Pakistan has 195 registered universities with an estimated 1.6 million students enrolled at higher education institutions. The country's higher education system consists of two main parts, the degree awarding universities and institutes, and the colleges sector which is usually affiliated with the first part. Public and private sector universities are both regulated by an independent body called the Higher Education Commission (HEC). For public sector universities, the federal government allocates public funds via the HEC, which enables these institutions to offer degree programs on nominal fees as compared to their private counterparts. While the public funded universities tend to have lower fees and their campuses tend to be larger, the quality of education for certain programs may not be at par with the private ones. Only handful of top public sector universities and institutes would have the same calibre of faculty as their private counterparts, simply because the more skilled professor gets paid better at private institutions and, therefore, opts to teach there. However, the public sector universities have a greater variety of programs and offer a lot of options to students.
Pakistani universities offer a variety of programs in the engineering, medical, management and, more recently, media and TV journalism fields. Private sector universities tend to be focused and known for particular programs; for example, LUMS in Lahore city is known for its MBA programs, Aga Khan University in Karachi is renowned for its medicine program while GIK is known for its engineering programs. Public sector universities, such as University of Karachi, have many popular programs such as the fine arts and architecture, mass media and computer science programs. Even though most public sector universities offer arts and humanities programs, with English literature, fine arts and linguistics, among popular programs, critical thinking as a methodology of study is not present. The programs usually have a set syllabus and books that a student is expected to memorize and learn before annual or term exams. The concept of writing critical essays for arguing the pros and cons of a theory are not the way modules are taught in the country. The medium of instruction at most universities is English; however, most teachers switch between the local language such as Urdu during their lectures, therefore, some international students may find it hard to follow the class unless they study the prescribed course material beforehand.
Information for International Students
Most international students, especially from the Middle East and African countries who come to Pakistan for higher education usually enrol for the technical programs like medicine or engineering; however, a significant number of students also attend degree-awarding religious schools where there are taught foreign languages such as Arabic and Persian along with the local and English language; the Quran as well science subjects such as computer science etc. are also taught at such institutions.