Struggling Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan: Urgent need to take innovative measures, increase allocation of budget

By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Suleman Tahir

Education serves as a key driving force envisioned to turn the dream of a knowledge-based economy into reality and it also contributes to the attainment of social goals of humanity, creating cohesiveness, and building good human beings. Moreover, it has been playing a phenomenal role in the development of nations, in the form of public good, enlightening individuals with cultural values, norms, and national interests, and enabling them to serve humanity. Traditionally, it has been considered a public good, benefiting not only the individuals who got an education but the whole society in terms of its huge returns to society.

This standpoint about higher education has been a dominant school of thought regarding the functions and role of higher education as a public good, and it was considered a basic human right in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Education is an investment in the future as it brings numerous economic and social benefits to individuals and societies. Usually measured in relation to a nation’s wealth, expenditure on education largely comes from public budgets, but it includes funding from individual students, their families and other private sources as well.

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), Pakistan invests annually 2.4% of its GDP in Education which is less in comparison to India which is 4.5%, Korea’s 4.7%, Japan’s 3.4%, China’s 3.6%, UAE’s 3.9 % and Africa on an average 3.8 %. For a developing country research & development activities in higher education institutions are very important because it is necessary to create new knowledge as well as to find solutions to indigenous problems. But in Pakistan, higher education institutions and universities require creative and innovative solutions for their economic survival. Commonly the annual budget allocation is not sufficient to fulfil the research & development needs of universities.

If the government increases the annual budget for higher education and consumes it to raise the standard of education and research then Pakistani universities will lead in the world and would become a choice for students from the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Such foreign admissions will be helpful to generate funds. Once the cycle starts then it will continue by itself. No doubt, improving higher education in Pakistan requires a comprehensive approach that addresses various aspects of the education system.

It is urgent and the need of time to allocate a higher percentage of the national budget to higher education. Adequate funding can help improve infrastructure, faculty development, research facilities, and student support services. Strengthen the quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that institutions maintain high standards of education. Implement rigorous accreditation processes and periodic evaluations to identify areas for improvement.

Invest in professional development programs for faculty members to enhance their teaching skills, research capabilities, and expertise in their respective fields. Encourage faculty members to pursue higher degrees and engage in research activities.

Establish research centers and allocate resources for research grants to promote a culture of innovation and knowledge creation. Encourage collaboration between academia, industry, and government to address real-world challenges. Regularly review and update the curriculum to align it with current industry needs and global trends. Include practical skills development, experiential learning opportunities, and interdisciplinary approaches to equip students with relevant knowledge and skills.

Foster partnerships between higher education institutions and industries to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical skills. Encourage internships, industrial projects, and joint research initiatives to promote applied learning. Upgrade technological infrastructure and provide access to digital resources, research databases, and online learning platforms. Establish state-of-the-art laboratories, libraries, and other necessary facilities to support teaching and research.

Increase the number of universities, colleges, and specialized institutions to accommodate a larger student population. Enhance scholarship programs, financial aid, and outreach initiatives to ensure access for deserving students from all socio-economic backgrounds. Improve institutional governance, accountability, and transparency to ensure effective management of resources and maintain high ethical standards. Establish clear policies and procedures to promote fairness and meritocracy.

Foster an entrepreneurial mindset among students by offering incubation centers, startup support, and entrepreneurship courses. Encourage students to develop their own ventures and contribute to the economic growth of the country. Facilitate student and faculty exchanges with international institutions to promote cultural understanding, global perspectives, and knowledge sharing. Promote gender equality in higher education by creating an inclusive environment and providing opportunities for female students and faculty. Encourage women’s participation in STEM fields and leadership roles.

No doubt, an increase in the higher education budget is the need of time otherwise it will cause a loss in research and educational paradigm in Pakistan. Implementing the above recommendations will require a collective effort from the government, educational institutions, industry stakeholders, and civil society. Continuous monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation of strategies are necessary to ensure long-term improvements in higher education in Pakistan.

The author is Vice Chancellor of Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology, Rahim Yar Khan.

 

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