Interview with Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Chairperson Higher Education Commission of Pakistan
I myself am a business student. Let me share with you how I learned entrepreneurship. There was a 6 foot tall old man in our village, Baba Nizam who would ask us every day where we were going. We told him that we are going to school and asked him to pray for our good grades and we get a good job. And he used to reply the same thing and that time we never realized that it was such a deep message for us. He used to say that, “Puttar rab to nokri na manngo, nokar manngo” (Don’t ask God to give you a job, ask Him to give you employees). That is entrepreneurship, basically! I used to give the same message back when I was teaching entrepreneurship in the States and in Pakistan that how we can create this mindset.
By the way, HEC has taken this thing as a very important initiative because we have a very limited scope of government and private sector jobs. Plus, it is also linked with socio-economic development.
Whatever the universities are doing, they need to go towards entrepreneurship innovation and entrepreneurship commercialization. This is because the universities are meant for 3 things:
1. You need to impart knowledge
2. You have to create knowledge
3. Integrating with the society
Now the important question is what society is getting out from the universities. Universities are playing a very vital role in socio-economic development, in societal change, in leadership development and whatever that is linked with education. This is where the higher education sector has to play its role.
In the initial phase, when HEC was started in 2002, the 50+ universities at that time were just focusing on imparting knowledge. There were few clusters of researchers in universities who were striving for the creation of knowledge. When HEC was created, we pushed forward this part, as it should be a major component of any university. Now the time has come that we push this knowledge to the next stage; transforming this knowledge into action! So that, whatever innovation you have done, should have some impact on the society.
We are handling this situation in a multi-dimensional way:
- Creating an environment where the universities can focus on this aspect
- Inter-disciplinary approaching of the problems
- Making our graduates compatible to the changing market trends
We started funding research projects, gave good incentives to our researchers and facilitating them in every aspect. And then linking everything with the industry (academia industry linkages) That was a difficult part and it still is, but Allhumdolilah, we are moving in the right direction.
We started establishing ORICs (Offices of Research, Innovation & Commercialization). It was compulsory in all the universities in a way that we have incentivized those things. Any university that will farm those clusters and any project coming out from those clusters will get additional funding. So that was a natural incentive that people will respond to this initiative. More than 60 ORICs have been established all over Pakistan but we still have a long way to go.
Research which focuses on innovation and that innovation which has a commercial value
Now we are changing the office concept. Keep ORIC but here the “O” stands for “outreach”, reaching to the people, reaching to the society. So that ultimately, the community should own the universities and vice versa. We are meant to solve the problems of the people. Similarly, we are establishing incubation centers. We are helping universities to go for spin of companies.
Slowly the change in mindset is that our youth is now very excited, rather than going typical, like in my time, where our aim was to get a good governmental job, get married and finally settle down. Young professionals are now booming, making millions and challenging the status quo; which is a very good sign!
Change is always difficult and social change takes some time. The main objective of the students pursuing higher education is to get a good job. But now you have to re-define the job part. What do you mean by job? The entrepreneurship which a student does is basically also a job. You’re doing your own job. Wherever I teach, I always advise my students that don’t be a job seeker; you need to be a job creator. Create jobs so that that society should nourish, not only in terms of economic resource mobilization but the general well-being of the entire social fabric.
InshAllah we are now going to start a 3 to 4 credit hour compulsory course from the coming spring semester in each university. And it is not just limited to business students; every student! Basically it’s a complex mixture of different things which are missing in our academics. We have to teach ethics, values and social entrepreneurship to our students. We have to teach them to be responsible citizens by performing civic and social responsibilities. Every student will be bound to spend some selected hours in their career to go out and work in the community. The idea is to mobilize the youth. They might be good IT professionals, doctors, engineers, researchers and business graduates, but what about good human beings? What about responding to the society and what about social entrepreneurship?!
Slowly the change in mindset is that our youth is now very excited, rather than going typical, like in my time, where our aim was to get a good governmental job, get married and finally settle down. Young professionals are now booming, making millions and challenging the status quo; which is a very good sign. Young professionals are now booming, making millions and challenging the status quo; which is a very good sign.