What our HEC can learn from India

Published: March 23, 2012

HEC needs to devise a strategy to legislate the introduction of student loans through the banking system in Pakistan.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has made significant contributions since its inception in 2002, however the strategies used by the commission have room for improvement. Statistics clearly show that the quantitative results of the HEC are plausible, with drastically increased university enrollment and a huge army of PhDs in the making on scholarships.

The quality of students on the other hand, does not seem too impressive. It is hard to challenge the fact that knowledge is not being produced in the country, and this raises a question:

What exactly do we want to achieve with this enormous number of graduate students if not the production of knowledge?

The direction taken by Pakistani universities is unproductive and dangerous, with the focus usually being on creating top of the line campuses and growing the student body. Should the priority be to increase the number of graduates or the quality of graduates? The answer simple; strike a balance and make the best use of the available resources. No one can deny the lack of resources and facilities in Pakistan, but is there anything that the HEC can do better with the available funds?

The United States has the highest number of top ranked research institutions in the world -this is a fact and an opportunity. In 2010, the number of Pakistani students in the US stood at 5,222, but the Institute of International Education reports that the number is decreasing.

India, on the other hand, had 103,260 students in the US during the same period with a constant rise in the numbers. The gap is many folds and constantly increasing because of the wrong, or missing, priorities of the Pakistan government and a well -thought higher education policy in India.

The purpose of the figures is not to draw a comparison between India and Pakistan in terms of higher education, but I want to bring the attention of the Pakistani authorities to a strategy that is doing wonders for India and can easily be adopted here within the means available.

India is a major source of international students in the US, with a 15 percent share and can be party explained by India’s booming economy that has enabled students to afford education abroad. However, a primary reason for this is the concept of education loans in India.

Any Indian student who secures admission in a well reputed American university and has a credit worthy cosigner can get education loans up to INR 2,000,000 (approximately US$ 40,000) from a state run bank through schemes facilitated by the Indian government. Some private banks in India offer up to INR 4,000,000 (approximately US$ 80,000).

The Indian government has gone to great lengths to implement this mechanism, which even allows lower interest rates to families with weaker financial strengths. Imagine how many students the HEC can fund if it chooses to pay for the interest on loans as opposed to fully funded scholarships.

The HEC offers thousands of graduate level scholarships, and most of these scholarships come with a bond that asks the scholar to return to the country after graduating and serve Pakistan for a given number of years. The ideas of giving scholarships and imposing obligations are both faulty for a number of reasons.

The HEC needs to devise a strategy to legislate the introduction of student loans through the banking system in Pakistan. This is a long term and sustainable plan that can help export human resources, which Pakistan has in abundance. Without any heavy investment, this could exponentially increase the number of opportunities for students in the country.

All that is required to put this plan to action is the will, not resources. Pakistan has an elaborate and successful banking structure which could benefit from a formalised loan system as well.

Student loans are popular in many other countries, including the United States. The model is such that it leads to a cycle where the money is not lost. Every coming year, the funds for providing loans would rise and an increasing number of students would be able to benefit from it.

We need not pamper our youth by providing them with fully funded scholarships; the government needs to help them become independent, self-sufficient and responsible stakeholders in Pakistan’s economy.


Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Cynical

    What an inane proposition!
    There is nothing to learn from indian hindoos.One can learn everything that one aspires to from Quran and Hadith.That’s the final word and coming straight from the final authority God.
    As for educational loans from indian banks, our system of zakat can take care of it many times over.
    So much for obsession with india.Disgusting!!!Recommend

  • Optimist

    I fully agree with the author.
    While it is good to follow Indian model of loans, it is also wise to avoid the mistakes made by them.
    I have seen a great number of Indian students coming to private (often dodgy) colleges in London and they pay them upfront (because of loan). Then they are worried about paying them back with interests because education they receive is not of any quality. They are usually studying in lower levels than what they had done in their own country. These loans are being used by non-genuine students to get into the country (in this case the UK).
    In fact, 70% of private colleges (many dodgy) in the UK thrive because of mainly Indian students and then Pakistani/Bangladeshi students who are stuck in low paid illegal jobs.
    Pakistan should only give loans to PROPER University students. It would be even better to restrict it to top 50 universities in developed countries (i.e. top 50 British Universities, top 50 US universities) and in case of less developed countries, such as Malaysia/Cyprus/Turkey, top 10 is recommended). This way students will get quality education, will be empoyable and will be able to repay their loans. Recommend

