Yesterday I attended an informative open meeting with the representative of Habib University. An initiative supported by the Habib family (of Habib Bank limited fame), this university offers undergraduate education on its Karachi campus. What I liked about their concept was the emphasis that they placed on a humanities core.
According to the statements and discussion of the University representatives, the University hopes to provide good technical and scientific education while also ensuring that the students develop as critically conscious citizens. This critical consciousness, it is hoped, will be shaped and nurtured through a required humanities core curriculum.
During our discussion, I found the presenters to be sincerely invested in their vision of the university and it seemed that the Habib family has also given them the understanding that the university is not likely to be just a for profit venture. While, the aspects of how the students will afford the university were not really clear, we were informed that there would be scholarships and that the Habib Bank itself will create some sort of financial aid/loan program.
The private universities in Pakistan have done a good job but they also tend to attract only an urban demographic of westernized students whose families can afford to send them to these universities. As a result, the subjectivities created through this system come out of their business programs speaking the “comic” language of their Euro-American economic masters and develop a sort of disdain for the native way of life and culture. I believe this happens because these students are not provided a deep humanistic education, which makes them into perfect tools of global capital: detached from their own culture with their desires invested in the knowledge and power of the west.
I think if Habib University is able to live up to their vision, they might be able to pose a challenge to other private universities by graduating the kinds of students who are aware of the global aspects of their fields of study, but are also invested in the welfare and good of their own country and its people. There is a dire need for such young Pakistanis: Pakistanis who are not only qualified in technical and managerial subjects but also aware of their own heritage and of their responsibilities and obligations to their fellow citizens.
For now, I think the Habib Foundation has made a good start and if they stay true to their vision and stay open to suggestions from scholars and students interested in Pakistan, they might be able to give us an exemplary institution.
What I would really like to see, to really trust their venture, is a clear explanation of how the students will afford their university and what measures will be put in place to ensure that the university does not become yet another haven for sons of the urban elite of Pakistan.
For now, I wish them best of luck in this wonderful venture.
I will, however, be interested to see how their project unfolds in the coming years.
(For more details, please visit their website)