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Revamping Higher Education

Revamping Higher Education

By: Dr Shaukat Ali Mazari

How to make our HEIs Relevant

Today, Pakistan is going through severe social, political and especially economic crises. As an academic, I blame the higher education institutions for not playing their due role. Research on the utilization, technology development process intensification for local resources and skills upgradation of local workforce have been key for the development of the developed countries, and this is required in Pakistan as well

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been the focal point for the societal development for centuries. Drastic changes have been observed in technical, economic, political, and social patterns in recent past and the HEIs have a lot to do with this. The number of universities and students increased at the same pace. Similarly, Pakistan followed the trend, which is not bad. The pattern of university teaching, learning and outlook changed worldwide with time, however this did not change much in Pakistan. We have focused on providing degrees and increasing the number of programmes and departments; however, industry did not grow which ultimately resulted in more unemployed of the educated youth, especially in the industrial sector, where the unemployment rate increased from 20.98% to 23.74% from 2007 to 2017. Today, as I said in the introductory paragraph, Pakistan is going through severe social, political, and especially economic crises. As an academician, I blame the higher education institutions for not playing their due role, let us find out why.

United States of America brought the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 and formed the “land-grant universities”. The act funded the HEIs by providing federally owned lands to the states so as to provide them to existing HEIs or build new ones by developing or selling the land. The purpose of sponsoring HEIs was to promote teaching in agriculture, science and engineering. Later, introduction of the Hatch Act of 1887 themed the mission of these institutions, which focused on the development of agricultural research centres and dissemination of new generated knowledge, to development of soil minerals and plant growth. Smith-Lever Act of 1914 boosted this mission by sending the research ambassadors to the rural areas to help the farmers with research findings to grow better and healthier crops. Today, The United States is one of the largest exporters of quality agri-food products and generates revenue in billions of US dollars. The agricultural research was just a beginning, which was followed by industrial research collaboration of academia with industry, which resulted the landmark innovations and technology advancements. Today almost every US university is linked with industry–two examples of current industry-academia linkages of US are the agreement between four information technology companies (IMB, Intel, Cisco and HP) and seven US universities (Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and the University of Texas-Austin) to accelerate collaborative research on open source software and Google-Microsoft-Sun Systems agreement with UC-Berkeley. Today, the US is the Second largest exporter of goods, which provides them with a revenue of trillions of dollars–after China, which surpassed them in 2009. Hundreds of such examples exist around the world where academic community contributed to the economic growth of the countries.

Research on utilization, technology development process intensification for local resources and skills upgradation of local workforce have been the key to the development of developed countries. The United States has been dominating in the technology in almost all sectors like advanced materials, agriculture/food, commercial aerospace, communications, energy, environmental, instrumentation, life science/healthcare, military/defence, pharmaceutical/biotech, followed by China. Moreover, automotive industry is dominated by Japan and Germany, followed by the US. Dominance of the United States in technology is because of R&D quality and productivity. Report of Industrial Research Institute (IRI) 2016 shows that 69% of China’s R&D is performed by government researchers, 21% by industrial researchers and the remaining 10% by academic researchers. Whereas for US research, the share of government is 11%, industry contributes 71%, and academia does 18%. China’s R&D is dominated by its government, while the US’s R&D is dominated by its industrial sector. This indicates that success behind the US in technology development is the industrial involvement in research. The highest spending in R&D is still by the US, followed by China and Japan. However, South Korea spends around 4.29% of its GDP on research, which is the highest by any country per capita.


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