  • Ali

    The PPP (Pakistani Feudal Party) and Raza Rabbani sahib was on the verge of destroying higher education as we know.
    Instead they were going to disburse the money to the corrupt MNA. Thank god that the nation stood up and at least put an end to their nefarious designs. Recommend

  • http://pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    and we never fail to criticize the only thing good in this country … u should ask Zardari to learn sth from the indian Pres…. or not to force heroes upon us Recommend

  • bharat

    Having studied in a top French student, now the problem is that since 9/11 very few colleges want to give admissions to Pakistani students. I have seen this from my own eyes as a Pakistani restaurant owner in Grenoble,France told me that no school wishes to relatives in Pakistan Recommend

  • HEC_Suporter

    @Cynical: i guess we are not learning anything but, improving ourself even to a better level then them.Recommend

  • HEC_Suporter

    @Cynical: huh! dude we are just improving ourself, even to a level better then HINDUs, its not like we obsessed with them. Lets be open and logical to think what needs to improved instead of bringing religion in this discussion.

    btw i agree with the author that we should lookinto this decreasing no of student in the worlds best universities.Recommend

  • bharat

    continuing on what i wrote , i strongly object to this behaviour of Western colleges and universities, They should give admissions to Pakistani students on merit. There have been thousands of Pakistanis who have done well after getting an education in the westRecommend

  • Naive

    I don’t know that what are the basis of your comment, but what I’ve seen here is that the Pakistani students are doing great here, and French professors and universities are happy with Pakistani students and they can easily get the admission here.
    Many of those who came on HEC scholarship were awarded merit based French govt. fundings and the most of those who didn’t get that are also doing well.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    From Australia to Singapore,all countries are falling over themselves to entice Indian students. Students are seen as bringing as consumers bringing in much needed foreign exchange and later bundled out as soon as their course is over. Most European countries don’t have jobs for their own citizens, taking foreign students on permanent jobs is their last concern. Students have to return and spend the next ten years of their life paying back their student loans. Honestly I feel that unless a student doesn’t get into a top notch university like Yale, Harvard or Oxford its no point going out unless rich daddy’s are ready to fund your expenses. Quality education is available at one-tenth the price in IIT’s, IIM’s NLU’s . Problem is with cutoffs at 100% in colleges of Delhi University many students keep Ivy League Colleges of US as their back up option if they fail to get into top notch Indian Institutions Recommend

  • Salman

    Part of the problem with the quality of our higher education is the low standard of school and college level education. We can improve a lot just by focusing on these areas.

    Other than that, giving student loans is an interesting proposition. The government should setup a system through which students can acquire these loans without the danger of being pulled into a financial crisis.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    India has advantaged tremendously by sending her children abroad to study, especially America.

    America has the best Higher Education system in the World and the World’s research facilities. Thankfully, American kids hate science and we fill the gap.

    Today India is benefitting even more as most of the people who go out come back! I have many friends who are studying out and have come back after their term and loan payments are over.

    Another point which might hinder Pakistanis is that Visa for a Green passport is hard to come by for America.

    I remember reading a study that the number of Pakistani students to the US has decreased tremendously since 9/11 and has increased to secondary and lower level options like UK, Australia, etc.Recommend

  • http://we-think-reflect.blogspot.com/ Muhammad Shemyal Nisar

    “The ideas of giving scholarships and imposing obligations are both faulty for a number of reasons.”

    @ author
    you failed to explain why is it faulty? I think it is quiet good actually that people come back rather than stay there and cause “brain-drain”. Secondly, I think it better to provide scholarships rather than loans because the student is not burdened at the end of his degree to return the amount back. I would dis-agree that it is “pampering”, i would rather call it “facilitating”.Recommend

  • Ali

    Very reasonable suggestion. I think HEC/Govt should implement this. Furthermore HEC/Govt should also introduce Trust free loans not only for foreign university students but also for inland university student.Recommend

  • Naive

    The interest free loan facility is already available for local students if they are able to get admission in any Govt. university on merit.Recommend

