Foreign scholarships, job placements most asked questions at Education Expo 2013

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 30, 2013.

Islamabad – Financial aid and job placements were the two major issues students had on their minds when they visited the Express Education and Career Expo which opened at the Pak-China Friendship Centre on Wednesday.

Twenty-two year old Malik Zain, a mechanical engineering student at Heavy Industries Taxila Education City, was looking for some information on scholarships in the United Kingdom.

“Foreign degrees hold more weight when you are searching for jobs,” Zain said. “But higher learning is expensive, so I am looking for scholarships to fund my education.”

Like Zain, most students at the expo were interested in study abroad programmes and standardized tests required for admissions at foreign universities.

At the Study in Australia booth which saw a rush of visitors during the day, Senior Student Counsellor Mehreen Naz said scholarship is the main query students wanted answered.

“We guide them to the Australian High Commission’s website and the web portals of universities because that is where all the detailed information can be found,” Naz said.

She said most of the students only have a vague idea about Australian universities so they inform the students about general study requirements and basic information on IELTS test, which is a visa and study requirement for Australia.

Rafaya Sufi, educational advisor at the United States Educational Foundation (USEFP), said the USEFP booth had received several students during the day who were seriously interested in pursuing studies in the US.

“They are mostly looking for fully-funded scholarships,” Sufi said. “But they also have questions about the visa application process, separate fields of study and our fellowship programmes.”

Students asked similar questions at the stalls of local organizations and universities.

“Does the Higher Education Commission (HEC) offer scholarships?” is the first question most students have for us, said Afsheen Akhtar, HEC project manager.

“We tell them about our local and foreign scholarship programmes and how they can apply for it,” Akhtar said.

“The first question students ask is if we have any scholarships for graduate and undergraduate studies,” Samana Riaz, project manager of Qalam Foundation which runs an engineering and management sciences institute in Rawalpindi. “They follow it up by asking if we can help them in securing jobs after they have completed their studies.”

Job placement was a major concern at the expo, as well. Zain said he was expecting some engineering firms would have set up stalls to lure in fresh graduates. But he was disappointed because there were not much help at the expo.

Samar Sabeen, a recent engineering graduate, had a similar experience.

“I wanted to know where the vacancies are in engineering and management firms,” Sabeen said. “I was hoping I would find some companies that could offer advice on job placements.”

She said information booths from foreign universities and foreign companies, which could provide targeted contact information, would have been helpful for the fresh graduates.

Yaser Hameed, 22, who graduated with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Bahria University, said if the HEC supports more research and development at local universities, students might prefer staying in Pakistan for higher studies. But for now, there is a certain advantage to studies abroad.

“Foreign universities have better linkages with industry,” Hameed said. “It is unfortunate that we don’t have co-op programmes at Pakistani universities.”

Co-op programmes combine classroom learning with practical work in the respective fields of study, so students learn theory and also get hands-on experience during studies.

The two-day expo will continue on Thursday.

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