With more than 112 million people aged under 30, Pakistan has a huge and growing demand for training and education – a need that creates many opportunities for Australian educators.
Education is a prized commodity in a country where half the population is under 25 years of age; where political and cultural leaders want the nation to advance and where the country’s youth have ambitions beyond traditional boundaries.
For some Pakistanis, this means studying overseas, and the 160-plus Pakistanis at the Sydney campus of Macquarie University have made this choice, attracted by Australia’s reputation for quality education.
Tanveer Shaheed, Macquarie University’s Regional Director, South Asia, says Pakistan sees itself as a ‘sleeping giant’, and is determined to reach its full potential.
‘Pakistan is a priority for Macquarie,’ says Tanveer. ‘It is a country that is driven to improve itself, and it is hungry for education. Young Pakistanis have many choices for international study – the US, UK, Canada and Germany. We present Australia as a viable choice, and then showcase Macquarie University as one of the best choices in Australia.’
Macquarie’s relationship with Pakistan started when student recruitment agents in Pakistan contacted Macquarie about sending young Pakistanis to study at its Sydney campus. ‘We built relationships and a soft network with these agents before they started to send students,’ says Tanveer.
‘The agents visited Macquarie and told us how they work, and they explained the opportunities for us in Pakistan. We did some due diligence and selected some agents. We must acknowledge the support we’ve had from Austrade too. They helped create an interest about Macquarie in Pakistan.’
Playing the long game
Macquarie University has a long-term strategy supported by the its senior management. ‘We’ve focused on building partnerships with Pakistani universities, research institutions and businesses, and identifying sources of funds for joint research that would benefit both countries,’ says Tanveer.
‘Research partnerships have been critical to building our profile and establishing credibility. We have built deep relationships with some of the biggest names in Pakistan’s education, research and business communities.’
In-bound and out-bound delegations have strengthened relationships with education bodies in Pakistan, including the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
The HEC is an independent body that oversees and regulates all higher education in Pakistan and deals only with the world’s top 300 universities.
Macquarie signed a five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the HEC in 2015 that covers 50 joint scholarships in higher degree research areas. This will support the development of academic capacity within Pakistani institutions, and help Macquarie gather market intelligence about Pakistani universities.
Macquarie University has also signed MoUs with other leading Pakistani education institutions to develop academic and cultural interchange in teaching, research and other programs and activities.
No rewards without common ground
Tanveer says success in Pakistan comes from creating tangible value for everyone involved in your partnership. ‘There are no rewards without common ground,’ he says. ‘And there is a lot of common ground. The hopes of young Pakistanis are the same as young Australians.’ Macquarie has also worked hard to build a strong alumni base in Pakistan across the private and public sectors.
‘Alumni engagement is one of our key priorities,’ says Tanveer. ‘This includes meeting alumni regularly, honouring high-profile alumni through Austrade’s Alumni Excellence Award, and working with them in various projects and education exhibitions. This builds our profile.’
The Macquarie experience
Macquarie helps Pakistani students in many ways while they are on campus, including one-on-one consulting, various recreational activities, and introducing them to more senior Pakistani students with more experience of their new surroundings. ‘We have built a strong Pakistani Students’ Association at Macquarie,’ says Tanveer.
He adds that Macquarie University maintains a strong connection with Austrade, which has provided the university with introductions, market intelligence and practical information about Pakistan.
‘Austrade was a direct help in initiating our relationships with some of the Pakistani institutions,’ he says. ‘This has helped us to generate strong bonds and to craft formal MoUs.’
Macquarie has a strong connection with a group of five business partners – recruitment agents – covering the three major cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
‘To choose the best partners, we consider their capacity to build effective, long-lasting relationships. These business partners are our representatives in Pakistan, so we bring them to Sydney to showcase our campus. We also visit their premises in Pakistan and attend Australian education exhibitions with them.
‘In recruiting students, Macquarie takes admissions applications through our agents, who make sure an applicant’s status is accurate. They only send applications to us once the prospects meet all the legislative and academic requirements.’
Word-of-mouth goes far in Pakistan
Macquarie’s pioneering research and academic programs mean it is recognised in Pakistan as one of Australia’s top universities.
‘Our reputation among Pakistanis is very strong,’ says Tanveer. ‘Students believe our cultural diversity and international flavour will help them understand the impact of culture on business across the globe.
Tanveer adds that businesses from any country dealing with Pakistan need to understand and respect Pakistani culture and history. ‘Pakistanis know that their country does not have a positive image in the Western world,’ he says. ‘They want Western businesses and governments to appreciate their social and political issues, to have a diplomatic approach, and to offer them real solutions. This will build enormous trust.’
Produced by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade). You may reproduce the text without prior permission, though attribution of the source is appreciated. Please note that copyright restrictions do apply to all photographic images and permission must be obtained before reproduction.