  • ALi

    What else one can expect from “morally bankrupt indianized Pakistani Nation?”Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    A shallow, disgusting article. Why do we see this obsession with doing things the Indian way? And why this mental slavery to the West? The proposed money be used to strength Pakistan’s own universities where young Pakistanis can learn about the genius of Islam and the Quran,and prepare to claim the leadership of Islamic nations? Does Pakistan want to be Pakistan or does it want to be a shadow of India? Recommend

  • Whats that

    I am a post graduate professional in India and doing reasonably well for my self. As for going abroad for an education, Lets be brutally frank here. Only those students who cannot make it to the IISc, IIT’s or the NIT’s in technical education or IIM’s for management think of migrating abroad. Other wise I haven’t heard of any student rejecting an offer from these institutions to study abroad. Yes a good percentage of students cannot even qualify to get into good private universities here. Also because of the reservation system the problem gets more complex though as the intake for Post graduate courses is nearly 1/3rd to 1/4th of the Bachelors degree. I am all for reservations for the down trodden and the helpless however.Recommend

  • biryani

    for God Sake, did u not see debt crisis in west …… we don’t want our students committing sucide and becoming psychedelic freaks……

    lets just not blindly follow india which in turn follows west…..Recommend

  • Senman

    I agree with Pakistani’s who are saying not to follow Indias way. Pakistan should follow Madrassa education system for 20 years more. Also Madrassa system is so superior to MIT even french and other guys are learning from Pakistan and practice what they learn in their country. I humbly request all the students not to follow Indian system at-least for the next 10 years. Thank you.Recommend

  • SKChadha

    In Indian context, ‘Saraswati’ (goddess of education) and ‘Laxmi’ (goddess of wealth) are two different goddesses and both are worshiped in India. Here the entire debate is about worshiping ‘Saraswati’ and moving out in its search. Whereas, this all is being in demand of ‘Laxmi’ for life. The move is wrong ab initio.

    Brothers, Saraswati’s blessings are for life and make you better and knowledgeable human being. On other hand ‘Laxmi’ is capricious and doesn’t stay for long at one place.

    We have to choose whether we are moving to west for ‘Saraswati’ or for ‘Laxmi’. If the goals are not clear, the outcome will be frustrating. One more thing, combination of these two in one person is rare. Such combination makes a person ‘gem of society’ and he is revered for long time.Recommend

  • http://www.indrajal.com Vishnu Dutta


    sure go ahead and learn about us education system, and student loans from quran and hadiths. no wonder education has never taken roots in islamic countries.

    @ Author

    Majority (over 90%) of indian students dont take loans to pay for their tution fees in usa. mostly they get some sort of grant or assistant to pay for their fees. the unlucky students work part time to pay for their fees.Recommend

  • bharat


    I was in a city called Grenoble and i am telling you that the school i was in ,there was not a single Pakistani student despite it being amongst the best in Europe.

    The Pakistani restaurant owner i met there told me that Pakistani students were not getting admission in most of the schools.

    Maybe in some places they must be welcomed, its good to know that Recommend

  • Arthur

    Brilliant comments. Love your biting sarcasm! Recommend

  • softy

    This is not sarcasm. Kaalchakra meant it. I am his great fan.Recommend

  • Optimist

    @ bharat

    Don’t listen to losers. I have heard strange stories from such small business owners. They cannot do anything apart from a shop, so they complain about discrimination.

    If you can prove that Pakistanis students are not given admission in France, I will hire a lawyer and sue them myself. It is simply not possible for a BEST SCHOOL IN FRANCE to discriminate on such a big scale. Best Schools thrive on being best with opportunity for all. You must be talking about small dodgy school.

    Its sad that your source is someone who has nothing to do with education. Its ppl like that restaurant owners who spread rumours and are against everyone (you should have asked his opinion about Bangladeshis, Indians, loose morality of French women, and even his opinion about any Pakistani who is not from his village)!Recommend

  • anonymous

    @author: so u dont plan on coming back, and so this is ur validifiaction to urself?
    mr butt economically ur idea has merit, and at the end of the day all this knowlege, should contribute towards our economy primarily.
    so yes, it is a good idea to return the loans with interest, instead of giving full scholarships, however like u say our universites are not up to the tier, than without influx of knowledge how wilL we ever cultivate our own education sector, and bring it up to the mark?, so along with that loan, there should be a clause that states that the individual come back and contribute towards the education sector as well, or something along those lines. oh or maybe it could be anoption, like instead of the loan. Recommend

