Can Applied Sciences Universities Help Solve Pakistan’s Unemployment Problems?

While at a job fair earlier this week, I came across hundreds of students who had graduated recently but had no practical experience. As one dismayed student put it, ‘Even for fresh grads, everyone wants experience. What are we supposed to do?’

It’s a struggle millions of graduates face upon finishing their degrees. Right now, most universities in Pakistan are little more than degree mills. They churn out thousands of graduates each year while the industry bemoans the lack of qualified candidates. Why does this chasm exist when seemingly, the supply and demand should balance each other out? The challenges are vast and the solutions elusive.

Students in Pakistan are funneled towards default choices like being an engineer or a doctor with other fields ‘second class options’. This mentality has to change.

For starters, not a lot of thought goes into the selection of a degree on students’ part. For many, including yours truly, it was either become a doctor or an engineer despite my true calling lying elsewhere. The lack of career counseling, including paucity of choice in intermediate for government schooled students, means a significant portion of our youth ends up choosing a field for which they’re ill suited.

Parents aren’t blameless either. Often times, they’re more focused on their dreams of having an engineer -or doctor etc. child, instead of asking those children what they want to be. When you’re roped into a field or discover that you would rather be doing something else, the chances of success go down.  It’s an age old adage but it holds true: if you aren’t passionate about something, there’s not even a snowball’s chance in July of you excelling at it.

Lack of thought, not even a semblance of a plan beyond getting admitted to a university and poor or non-existent career counseling resources means mediocre graduates

If you’re a computer engineer or a computer science major, the lack of a portfolio or any projects tells an employer that you were pushed into the degree and don’t really have any passion for it. I’ve seen students who were freelancing and earning hundreds of thousands before graduation. Getting your degree isn’t the point where you ‘enter the field’ and start doing real work. Even a hobby project on GitHub can edge you over competition in interviews, the situation really is that dire.

Applied Sciences Universities Are A Possible Solution

Now we move towards a possible solution to this dilemma. As many students looking for a foreign degree in Europe will already know, countries like Germany have two distinct classes of universities. You have your bread and butter universities much like the ones we have here and the others are universities of applied sciences or vocational universities.

The difference is, they provide hands-on training and skills for a seamless transition into the workforce. Heavy industrial linkages also help vocational universities produce students with skillsets highly relevant to the job market. An added benefit is that degrees from vocational universities are often shorter than purely academic ones.

So you pay less, learn more practical skills and are well suited to enter the industry instead of dealing with the sinking feeling at the end of your degree when you wonder how to make your half page CV more presentable.

While there are commendable efforts from highly respected people in the field as well as government bodies to enable people via freelancing and entrepreneurship, I honestly think that’s a reactive approach. The solution needs to kick in well before a graduate already has a degree. Make no mistake, we absolutely need programs like e-Rozgar to promote freelancing as a viable career choice. But the government needs to realize that is not the only solution we should working on.

If you distill it, it comes down to this: The industry constantly raises the issue of unskilled graduates entering the work force. So why not make them a stakeholder in the training of those very graduates through applied sciences university programs? Instead of wasting millions to train new hires and unemployed grads, why not work towards a solution where the grads are already trained and ready to work?

This is where the regulating education bodies need to step up because they are failing us badly right now. Even after spending hundreds of thousands and years of their lives, students aren’t guaranteed a quality education or equal access to opportunities, let alone employment. Instead of setting up the next generations for failure through incompetence and apathy, let’s try enabling them for once and maybe we can have that ‘Roshan Pakistan’ we’re always talking about.

Image courtesy of ResearchGate

Talal is a Director and the Chief Content Officer at ProPakistani. Reach out at [email protected]


  • A day is not far when 4 years degree would be its no value in the market but would be asked how much skill he keeps. In near future 4 years degree wont be the requirement but the skill. This topic is wonderful and the author has identified the right things to bring the youth on right path…. well done S. Talal sahib….

    • A 4 year degree is useless if all you do is rata. Universities need to teach skills like teamwork and how to do research, not just rata book knowledge with no application.

  • The simple way to remove unemployment in Pakistan is “Never send your kids to schools or colleges” Rather than send them to entrepreneurs, send them to businessmen. So that they can understand about life. Schools generally fail children, they dont produce leaders but an ordinary employee.

  • After the student gets his degree, the industry should absorb and train him in their respective fields and pay them sufficiently for them to support themselves.
    The Industrialists will not become any poorer by supporting the graduates.
    Similarly, those who intend to work in Industries, should spend their holidays in various industries as interns and work hard and with zeal to learn a profession and that is what can make them ready for a job and become innovative.
    Wasting time during holidays and complaining all the time will be of no help.

    • Being a graduate does not automatically entitle you to a job. You need to develop skills such as being able to communicate clearly and working in a team towards a goal instead of complaining.

      Universities in Pak are extremely backward. Don’t rely on what they taught you to be of any practical use.

  • Pakistan has a huge pool of expatriate scientists, specialist engineers, architects, designers, medical specialists in both surgery and medicine, and pharmaceutical development scientists, who have put $ Bn drugs on market, including sildenafil and large molecules like Immunoglobulin and Anti-Hemophilic Factors eg Factor VIII for treatment of Hemophilia.. All we ask is an opportunity to train the next generations our young scientists, engineers, architects etc, in our specialized fields.In pharmaceutical manufacture, pharmaceutical engineering, drug discover, industrial pharmacy, drug development, clinical studies etc.. India has used pharmaceutical drug development scientists like myself to develop their ethical and generic drug industry.Pakistan told us we dont need you or pay us bribes or produce No 2 products. Most of us are willing to work as volunteer consultants on our own time and money.Our experienced generation is growing old. If this opportunity is not availed by Pakistan Government, it wilI delay entry of Pakistan as a super economic power. I tried to set-up industry in Pakistan, but left because I could not pay bribes from minor things like getting an electrical connection to bribing the Drug Regulatory Authority from head all the way down to drug inspectors, who demanded we pay them bribes and asked me to produce No 2 drugs as much as I wanted. I could not do it because people of Pakistan are my people and I could not produce products which would poison them.
    I have trained scientists in Indian companies like Ranbaxy, Lupin, Dr.Reddy Cos in specialty pharmaceutical products.They were good students and applied my scientific knowledge to produce high quality export oriented pharmaceutical products. Their managements were honest and now do business in US, UK, Africa, Latin America,Africa, and EU.Pakistan has the potential to earn several billion dollars by utilizing our talents in large and small molecules therapeutic development. We only ask in return, dont test our imaan.

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