News flow on Pakistan these days is mainly focused on a variety of crises – macroeconomic issues ranging from high inflation to low foreign exchange reserves and debt crisis, political uncertainty, and a range of social sector problems, to name a few.
In this din of noise, it is easy to forget the latent potential and strength of the country. For example, Pakistan has the world’s 5th largest population; it is the world’s 3rd largest producer of milk, 5th largest producer of sugar cane and cotton; 6th largest producer of dates and mangos, and 7th largest producer of wheat. Pakistan also has the world’s 2nd largest coal reserves and 7th largest copper reserves.
Yet, the country ranks significantly below par on the Human Development Index, displays below par economic development, below par public sector governance, below par societal cohesion and civil society engagement, and below par economic mobility opportunities, leading to rising wealth and income gap.
In our view, the heart of the problem is a lack of human resource development. The country has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, the lowest enrollment rates in schools, the lowest enrollment in higher education, and the lowest female representation in education & workforce. This has led to insufficient leadership capability at scale nationally, inadequate skill levels for a modern economy, and low productivity levels due to both lack of, and poor quality of education and training. There is a clear and well-established link between global competitiveness, innovation and tertiary (post-secondary) education. Pakistan’s ranking on these metrics is way behind regional and global peers.
If future leadership has to develop in every sphere of socio-economic activity, it is crucial that the upcoming generation is groomed to develop a culture of knowledge generation and application to tackle the multitude of challenges nationally and as part of the global comity of nations facing common dangers of climate change, environmental degradation, and growing inequality.
Faced with this dynamic, a group of concerned members of the civil society, led by the Habib Family and coalescing under the joint vision of Mr. Rafique Habib, Chancellor of Habib University, and Mr. Wasif Rizvi, President of Habib University, embarked upon a unique project of higher education in the country – formation of the first truly liberal arts undergraduate university in Pakistan. A university offering over 45 disciplinary areas and six majors viz, comparative humanities, social development & policy, communication & design, computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering.
Expanding the mind’s eye of students via Habib University’s liberal core subjects – Creative Practice, Formal Reasoning, Historical and Social Thought, Language & Expression, Natural Scientific Method and Analysis, Philosophical Thought and Quantitative Reasoning, in combination with the major degree subjects, places Habib graduates at par with the graduates of best universities of the world with requisite mindset and skills to future-proof their endeavors in a rapidly changing global environment.
Other salient features of Habib University’s characteristics include: 90% of the faculty has attended foreign universities, the student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1, and the gender ratio is 56% female and 44% male. In terms of student outcomes, 79% of the Class of 2022 got employed within three months of graduating and 8% went on to pursue master's programmes, many in renowned universities such as Berkley, Columbia, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, Illinois, LSE, and Oxford, amongst others.
However, the real uniqueness of Habib University lies in the underlying philosophy and mission of its community of founders – to provide access and support to those students whose chances of obtaining quality, world-class education at top universities are exceedingly low. This is due to the fact that they come from low-income families and have completed their secondary education from local examination boards. Only 13% of students from local examination boards are able to attend top private universities in Pakistan versus those who have obtained high school credentials from international boards (GCSC, IB, etc.).
To break down this inaccessibility barrier, 85% of Habib University’s students receive various forms of financial support and 23% receive a 100% scholarship for the full four-year degree programme. As such, only 30% of the University’s revenues are from fees; 60% are from the donor community and 10% from endowment support. This is a powerful expression of the commitment of the Habib University community of supporters (our Mohsineen) to the mission of Pakistan’s first non-tuition-dependent, community-owned institution, garnering support from its global community of leaders and bringing transformation on all fronts.
This brings me to the role of Habib University Foundation (the Foundation), which is the third pillar of sustainability after world-class intellectual assets (the faculty) and the intellectual and cultural fabric (the liberal core & major degree programmes) of the university. The Foundation has been entrusted with the responsibility of three key elements:
Management and growth of the endowment fund. This involves continuous endeavor to improve the performance of the HUF Endowment Fund Portfolio keeping in view the risk-return parameters, and funding needs of Habib University. It also includes advising the Endowment Fund Advisory Committee (EFAC) regarding the performance of the external investment managers/advisors and efficiently managing in-house funds.
Overseeing and monitoring governance aspects. This activity includes monitoring the utilization and budgetary control of funds, compliance with legal and regulatory aspects, ensuring transparency of operations of the Foundation, and reporting the same to the Board of Directors. Procedurally, it also entails devising Financial and Regulatory dashboards that are continually updated and shared with various committees’ members and address any issues arising in these areas.
Supporting efforts of Habib University’s resource development (RD) team and corporate outreach initiatives. A core focus in this aspect is using the Foundation’s contact network to provide leads to Habib University’s resource development team and identify donation opportunities from targetted engagement activities while providing support in donation marketing efforts where needed.
Given the above initiatives now underway, I am confident that with the continued support of our Mohsineen, the Founding Group, and especially the House of Habib, Habib University will remain steadfast in furthering its mission to serve the country by preparing the next generation of well-rounded leaders who determine their and the Nation’s destiny. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for providing us with the opportunity to inspire and create a change in the educational scenario of the country.