Over the years there has been a mushroom growth of business schools in Pakistan. A number of universities have established Business Administration Departments. Since this growth has taken place in a rather short span of time, availability of faculty became very difficult. Business schools are now competing directly with trade and industry in hiring the faculty. Now business schools offer attractive salaries, particularly to the visiting faculty members.
However, it has been noticed that the number of faculty with doctorate is still limited. It is believed that as long as foreign scholarships are available for doctoral programmes, teachers are willing to undertake further studies. However, many of them after having availed the scholarships preferred to stay abroad or leave the educational institutions, which had sent them for higher studies after having served for one or two years.
One of the points of view is that there is an oversupply of business graduates. There is also a feeling that quality of graduates coming out of the business varies a lot, and in some cases really poor. There is also a tendency for acquiring higher education in more than one discipline. When job opportunities are limited, and graduates find it difficult to get a job or remuneration is not up to their expectations, there is a shift in preference in the selection of disciplines. The educational institutions always face the challenges of a dynamic economic and social environment – emanating from national or international events.
Pakistan has witnessed various ups and downs. In the 1980s, there was a sudden increase in the demand for pharmacy graduates, mainly originating from the US. Several universities responded by establishing pharmacy departments to meet the foreign demand for the pharmacists. Similarly, medical and engineering have also the most popular disciplines in the past. As a result of oversupply and limited job opportunities in Pakistan, getting a decent job often becomes difficult, consequently, a number of such graduates entered in totally unrelated government jobs, particularly customs, police, revenue service etc.
In Pakistan one of the problems is that number of youngsters as a percentage of total population is on the rise but job opportunities have either remained stagnant or are on the decline. Even if there are no or limited job opportunities, parent would still like to ensure higher education for their children, hoping that the situation will change. Job opportunities and higher education are not always directly related.
Education has other benefits, as a symbol of social status. Therefore, students continue to come to educational institutions and acquire education even in such disciplines, which do not offer job opportunities. It is obvious that good business schools must have qualified and experienced faculty, need-based curriculum, infrastructure and above all admission procedures to select only those who have aptitude for learning business administration. The quality of finished product is directly dependent on the quality of inputs. While it is a must for the business schools to screen students interested in seeking admission, it is also necessary for students and their parents to find out the details and credibility of business schools.
The government has realised the weaknesses in the prevailing system. The University Grants Commission has been given a new name – Commission on Higher Education – and a new mandate. The main objective is to implement the minimum quality standards for the establishment of new higher education institutions and also to upgrade currently operating institutions. For example, a new university has to offer education in at least six disciplines. It also sets minimum strength and qualification of faculty and infrastructure requirements.
Globally, there is a system of accreditation of educational institutions. Independent evaluation of faculty, curriculum and infrastructure is done by autonomous bodies. In the absence of such a mechanism in Pakistan, it was believed that the charter of a university was sufficient. However, it was felt that the charter was not being followed in true spirit. Now the universities have to introduce other disciplines, improve the quality of their faculty and infrastructure or relinquish their degree awarding status. If implemented in its true spirit, this can help in weeding out campuses of foreign universities of low reputation.
To come up with better curriculum business schools must increase their linkage with trade and industry. This will also help in the creation of new job opportunities for their graduates. It is good that the new generation is keen in attaining IT education. However, they must do some basic courses in business administration also. IT is a tool and it can hardly serve any purpose unless used in an appropriate manner in core business activities.
As the Government of Pakistan aims at segregating ownership from management, job opportunities at middle and higher management are likely to increase. However, there is a need to correlate foreign books used in business schools to real life. While internship does serve the purpose, development of ‘local case studies’ is a must.
One of the lessons is business administration is ‘a problem well diagnosed is half solved’. In fact textiles and clothing, banking and energy sectors of Pakistan need greater focus. Almost all these sectors face rising cost and declining efficiencies, which in turn affect the dividend payout. There are some ‘isolated islands of excellence’, if properly documented can help the less efficient units to improve.
It is not a secret that Pakistan’s agriculture sector is the most efficient. This is evident from: 1) disappointingly low yield, 2) loss of nearly 40 percent of total produce and 3) poor value addition. If all these factors are overcome not only the size of Pakistan’s GDP will be increase but higher exportable surpluses will be available. Any increase in farmers’ income bodes well for the economy as well as for poverty alleviation.