Message from the Executive Director
When I joined as Director two and a half years ago, I was new to the IBA. But the IBA was not new to me. Though I had spent most of my educational and professional career abroad, I was aware of the IBA's reputation as one of the best business schools in the country, famed for the prominence of its graduates in Pakistan's corporate world.
For most of its first fifty years, the IBA was known for its business education programs though a small program in management information systems had also become popular over time. Only those who passed a challenging admissions test and interview were let in. Close attention was paid to attendance and discipline in classrooms. The standard of teaching was excellent although the prevailing pedagogical philosophy could be described as "teacher knows best" and the teaching style as "stand and deliver."
When viewed in the context of the school's stellar reputation, however, there were a few anomalies. Two that stood out in particular were the fact that very few faculty had qualifications at the PhD level and that the physical infrastructure was sub-standard.
That was the IBA of yesterday. Today, the institution is different in many respects. Starting about ten years ago, under the leadership of Dr. Ishrat Husain, the two anomalies just mentioned were decisively addressed. A faculty development program was started that has raised the number of PhD faculty from less than 20 in 2008 to 67 today (in a total of 118 fulltime faculty). And resources were mobilized from the private sector to construct new buildings and classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art learning technology, including multimedia, internet and videoconference connections.
What we teach has also changed as the diversity of our educational offerings has grown at a rapid pace. In addition to the traditional business administration programs, we now offer separate degree programs in accounting, computer science, social sciences, economics and mathematics. Each program now requires taking a minimum number of cross-program courses as well. The underlying logic is that business education benefits if a variety of perspectives is on offer from a variety of disciplines. The converse also applies. Students in other programs benefit from the business education offerings that are available at the IBA.
The composition of our student body has also changed over the years. For more than a decade, we have sought students from diverse financial, social and ethnic backgrounds through geographically focused talent hunts. We backstop our diversity efforts through financial assistance packages which currently support about 30% of our fulltime students. This practice is rooted in the belief that the IBA must be accessible to a wide range of Pakistani students, irrespective of regional origins and financial circumstances. It also follows from research that suggests that socioeconomic diversity on campus strengthens interpersonal skills of students and promotes understanding and tolerance.
Today, we also offer educational services to a broader stakeholder community than just fulltime students. Through our professional development centers, we offer short term certificate courses and diplomas that are customized to the specific learning needs and time constraints of executives, bankers, journalists, IT professionals and others. Through our entrepreneurship training programs, we reach out to potential entrepreneurs from all walks of life, including homemakers.
There is a different vibe to the campus than just a decade ago. Consider the following events which took place at the IBA in the last few months: a panel discussion on water scarcity in Pakistan; a conference on Karachi's multiple challenges; a seminar on a World Bank report on the potential of regional trade in South Asia; a lecture on brokering peace in nuclear environments; and a conference on literary, social and political matters, bearing the title Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFestIBA. It is unlikely that five such events would have taken place on our campus at all, let alone in such close chronological proximity, say, ten years ago. The intellectual horizons of the Institute have widened considerably.
What will the IBA of tomorrow be like? What will we be teaching 25 years from now, how and to whom? This is, of course, a speculative matter but some trends relating to the nature of work may help us see some of the contours of our future.
The world of work is changing. The value of domain knowledge of a certain kind is declining in many occupations due to the spread of information technology and artificial intelligence. For example, the work done by accountants has dramatically changed as algorithms have made it easy to get accounting solutions within minutes. Similarly, the work of sales and marketing departments has been transformed by digital facilities that allow product information to be exchanged and compared instantly. The implication is that workers of the future will need skills that complement those that can easily be performed by machines and algorithms and digital technology. These include the skills involved in managing teams and setting strategies. We already teach such skills but will have to emphasize them even more in the future.
Another way in which the world of work is changing is in relation to careers. Lifetime careers with one company are becoming less and less common and much employer switching is to be expected during a working life. The shelf-life of skillsets is becoming shorter and workers need to learn new skills every few years. This means that there will be increasing demand for retooling through short courses delivered in a manner that suits the needs and constraints of working people. In other words, the education services we offer through our professional development centers will become more relevant and sought-after while long-duration post-graduate degree programs will decline in popularity.
Even jobs may not remain the dominant form of work experience for long. They may give way to individual tasks done for specified periods of time as a contractor rather than as an employee. The implication of this is that people will need to develop a mindset and skills consistent with self-employment or entrepreneurship. Business schools of the future may have to develop more programs to support entrepreneurship in line with expected demand.
It is likely then that the IBA of tomorrow will have a much larger proportion of non-formal students and a lot more emphasis on practical learning and entrepreneurial motivation. We have already built the institutional space to accommodate these developments through our professional development centers. Their role in the overall portfolio of educational services we provide will grow.
How we teach will also need to change. This is because new digital-based learning technologies have made it possible to learn effectively and efficiently from a variety of sources and it is becoming increasingly clear that the role of the classroom teacher in the future will be more one of facilitation as a discussion leader than one of primary instruction.
Dr. Farrukh Iqbal