Universities are well known for their contributions to knowledge, innovation, and civilizational development in human history. Universities have made immeasurable contributions to world history, politics, economics, civilizations, and all aspects of human life; they have also played a significant role in shaping the basic structure of contemporary society.

The concept of a university dates back several centuries. Notable institutions, such as the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (1150), and the University of Oxford (1096), laid the foundation for higher education as we know it today. These early universities were centers of theological and philosophical thought—indeed, they shaped the intellectual climate in which we existed.

As history crawled, universities literally became centers of scientific research and technological innovation. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment likewise saw universities play a critical role in driving humanity forward intellectually. In the 19th and 20th centuries, industrialization and technological revolutions were beacons powered by research universities. Institutions like Stanford and Cambridge became synonymous with leading discoveries and inventions that changed entire industries. This led to an increase in the living standards of individuals worldwide.

Universities provide a space for universal cultural variety, open debate, and civic responsibility.

In addition, universities serve as sociocultural hubs. Although new challenges constantly emerge for the future of higher education and research, they remain trusted allies in the face of transformation. A university is sometimes called upon to lead problem-solving, such as overcoming social and political conflicts. At the same time, culture and history are written into universities’ working environments. Universities are also the keepers of the flame for knowledge, forever promoting the deeper understanding of human heritage that arises from intellectual exploration.

Balochistan’s journey to higher education started late compared to other provinces in Pakistan. Since the founding of the University of Balochistan in 1970, 10 other universities have been established. Hence, despite various challenges, these universities have made great strides in educating the young people of Balochistan. The graduates they produce go on to work in a variety of fields, from medicine and engineering to the social sciences, arts, and humanities. Their potential remains largely unused because of structural faults and chronic underinvestment.

Universities of Balochistan face a range of challenges that bar their way to delivering quality education and fostering innovative new thinking. These include a lack of adequate facilities, a shortage of funds, and not enough qualified administrators. Last month, the Balochistan government passed the 2024–25 annual budget and only allocated PAK 5 billion for Balochistan universities. This budget only covers salaries, and there is not much money left to do anything in support of academic advancement or research activities.

The consequences of this underinvestment are severe. Universities cannot invest in innovative research laboratories, libraries, and technology without proper funding. This puts a brake on the creative and intellectual vitality of students and faculty alike. Nor can universities carry out any serious research that would be helpful to local and provincial problems—from economic development issues to social harmony in society itself.

The essence of a university is to generate new knowledge, encourage innovation, and nurture creativity. If the purse strings are tied up with operational costs such as salaries, this will kill off the university’s core mission. Creativity and innovation, marks of an advanced society, cannot bloom under the stifling effect of lack of funding on academic freedom.

No research into new projects or fields, including no groundbreaking studies, is pursued by faculty members, and the whole province remains starved of global academic exchanges.

A paradigm shift in how the government views and funds higher education is needed for Balochistan to reach its full potential. Investing in universities is not a luxury but a prerequisite for sustainable development and lasting peace. A well-funded university system can push economic growth by creating a skilled, innovative workforce, drawing in investment, and nurturing entrepreneurship.

The lack of research and development investment means that students have no opportunities to participate in cutting-edge projects. At the same time, teachers will forgo their original work, and the outside world will remain cut off from dialogue with academia.

The current budget for Balochistan’s universities cannot meet their needs and betrays a shortsighted approach to development. For the government to truly develop the universities of Balochistan, a more multifaceted approach is needed. Priority one is to ensure that the universities have a large budget for operations, research, infrastructure development, and technology.

Second, Balochistan must develop partnerships with international universities and research institutions to benefit from global best practices and innovations.  Third, the best approach would be to enhance the existing universities in Baluchistan rather than establishing new ones.

Fourth, faculty and students must be actively involved in research activities to cultivate a strong research culture in Balochistan. Research-driven faculty can drive innovation by garnering grants, cooperating with industry, and publishing findings in well-recognized journals. However, their own expertise can also draw in research funds, allowing students to do projects that really mean something. Driven students, on the other hand, contribute new ideas, fresh perspectives, and innovative research, frequently delving into uncharted fields and pushing the limits of existing understanding.

Higher education is not just a cost; it’s an investment in human capital and our most powerful tool for the future.

This is an investment that the government must make to secure a better future for Balochistan’s youth. If Balochistan is to thrive, the government must substantially increase higher education. This investment will bear fruit in the form of economic growth, social and political stability, and a more enlightened, innovative society. If today we neglect research, then tomorrow, the world will neglect us, and we will never develop. Balochistan’s future depends on the strength and vitality of its universities.

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