The most critical growth oriented objective of higher education is producing enough proficient and innovative graduates for the labor market, but the importance of higher education in directly supporting technological development and innovation is also growing.
Realizing the potential of higher education to spur growth is a priority for South Asia.
The role of higher education as a major driver of economic development is well established and this role will increase as further changes in technology, globalization, and demographics impact in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan is giving the importance to higher education. Many of the top universities in the country were established especially in remote regions of the country to equip the young people with modern knowledge and technology.
An enrolment of 1,105,307 was estimated in 2010- 11 in higher education over 935,596 in 2009-10. In order to boost up higher education, three new universities were established during the year 2009-10 making the total number to 132 universities with 57,780 teachers in both private and public sectors.
Considerable efforts have been made in the last few years on improvement in quality. Two universities of Pakistan are now ranked among the top technology universities of the world as per QS World Universities Rankings 2010 but that is not enough, Pakistan needs to have at least five universities in the top 300 technology universities of the world by 2015.
The numbers of faculty with Ph.D. degrees have doubled in the last five years, but even then, hardly 20 per cent of the faculty has Ph.D. degrees. Pakistan needs to triple the number of Ph.Ds faculty at the universities by 2015. This will increase the number of Ph.Ds. faculty to at least 40 per cent by 2015 after accommodating for growth in faculty. The number of Ph.Ds awarded by Pakistani universities is currently 700 per year. This need to be increased to at least 1000 by 2015, with a significant increase in science and technology disciplines. It is expected that the number of research publications per year will be increased by at least 50 per cent during this period.
Currently, only 5.1 per cent of the 17-23 age groups have access to higher education in Pakistan. This is as low as in sub-Saharan Africa, while other countries in the region have significantly higher access rates. As per education policy 2009, Pakistan needs to increase access to higher education to 10 per cent by 2015. This translates into more than doubling the number of students enrolled in higher education institutes within five years.
The universities need to build economies through providing knowledge capital. A large number of curricula have been introduced and standardized, which cater to the skill-based needs of developing Pakistan
The universities are being asked to associate themselves with the communities. The mega flood of 2010 served as a prime example whereby the institutions of higher education demonstrated their level of citizenship and responsibility, and were involved in relief and rehabilitation efforts to a great extent, raising a considerable amount of money and relief goods. This spirit will be carried through which universities assist and help the local communities in resolving local issues and problems, be they environmental or health related problems.
The universities will also need to build leadership, both within the campuses and in the country. The top management of the universities will need to serve as role model leaders. They will need to demonstrate their sense of responsibility and accountability in governing and in managing the finances of the university.
Higher education commission (HEC) is an autonomous body to provide inter-universities cooperation and coordination. Due to continued financial vulnerabilities, the government has reduced development budget to Rs9.2 billion in 2010-11 compared to Rs11.3 billion in 2009-10. It is a major challenge for HEC and would require continuous support and generous funding from the federal government in the upcoming years. During 2009- 10, there were 868,641 students studying in the universities. HEC facilitates institutions of higher education to serve as engine of growth for the socioeconomic development. HEC is also faced with three key challenges: quality, access, and relevance. Improvement in quality of academic standards and research is the top priority of HEC.
Higher education has the potential to deliver skills and research for productivity and innovation. Developing the technological and engineering capacity of workers and building some limited research capacity for technology upgrading may be sufficient for Pakistan. Furthermore, the universities are the grooming grounds for future leaders, and this is where they need to be reared to become mature and responsible citizens so that Pakistan develops and prospers to join the ranks of fast developing nations.