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Higher education: a far-fetched dream of millions.

Byline: Khalil Ahmed

Hafiz, a young boy in his early 30s, dilated on his plight why his dream of getting a professional degree in business could not come true. He struggled to save money so that he could get a higher education degree, which could guarantee him a bright future without much volatility in his income. Being the only son of his parents, he always since his adolescence wanted to make his parents proud. Since his father is a shopkeeper with a limited and irregular income, Hafiz himself wanted to do something to supplement the household income. He endeavored to get a job with his B.Com degree but to no avail. Though he appeared in some interviews for employment, however, he was given an impression that a master's professional degree is mandatory to perform the job. The major chunk of his CVs sent for employment landed with no opportunity even for an interview call.

Having failed with a job opportunity, he determined to do an MBA, however, the predominant cause of the disappointment for him was skyrocketing fee structure of the degree awarding institutions.

Getting admission in public sector universities is not that easy owing to limited number of seats. There are institutions, so-called colleges, with affiliation of the public sector universities claim to be the representatives of the public sector universities since there students get the degrees from the public sector universities. The fee structure of these colleges is comparatively lower but the poor facilities and the quality of lectures need the attention of the public sector universities which awarded the affiliation to such colleges. The criteria for awarding affiliation and the quality of lectures need to be overseen by the competent authorities. Everyone even with very poor marks in graduation is welcomed warmly in these colleges since the basic aim seems to be minting money not imparting invaluable knowledge to serve the country better.

Another category of the degree awarding institutions is private sector universities being run in bungalows/residential localities. Such institutions do have their various branches as well in various parts of the cities to cater to the maximum students. Students who are desperate to get an MBA for future prospects resort to joining these institutions since being in good books of the faculty members is the predominant criteria to get through that particular course. The faculty members have absolute power to award marks and at times in order to get more courses, the faculty members do award good grades to students to please the management of the institutions. The quality of education is a big question mark in such institutions. The fee structure of these institutions starts from Rs.250,000/- for a program i.e. BBA, MBA etc.

One prominent category of degree-awarding institutions is the institutes with all fancy facilities with large buildings, digital libraries, M.Phil and Ph.D programs, large parking facilities, weekend classes with a deluge of degree programs etc. The fee structure of these institutions starts from Rs.400,000/- for a program i.e. BBA, MBA etc. The masses can't afford such whopping amount.

One surprising element to be noticed is that sometimes it is mind-boggling to see the same faculty members teaching as visiting faculty in all categories of institutions mentioned above. This calls for the quality check by the Higher Education Commission. And the public must know the criteria for awarding courses to adjunct faculty members and the appointment of the permanent faculty members. Do all these institutions follow the instructions of HEC for the appointment of the faculty members? OR the compromise on quality is rampant since there is dearth of qualified faculty members in Pakistan.

Last but not least, the most expensive category of degree-awarding institutions in Pakistan is beyond the reach of more than 98 percent population of Pakistan. The fee structure starts with millions of rupees. These institutions have been marketing themselves with foreign-qualified Ph.D faculty, affiliation with prestigious institutions of the world, promising future prospects in Pakistan and abroad and mentorship programs with MDs/CEOs etc. Foreigners are frequently invited to give lectures to both students and the faculty members.

Pakistan with over one quarter of the total population living below the poverty line must offer quality higher education to the downtrodden stratum of the society. The overall literacy rate in Pakistan is 58 percent, however, the dismal percentage of graduates is a wake-up call for the future of the country. Public expenditure on education is 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, which indicates the future of the nation as well.
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Author:Ahmed, Khalil
Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 27, 2019
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