The State of Higher Education in Pakistan

Access and Quality

In modern times, no idea of nation building and economic stability can be turned into reality without making education the first most priority. That’s why we see many developed countries and states allocating a huge chunk of their budgets on education, from awarding scholarships to expanding their current setup. Sadly, in Pakistan, due to economic instability, the state of higher education has several challenges despite going through several changes over the course of several decades. Though Pakistan has some world-renowned Universities like QAU, LUMS, etc. but still it lags behind when it comes to delivering quality education that can really affect policy making on a higher level. Lack of resources, poor infrastructure and untrained academics, these are some of the main challenges encountered by Higher Education in Pakistan.

Access to Higher Education in Pakistan

Access to higher education is a critical factor for the development of a country. It is crucial in promoting human capital, reducing poverty, and creating a well-informed and educated workforce. Unfortunately, access to higher education in Pakistan is not equal for all segments of the population. The most significant challenge that the country is facing is the lack of access to quality education, particularly in rural areas. According to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), only 25% of the country’s population is enrolled in higher education institutions (HEIs). This is significantly lower compared to other countries in the region.

One of the reasons for the low enrollment in higher education institutions is the high cost of education. The cost of education in Pakistan is unaffordable for most families, particularly those in rural areas. This is due to the high tuition fees charged by private institutions, which are the only option for most students as the public institutions are unable to accommodate all students. Furthermore, students from rural areas face additional challenges, such as a lack of resources and support systems, which makes it difficult for them to pursue higher education.

Another reason for the low enrollment in higher education institutions is the lack of quality schools in rural areas. Most students in rural areas are unable to obtain a quality education at the secondary level, which is essential for pursuing higher education. The quality of schools in rural areas is poor, and students are unable to receive a well-rounded education. This makes it difficult for them to gain admission to higher education institutions, as they are unable to meet the admission requirements.

Quality of Higher Education

The quality of higher education in Pakistan is a matter of great concern. Despite the increasing number of higher education institutions in the country, the quality of education being offered remains low. The lack of qualified faculty, inadequate resources, and outdated curricula are some of the reasons for the poor quality of education in Pakistan.

Talking about infrastructure, the country has a wide range of universities, both in the public and private sector. It’s a common conception that the quality of education in private institutions is much better as compared to public institutions funded by the state. are generally considered to be of lower quality compared to the private institutions. On the other hand, private universities and colleges are often more expensive and cater to a more affluent segment of society. This has resulted in a significant divide between the quality of education provided by public and private institutions, and has also contributed to the growing class divide in the country.

One of the major challenges facing higher education in Pakistan is a lack of resources. Public universities are often underfunded, and this has resulted in a shortage of basic facilities, such as libraries, laboratories, and lecture halls. In addition, the absence of a proper funding mechanism has also led to a shortage of qualified faculty members. Many universities in Pakistan are facing a shortage of teachers, and this has a direct impact on the quality of education being provided to students.

Another significant challenge facing higher education in Pakistan is the poor infrastructure. Many universities and colleges lack proper classrooms, libraries, and computer labs. The absence of these basic facilities makes it difficult for students to access the resources they need to succeed in their studies. Without the proper infrastructure and without allocating proper budget and ensuring its transparent spending, the state of higher education can never be improved. Libraries, laboratories and computer labs are the essential tools for knowledge production and for that they need special attention if we are really serious about producing quality knowledge.

Another barrier that is related with our previous point is the lack of scholarships awarded to Students which often results in the production of bad and poorly crafted research. There is a lack of “research culture” in our universities and it goes across the board. The reason is, no one in the government wants academics to devise policies based on proper data and research and even when any government hires academics, they only give chances to foreign qualified individuals as they know the situation of our universities very well. But this reason alone, should be enough for us to contemplate on this issue and take decisive actions, so that our public institutions can fulfil our needs up to the point that we wouldn’t be needing any foreign qualified academician to make our policies.

As per Rasul Bakhs Rais, a renowned academic and Political Scientist, accessibility of education is also one of the main issues. It is the issue of class now, the rich and powerful who have the resources and means have the access to educational institutions like LUMS etc. and now we are seeing the trend that most graduates of LUMS are going for Civil Services and taking a higher up position in the society, hence the poor and less privileged are struggling to get the quality education. Another reason is that the ruling class, starting with expensive preparatory English medium schools, aim for universities in the West. With so much neglect, inadequate funding and bad governance, the graduates of public universities continue to lag behind others in the job market.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Taking an account of all the challenges at hand, and problems that the higher education is currently facing, we can come up with several recommendations to not only improve the state of Higher Education in Pakistan but to also pave a way forward to country’s economic prosperity:

  • At least 7% of annual GDP should be allocated solely on education. And after that. It should be ensured that there is zero corruption in the spending of that budget. It should be used to build more public institutions and to train professional teachers and academics.
  • There should be special allocation in the educational budget to give scholarships to high achievers. It will only increase the competition but will also help us incentivize the research projects. We will not have to pay huge salaries to foreign qualified academics as students on our payroll will be doing all the work for us.
  • Students should be encouraged to go for new innovations and try new ideas in universities, new state of the art Computer and Science labs should be built in Campuses across the country, no matter how small the average number of enrollments is.
  • New curriculum should be designed as per the standard of Stanford and Harvard. And students should be equipped with modern AI tools of learning. There should be a zero tolerance policy for any institution not willing to comply with digitalization.
  • Special research grants should be given for students who come from peripheries. This will not only encourage them to pursue higher education but will also help them produce authentic data and research.

Related: Malala calls for addressing challenges of higher education at LUMS


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