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Monday, July 15, 2024  
08 Muharram 1446  

Where are Pakistan’s A-Level students going for their undergrad after all?

A survey's results are quite surprising

The A in A-Levels should actually stand for Anxiety because, God love us, those are probably the worst two years of your life, as any teenager in Pakistan will tell you. The greatest worry is whether you’ll get into university abroad. Secondary and tertiary preoccupations reside with degrees choice and the vagaries of opaque immigration policies.

But I bring you some measure of good news that will once and for all zap your anxiety – whether you are a parent or a student. Ever since the economy went pear-shaped and visas disappeared like dollars on the open market, fewer and fewer Pakistani A-Level students have been buying airline tickets to jet off to foreign lands. Not just that, but they are going on to study their undergrad at home where the universities aren’t too bad.

Only 11% of A-Level students went abroad over the last five years, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos for the CIE in Pakistan. The survey went to 107 schools registered with the CIE to offer O- or A-Levels. The trends were measured from 2015 to 2019 and looked at the trajectory of roughly 34,000 A-Level students.

“It was a little surprising for us because the general perception is that children who do their A-Levels choose it precisely because they want to go abroad,” Saniya Saif told Aaj News. She is a senior recognitions manager for the CIE in Islamabad. Her job is to track where Cambridge qualifications are accepted at universities and what happens when A-Level students go to get their Bachelor’s degrees. “But this survey gave us concrete evidence that this is not true. Almost 90% of students (89% to be exact) remain in Pakistan to do their undergraduate.”

This means that nine out of ten students stayed in Pakistan for their undergraduate degree. You can tell your parents that and take some of the pressure off. “We also verified this with the schools and the numbers were the same,” Saif said. “This is the number of students who actually go; the number who applied is much greater.” She felt that this was interesting because it tells us about the quality of Pakistan’s universities. Students actually want to go study there.

The biggest reason Pakistani students are not going abroad for their Bachelor’s is financial. The top destinations of English-speaking countries, compared to places where you’d have to learn the language before studying, have high tuition fees. Inflation and the depreciation of the rupees have made it harder for parents to afford a foreign college education. There are fewer scholarships at the undergraduate level as well. Only 32% of the 34,000 students surveyed got scholarships. Many students stay back as they want to live close to home, others were not allowed to move away by their parents.

“The purpose should not be to go abroad but for you to know what you want to study and what your passion is,” Saif added. “It should not matter if that degree is being offered in your own country or abroad. You can even pursue the degree of your passion in an emerging country, or smaller country. There are many countries, other than English-speaking ones, which are growing in popularity. Turkey recently started to become a popular destination. Plus it’s cheaper.”

“Students have started moving to emerging countries because of their offered scholarship programs,” Ipsos said. “Additionally, students are choosing emerging countries as they are considered to be more cost efficient in comparison to other countries.”

How many A-Level students are interested in medicine?

The percentage of A-Level students who enrolled in government medical universities significantly dropped between 2015 and 2016 and went up a bit between 2017 and 2018. This could have happened because new disciplines other than medicine are emerging and attracting young people. Overall, the drop was 12% over this four-year span. Only 6.9% of 33,996 A-Level students went to medicine in 2018.

Where A-Level students went
Dow Uni of Health Sciences 170
Fatima Jinnah Medical College 119
Khyber Medical College 66
Allama Iqbal Medical College 55
King Edward Medical College 46

“Our survey showed that a large percentage of students want to study medicine and so the Science subjects are popular,” said Saif. “We saw the trend decline a bit but it has gone back up. The engineering trend is a little more stagnant. We have very good universities in Pakistan that offer engineering degrees. New disciplines in engineering are being offered too (AI, aeronautical and railway engineering).”

Other medical colleges where A-Level students got admission (2015 to 2018):

  • Rawalpindi Medical University
  • Army Medical College
  • Karachi Medical and Dental College
  • CMH Medical College
  • Shaikh Zayed Medical College
  • Ripah Medical College
  • Jinnah Sindh Medical University
  • Ayub Medical College
  • Shifa College of Medicine
  • Aga Khan University
  • Nishtar Medical College

Which Pakistani universities are popular?

Popular with A-Level students
LUMS 1,936
NUST 1,234
IBA 1,003
AKU 191
UET 169
LSE 157
GIK 44
Comsats 26
Forman 26
Bahria 22

Students are choosing engineering disciplines as there are a plenty of emerging opportunities in the field. Moreover students are opting for state-owned universities rather than private ones as government universities are now providing top quality education at efficient costs. On another note, entry tests and equivalence grades are still a barrier to students choosing to study in state-owned universities in Pakistan.

Apart from medical and engineering disciplines, local students study Business studies followed by these subjects:

Arrangement of the disciplines that were mentioned by the schools in descending order to shortlist the 5 most popular disciplines for A-Levels graduates in the last 5 years.

How hard it is to go to top universities

In case you feel pressure to get into Oxford, it might be helpful for you to tell your parents that your chances are extremely slim. Over five years, according to Ipsos data from 107 schools and 34,000 students, these were the numbers of Pakistani A-Level students who made it to the world’s top universities:

Enrollment at prestigious unis
MIT 30
Stanford 21
Harvard 12
Oxford 31
CalTech 0
ETH Zurich 0
Cambridge 47
UCL 109
Imperial 19
UChicago 1
Total 270

Pakistani A-Level students explored Canada and the UK as well for higher education. Here are some of the top places where they enrolled over five years.

Enrollment at other unis
Univ of Toronto 239
McGill 149
LSE 142
Warwick 128
UCL 108
Manchester 107
UBC 75
Queen Mary 69
Melbourne 66
Alberta 58
York 58

What is the trend for A-Levels in Pakistan?

There has been a growth in Pakistanis taking their A-Levels: 8.6% over four years. This is four times the annual growth rate of traditional higher secondary education. However, A-Level schools are still tiny in numbers by comparison. In 2019 if there were 9,627 A-Level schools, there were 1,826,000 traditional high schools. The growth could also be accounted for by simple virtue of population increase.

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