Commercialising our campuses?

Published: August 27, 2011

So there is a proposal of putting up advertisement billboards inside the Karachi University (KU) premises.

The 1,800 acres of campus houses numerous departments, research centres and teachers’ housing societies. It has its own marketplace with shops for grocery, tailoring and electrical repair work. Huge billboards are precisely what this city-like campus is lacking.

But is KU an educational institution? How can it have advertising billboards on its premises?

Shouldn’t an education institution’s sole purpose be to impart education to its students? And how would setting up billboards on campus fit into this scheme of things given that its main purpose would be generate funds and would end up commercialising the campus.

The point I am trying to make is that there are some places that ought not to be commercialised — ever; and an institution of higher learning is certainly among them.

Imagine yourself listening to a sermon in a mosque. You look around and you see a life-size billboard in the mosque’s courtyard. Imagine yourself visiting a graveyard. You recite the fateha and look up and you see a billboard right opposite the graveyard.

The same logic should apply to institutions of learning. One cannot justify advertising billboards on their premises because that defeats the very purpose of what these institutions are supposed to be offering to their students. The University of Karachi has over 24,000 students and it has to be said that it has a tough time providing quality education. So instead of looking to generate additional funding from allowing billboards on campus it should instead explore ways and means to improve the quality of its teaching.

The government provided funds and the money accumulated from admission and semester fee are apparently too little to cover the total cost. The only option the administration is left with is to cut down the expenditure. Many faculty members are heard of complaining delayed salary payments.

Other ways to generate additional funds could be by competing for research grants offered by various international organisations or to seek the involvement of the corporate sector in scholarship funding for particularly bright students.

Selling off space for commercial use should be the last option.

Ferya Ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

A sub editor on the Web Desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @ferya_ilyas (

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