Dr. Shaukat Brah, Dean at the Karachi School for Business & Leadership (KSBL) speaks about the education sector of Pakistan and KSBL.
Please tell us about your professional background?
I am a Professor of Management and Dean at the Karachi School for Business & Leadership, Karachi, Pakistan. I have a PhD from the University of Houston, where I worked on a research project on NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. I taught at the NUS Business School, Sigapore (consistently ranked among the top three in Asia and among top ten business schools outside of North America) for over sixteen years.
From July 2007 to December 2009, I served as a Professor and Dean at the Suleman Dawood School of Business, a case based premier institution of the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Recently, I was a Dean at the College of Business Studies, Al Ghurair University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates from July 2010 to August 2012.
I have over thirty international refereed papers, hundreds of citations of my research works in the Web of Science, refereed papers in international book series, conference papers, case studies and many other academic contributions.
Why did you select Pakistan to work?
I wanted to serve my country. The feeling of making a difference is highly satisfying. The developed world provides ample opportunities for professional growth and financial rewards but Pakistan is a place where I find pleasure to serve in the higher education sector.
Tell us about KSBL, courses being offered and why a student should select this institute?
Karachi School for Business & Leadership (KSBL) recently welcomed the inaugural batch of MBA program at its new campus. The planning for KSBL started a few years ago with a strategic agreement with Judge Business School of the Cambridge University. The establishment of the school is a result of this collaboration, where Cambridge took a leading role in faculty recruitment, curriculum design, technology support and development of a research program.
The School with its world-class campus and renowned faculty strives to provide higher education of international excellence to students. The objective of KSBL is to produce world-class managers who will thrive in a global economy. It plans to nurture individuals who will be world class leaders and possess cutting edge managerial skills to handle challenges. Furthermore, the school takes pride in grooming students to flourish and rise to be ethical and responsible leaders.
In addition, the School plans to launch an Executive MBA program by early next year. The School is also gearing up to start the undergraduate degree program in business by August next year.
How do you find the education system of Pakistan? What major issues do you see?
Pakistan has a huge pool of talented people. Many of our citizens have established their positions within and outside the country in all spheres of life. However, the mainstream education system requires a major revamp. We have to ensure equal reach of basic education for all citizens. We must develop centers of excellence in all walks of life across the four provinces of the country. The country has seen a mushroom growth of colleges and universities in the last couple of decades. The need is to develop a private sector based accreditation system to ensure quality.
What role universities and the education system as a whole can play in improving the economic situation of Pakistan?
The world is moving fast towards knowledge economy. The countries with higher levels of human capital will do well in the years ahead. Therefore, it is imperative for Pakistan to invest in higher education. Pakistan is investing very little in education as a percentage of GDP and even less for higher education. The wealth created by graduates of the MIT in the US is perhaps greater than the GDP of Pakistan; this is how important higher education is.
When we say Quality Education, it is not only the course and the faculty; it includes the whole environment of the institute that grooms a student and makes him confident; how is KSBL providing that environment?
KSBL is positioned to be a world class business school. This requires top notch faculty, who are specialists in the field, rigorous and relevant curriculum, excellent infrastructure, good staff support, strong corporate linkages, need blind admissions, ethical and social responsibility focus and an effective extra-curricular program.
Are you working towards achieving international accreditation? If so how?
As mentioned earlier, the school has an active collaboration with Judge Business School (JBS) of the Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. We have already gone through a rigorous evaluation by JBS through their leading role in faculty recruitment, curriculum design, technology support and development of a research program. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has done an initial review. However, the accreditation by international organizations often requires two batches of graduates. Nevertheless, we will be looking for international accreditation in time.
What is your affiliation with the industry/corporate sector?
We have a very strong relationship with a large number of important business houses of Karachi and Pakistan. We regularly call CEOs and Directors of large organizations to speak to our students. Moreover, we have a unique program of mentorship by CEOs, where our students spend time with a CEO and learn the ropes from the top leaders of the corporate world.
How do you compare KSBL with institutes like LUMS and IBA?
IBA is a very old and established institution in the city of Karachi. Recently, IBA under the leadership of Dr Ishrat Hussain has made tremendous strides to improve the infrastructure. But, it is still a public sector institution. LUMS has done a wonderful job of raising the bar in business education. However, it is more of an applied business school.
KSBL, on the other hand, is a brand new business school with a research focus. Sure, it will take us time before we can fully convince the market of our strengths. However, we do start with a group of very accomplished professors, who actively challenge students on the rigor and relevance of the thought process. Our state of the art campus in the middle of the city provides us a very convenient and conducive environment. Our brilliant staff support allows us to offer best services. Our open intellectual environment provides space for personal and professional growth.
Is KSBL degree acceptable everywhere including other countries? If there are areas where your degree is not acceptable, what is the reason?
Of course! The outside world looks at the quality of the graduates and we hope to produce the best in the country.
In which areas does KSBL require improvement?
KSBL is a brand new institution. It is in the process of setting the stage for institutional culture. It is very important for us to create the right environment for intellectual vibrancy. We have to meet and exceed the market expectations in creation and dissemination of knowledge. We have to maintain high quality of our degree and executive programs, consulting and research. Our challenge is to develop systems, international and national linkages and continuously launch high quality programs. We need to raise a lot of money to pay for the need blind admission policy. Finally, we need to double our efforts to increase the outreach of the school.
How do you promote entrepreneurship at your institute? Today, Pakistan needs job creators instead of job seekers, what is KSBL doing in this aspect?
At KSBL, entrepreneurship is the first option for our graduates. The focus of our MBA program is on Ethics, Leadership and Entrepreneurship. We install the spirit of entrepreneurship though seminars, activities, events, mentorship program and coursework.
What advice would you like to give to the new institutes which are being established?
Focus on quality of outcomes. The outcome or output on the other hand depends upon the inputs and the transformation process. Half of your job is done if you have well-defined processes. Recruit the right people and invest in them. My model for a top business school is very simple: recruit top faculty, top students will follow and the reputation is just a matter of time. Fortunately, the students are very smart and they will go where they will get better value proposition.
What is the future plan for KSBL?
We launched our MBA program in September 2012. In January 2014, we plan to launch the Executive MBA program for senior executives. Moreover, in order to meet the demand of quality undergraduates, we plan to launch bachelors programs in August 2014. We are now offering customized executive programs in addition to the open enrollment programs. Our faculty offer research and consulting services for corporate and other clients. Soon, we plan to launch a newsletter on economic and current issues. We will be established endowed chairs in various areas of business excellence and in time centers to do state of the art research in the region and beyond. Our plans are to be recognized as one of the top business school in the region in the next 10 years and ranked globally within the next couple of decades.