In the upcoming years, developing countries will continue to account for an increasing proportion of global growth. Moreover, the higher education sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Asian markets. Pakistan is a country of around 180 million people and with 70 % of the population under 30 years of age, it has a lot to offer in terms of human talent. However, the current political and economic situation of the country has limited the number of opportunities available to youth.
Business schools are a main source of high quality human resources for companies engaged in international business. There are 99 of these institutions in Pakistan, with private sector institutions performing significantly better than their government-funded counterparts. Topping the league tables are:
- LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences)
- NUST Business School
- IBA (Institute of Business Administration)
- IM-Sciences, University of Management Sciences
- Bahria University
Research I am undertaking suggests that curriculum & programme design, the teaching staff profile & teaching methods and strong industry-academia relationships are the key determinants of high performance for business schools in Pakistan.
Yet though the top business schools are doing well when it comes to producing graduates looking for a job, the same cannot be said for those wishing to create their own. I recently interviewed a programme director from the Institute of Business in Karachi, who perceives a lack of entrepreneurial culture in Pakistan as stifling the potential of young people to contribute to economic growth. More must be done to produce graduates who leave university ready and equipped to start up on their own.
I believe that business schools are the ideal setting to make this happen, as the same overall determinants of quality also represent the drivers of success for hubs supporting student innovation and enterprise. Support and funding by the government, such as through the Higher Education Commission, would be vital at the set up stage. This can more likely be obtained if the hubs’ focus is on supporting emerging social enterprises. Examples of existing incubator hubs include the Women Business Incubation Center (WBIC) and Pasha Social Innovation Fund. Both of these organisations focus on supporting start-ups led by women, as they are vastly under-represented in Pakistan’s business sector. Business school hubs focusing on social enterprise projects can therefore deliver both commercial as well as social benefits to Pakistan.
A business school incubator would not only strengthen the institution’s performance in terms of the quality of services it delivers to its stakeholders, but will also kick-start social enterprises that would otherwise rely on government funding to sustain themselves. Investors, the Higher Education Commission, NBEAC (National Business Education Accreditation Council), the management of the business schools and the teaching staff can all play an active role in educating youth and fostering social innovation and entrepreneurship.
Instead of perceiving employers as the sole most important stakeholder group, Pakistani business schools should widen their scope and vision. This will not only improve the future chances of their students, but also attract international investors to the hubs, which will filter through to benefit the country as a whole.