Accessing Higher Education

Accessing Higher Education

On a recent trip to Islamabad, I had the opportunity to talk to some professors engaged in teaching profession at a few local universities. Surprised by their abject account of huge class sizes, and an even greater teaching load, I was curious to find out what, if any, difference exists between private and public sector universities, especially in terms of the tuition fees. In a state where the higher education budget has only shrunk over years, the question that pops up is the affordability of higher education in our country.

I sat down and analyzed in detail the fee structure (excluding boarding/living expenses) of all the HEC recognized public and private institutions in Islamabad offering three to four-year bachelor degree. The results were definitely not what I had expected.

The data revealed that, in Islamabad, the annual average tuition costs for private institutions currently is ~ Rs. 113,000. Based on my experience in the US, (both as a student and now as a professor), I expected the public sector tuition rates to be a quarter or one third of the private institutions. However, ironically, the tuition fees of Public sector institutions were also the same.


The burning question is, do public sector universities should be as expensive as Private sector universities? Can one even call such universities public sector, if they cater to a section of the society that is forced to invest half a million rupees in tuition over a period of four years? It seems that with only a few remedies like Scholarship and Financial aid to a bunchful of students, our government has supposedly contributed enough to promote education in Pakistan.



The right question at this point in time is, how do we fix it? In a society, where the population grows at an exponential rate, the qualified leave the country on a routine basis, and education budget is religiously trimmed almost every year, how does one viably promote education in the public sector? I believe we need a fine mix of both long-term and short-term plans to make any effective changes.

The long-term solution, of course, is to steadily increase the higher education budget – funded through improved taxation system, so government could subsidize higher education.



For short-term solutions, we need a two-pronged approach. First, public sector universities should raise more funds (not by increasing fees) and cut down the fees for those who can’t afford to pay so much.  Shaukat Khanum hospital and Edhi aid organization serve as good examples of social endeavors generously supported by Pakistanis, both within and outside the country.



Second, universities should introduce loan schemes, either through the institution or through other government bodies, where the students can pay back after graduation either in cash or in kind.


Subsidizing higher education and improving on its quality may seem to be an uphill task, yet these measures, if effectively implemented, can catalyze a bigger, permanent and a more positive change. Inaction and maintaining the current status quo, however, will only lead to further deterioration and a darker future.

Muhammad Hamid Zaman

An Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and International Health at Boston University

  • jahangir khan

    Education sector in Pakistan is gradually growing as compare with recent past.According to the statistic of Pakistan newly established universities both private and in public sector are effectively working and contributing in society.The alarming situation is for those who even cant afford a single time meal,The educationist just import status co, not education the keep the poorer away from their basic need like education.both private and public sector are become ground to compete by selling education not transferring the noble deed as the education has right.The higher education and other plate form must revised their policy and make standard for education that would be easy a viable for the common man

  • Shahzad Kazi

    Elementary education is a right while higher education is a privilege. The government needs to focus its limited resources on improving primary education and take madarsahs into the fold of the education department. The next step would be to invest in vocational training by setting up poly technique institutes. For now it may not be a wise step for the government to invest more in universities.

  • Jawaad Khan

    It is very unfortunate that our youth (as mostly belong to middle class) are slowly and gradually getting deprived of quality education at every level. Now a days ,getting admission even in good elimentary school is also getting very difficult. I am afraid that present scenario will lead us to total economic and social collapes.

    It certainly shows that all social and economic planning mechanism has failed miserably.

  • Imran Khan

    We are all well aware of this natural phenomenon that devotion and sincerity lead to success.Our leaders and intellectuals are corrupt.Providing free education and health facilities are primary responsibilities of a state.If our leaders trim their international trips and spare this money for the welfare of Pakistan,this would boost our state.I am astonished to hear that public universities are taking high fee,why our government is taking taxes which does not recompense good for its citizens. Everything is possible just needs fair dealing. May Allah keep our leaders on right track,Amen