Ego and insecurity (Editor’s Note)

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Being the best and being good enough are not the same thing, a distinction that the students, faculty, and alumni of the Lahore University of Management Sciences would do well to remember. LUMS is unquestionably the finest academic institution in Pakistan, and its students and alumni are the highest quality of human capital produced in the country. That does not necessarily imply, however, that they are good enough by global standards.

Indeed, if the volume of research produced by LUMS faculty, and the international standardized test scores of its students are anything to go by, Pakistan’s best, unfortunately, is not good enough for what the country needs to compete in the global arena. It is middling, at best, compared to the best institutions in the United States and Europe.

At some level, we suspect that the people at LUMS know this. The chest-thumping manner with which so many of their number proclaim themselves to be the Pakistani equivalent of Harvard – and their institution comparable to an Ivy League institution in the United States – suggests a degree of over-compensation that betrays deep-seated insecurities. Perhaps, more admirably, even a degree of self-awareness.

In this week’s cover issue, we examine what is the most expensive graduate degree in Pakistan: an MBA from LUMS. Our assessment of its educational and economic value – foreshadowed heavily in our headline – come out largely in favour of the degree and the institution granting it.

In fairness, the students we spoke to were much more grounded in their understanding and description of the value they gained from the degree than those charged with managing the MBA program. We hope that sense of self-awareness is something they will retain as they enter the workforce. A common complaint against LUMS graduates by employers is that they are exceptionally talented, but also exceptionally arrogant and either unable or unwilling to accept the flaws in their work.

We repeat: LUMS is the best academic institution in Pakistan and its students and faculty the very best that Pakistan has to offer. We also acknowledge that the institution grows better every year, and that one day it will compete against the very best institutions around the world. We just caution them in overstating their case: they are not there yet. Great academic institutions take decades, if not centuries, to mature. Be patient, and confident that you will no doubt get there one day. It is in your DNA.

1 COMMENT

  1. What Pakistan needs at this juncture in history, when innovations and information explosions are rife, is quality education in technology and science (first technology, second science). See the impact of Indian Institute of Technology on India’s economy and progress in other spheres as well and prominence of IIT graduates on world arena. I understand that LUMS do have Engineering and Science schools but all glow and noise seems focused on Business education.

    Measuring quality and impact in business is at least difficult, at most impossible (see Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Nicholas Taleb). LUMS Graduates are best only because “market” values them like diamonds, valuable but of little use except as jewelry, status symbols.

    Great institution used to take decades / centuries to build but at present world is at a stage that if sincere intentions, will to work hard, promotion of merit and self-sacrifice in individuals for greater benefits of society is present there is nothing stopping any nation to achieve preeminence at world stage.

    Degrees are like peacocks’ feathers, valuable for showoffs, attracting attention but not necessarily showing health of the underlying creature. Overconfidence and arrogance often harms businesses more than gains obtained. Remember HiPPO, Highest Paid Persons Opinion in a meeting which usually prevails, good or bad. Extra glitter to business education has spawned MBA colleges and universities in every nook and corner of Pakistani cities wasting most of youths who have not been able to reach IBA, LUMS or KSBL.

    On this last day of Ramadan I pray that Pakistani institutions first produce youths who produce goods and services which are desired, no coveted by world consumers and after that produce salesmen. Consumers around the world desire Apple but so do Samsung, Huawei and HTC, the old adage in marketing “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”.

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