Accepted Paper:

De-/Re-colonizing higher education in Pakistan  


Aaron Mulvany (Habib University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores recent efforts to introduce the liberal arts to higher education in Pakistan and argues that its success or failure depends upon successfully localizing the model to the Pakistani context.

Paper long abstract:

There is a renaissance in higher education under way in Pakistan, in the most literal sense of the word. Long ago relegated to technical and vocational career-oriented education, in the last five years various initiatives have begun introducing (neo-)western liberal arts education to Pakistan. But these efforts face obstacles: structurally in the form of the Higher Education Commission, which sets the regulatory environment within which higher education operates, and culturally in the form of deeply embedded prejudices about what kinds of knowledge is valuable or productive and growing fears of westernization and the loss of cultural identity. In the face of these obstacles, the liberal arts approach is legitimized, in part, through a blending of hyper local and international branding. That is to say, efforts to introduce the liberal arts model to Pakistan are most robust within those institutions with strong connections to influential family names or those best able to create strong international links, particularly with institutions in the United States. Equally if not even more important is the ability of these institutions to create a model that utilizes the strengths of a genuinely liberal education while remaining legible to local market forces.

Panel P041
Higher education and transnational academic hierarchies: anthropological work in/on the academic periphery