Pakistan’s higher education sector has seen dramatic growth over the past two decades, from a student population of just 68,000 in 1993 to 1.3m in 2012.
However, progress has been hampered by a lack of funding as well as political reluctance to invest in the sector. Even the elite institutions suffer from a shortage of teachers and resources, and universities are often forced to recruit students without PhDs to teach undergraduate classes. In addition, as government subsidies fluctuate, the need to raise income through fees means that admissions standards are often excessively relaxed in order to increase numbers. This has a potentially detrimental effect on both the quality of the educational experience and the perceived value of a degree.
Lack of engagement between higher education institutions and business and industry means that graduates are frequently underprepared for the workplace. This leads both to individual difficulty in finding suitable employment and to a shortage of suitably qualified employees to meet the needs of the economy. Guidance in the establishment of strong collaborative relationships between universities and employers could have a significant impact.
Higher education provision is currently distributed strongly in favour of the two most prosperous provinces, Punjab and Sindh—between them, the two are home to 85 of the country’s 139 universities and degree-awarding institutions (DAIs). Within these provinces, the vast majority of institutions are located in large cities. Aspiring students from poorer provinces or rural areas, who cannot afford to move away from home for their education, therefore frequently cannot choose to study. Distance learning is providing a solution for some, and the spread of low-cost broadband services has enabled Pakistan to embrace this as an option. However, as Pakistan ranks 108th out of 148 countries for the percentage of households equipped with a personal computer (PC), significant swathes of the population are unlikely to benefit from a revolution in virtual education.
Guerrero, C. Higher education case studies - Pakistan. Economist Intelligence Unit, London, UK (2014) 16 pp.