The announcement by the Punjab CM about setting up 12 new universities in the province is welcome. Currently, there are 29 HEC-recognised universities in the province. With the establishment of another one dozen, the number of public-sector universities in the province will go up to 41. On the face of it, it is good to open new universities. However, what matters the most is not the number of universities but the standard of education. If institutions of higher learning in Pakistan could match an international standard, this will be hugely beneficial. Those who go abroad for higher education would prefer to get an education within the country, thus saving valuable foreign exchange. Quality education depends much on the faculty which should be capable enough to serve as mentors.
The new universities need to be launched with proper planning, and the aim should be to equip universities with all the required facilities. Fee structure needs to be designed so as to expand the outreach of higher education to all those desirous of obtaining graduate and postgraduate degrees. Our public universities also lack goal. There are no proper linkages between universities and industries as well as other sectors of the economy. This applies equally to technical and social sciences. Degree holders are not provided field training. The consequence is that after obtaining degrees, students do not know what to do.
One important stumbling block in the way of higher education is that of language. In nearly all universities, instructions are given in English. This is because of the absence of textbooks in Urdu and local languages. This difficulty is faced by all pupils whether they are pursuing courses in technical subjects or social sciences. This is because of our colonial mindset, as proficiency in English is considered the hallmark of the educated. This problem can be overcome by translating books into local languages so that students can comprehend their subjects fully.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2022.