ISLAMABAD: Most of them go independently, and some of them hold foreign passports. Since the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan was established in 2002, a scholarship programme was set up to give opportunities for university teachers and others to complete an advanced degree and become top experts in their professions.
About 5,000 scholarship holders have benefited from the HEC programme; much of the funding originates from the US. Most of the scholarship holders went abroad, but some also carried out their research at local universities.
It is often a worry that overseas students do not return home upon completion of their studies, especially if they go to English-speaking countries. Hence, HEC has encouraged students to go to other countries, too, such as France and Germany, where the education quality is excellent. And candidates are required to serve at home for at least five years.
“When overseas trained Pakistanis return home, it is essential that they are welcomed back, and even given some special help so that they can fast get back into the system at home,” says a returnee. “I have just returned from Norway with a PhD degree in business and economics, which took me seven years, and I have taken up a post as assistant professor at National University of Science and Technology (Nust) in Islamabad,” says Imtiaz Badshah, who hails from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“First I studied in Bergen and then I went to Nordland University, north of the Arctic Circle, a fishing, administration and education town with a new university. It is a beautiful coastal city, and they even have a couple of weeks of midnight sun in summer, and total darkness and northern lights (‘aurora borealis’) lighting up the dark sky in winter,” he says.
“My wife Sajida is still there with our two-year old daughter. Sajida is working on her Master’s degree in social work, with focus on comparative perspectives and gender issues in local communities, and she will complete later this year. I will go to visit my wife and daughter as soon as the summer vacation starts,” says Badshah. “I am glad to be back in my home country, yet there are both ‘pull’ factors and ‘push’ factors,” he says. “We haven’t quite decided if we will stay on in Norway, if we get the opportunity, or if we will establish ourselves in Pakistan. In any case, since I went on HEC funding, I have to work in Pakistan for five years first,” he says.
“For me, too, it is a bit the same as it is for Imtiaz,” says Dr Feriyal Amal, who returned in July 2012 after having obtained her PhD from California in the US.