  • Pintoo

    Nice idea, author! But, ahem…., one little problem…what about those..ahem…nonstate actors that we are known for? I mean..ummm..our strategic assets…can they get visas on their green passports?Recommend

  • from India

    Ten years from now, US universities may not be able to attract the best talents of the world. UK universities (barring Oxbridge) are already facing the heat. It is to be noted that the univs of US and UK largely depends on their economy. Since, the govt. can no more ensure high skilled jobs to the students, it wikll be of no use to spend huge amount of money and then return to the nation empty handed.

    I will give you a personal example, two of my friends had enrolled themselves in University College of London for LLM and NYU for MS. None of them got a job even after shelling around INR 25-35 lakhs. Both of them are in India now working in firms that are paying them slightly higher than what they used to get before going abroad. They are now burdened with huge loans to refund. However, another friend of mine went to NUS, Singapore for LLM and easily secured a job with a law firm which is paying her a decent package, thus making it possible to repay her loan. So, if I consider from business point of view, then investing in Singapore will get me better returns than investing in Western universities.

    P.S : Ivy League and Oxbridge Universities still attract the best talent since their degree is globally recognized and valued. However, if these universities do not get their due attention from the govt. then soon you may find some Asian universities toppling them in ranking.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    @from India: Thank you for the information I am myself I 4th year BA.LLB(H) student from an NLU and was looking forward to an LLM from abroad as an Indian degree in LLM does not hold much weight.But taking a student loan is a scary proposition in these conditions. US is extremely expensive and UK has no jobs. Also credibility of colleges in countries in Australia and all is also not very clear. I will definitely consideration the option of NUS, Singapore.

    Most people fail to realize that as India and China are the economies of the future hence more jobs are being created in Asia than anywhere else because of the volume of business being carried out here. Plus the boom in loan market in India is primarily because of the passing of Sarfaesi Act. This enables banks to sell off your mortgaged property without taking an execution order from the court (which considerably speeds up the process) if you fail to pay up your loans. Imagine you ancestral property being sold off by the bank immediately if you are unable to churn out your EMI’s in time. For a student loan i don’t think it is worth the risk specially seeing the conditions of economies worldwide.Recommend

  • from India

    @ Indi-Pop – Pleased to know that :-) Being a corporate lawyer myself, I suggest you apply in NUS, Singapore for your LLM, considering the present market situations. However, it is to be noted that your LLM won’t be of much use if you immediately come back after your course. Make sure you work their atleast for few years to gain experience in a foreign jurisdiction relevant to the globalized world.

    An LLM from abroad is to be utilized for a global career in law which could be the gateway to work in multiple jurisdictions. As you have rightly said, LLM from an Indian law school is pathetic if you wish to practice corporate law. However, if you wish to be a lecturer then you need not go abroad.

    Best wishes,

    from India. Recommend



    i think you are right, what does an illiterate ,uneducated person to speak of others?

    BTW my school is one the best in Europe ,as ranked by FTRecommend

  • Vikram

    “There is nothing to learn from indian hindoos.One can learn everything that one aspires to from Quran and Hadith”

    Why Pakistanis go and study abroad, Why don’t they just learn everything in a madrassah?
    Poor Muslims some time sell their daughters to pay of their debts. Some time rich arabs go and buy young vrigin teenage girls as brides? I don’t see any rich Muslims giving Zakat or Interest free loans to countries like Afghanistan or poor Muslim countries in Africa. Pakistan gets billions of dollars of zakat from Christain countries. Most poor Muslim countries are helped by Christian majority countries.

    Blogger just wants things to get better in Pakistan? You brought Islam into this for nothingRecommend

  • Optimist

    @ Vikram

    Even the name cynical should have given you an indication that he is being sarcastic, he is not serious.
    Its a very Muslim thing to accept knowledge and good things from anywhere (as per saying of the Prophet: ‘one says: ‘seek knowledge from cradle to grave’, including ‘seek knowledge even if you have to travel to China and there are many more!!).
    If you focus on China example, they were not teaching Quran at that time. So, obviously, Propeht (PBUH) was referring to worldly knowledge. Recommend