Pakistan has the antidote to brain drain: cash

Developing countries wanting to improve their universities should emulate the success of Pakistan in retaining top academics by paying them hefty salaries, according to the country's former science minister.

March 22, 2012

Atta-ur-Rahman, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Karachi, said Pakistan was starting to establish several research-intensive universities thanks to massive investment in academic staff since 2000, when he took over as science minister.

As part of a $1 billion (£630 million) programme, scholars returning to the country were guaranteed research grants worth $100,000, subject to international peer review, while top professors took home $5,000 a month thanks to a 75 per cent tax break for teachers.

More than 3,500 PhDs were also obtained by Pakistani students at home and abroad between 2002 and 2010 - more than the combined total previously achieved in the country's history, he said.

"Pakistan must be the only place in the world where a professor is paid five times more than the salary of a government minister," Professor Rahman told the Going Global conference in London on 14 March.

"I said to [the former] president, [Pervez] Musharraf, that the strength of a country does not come from buying F-16 jets, its strength comes from being an educated country."

Pakistan's spending on science has risen by 6,000 per cent since 2000, Professor Rahman said, while investment in higher education rose by 2,400 per cent, leading to a massive increase in research output.

Student numbers have also risen from 0,000 in 2003 to 810,000 by 2010, he added. With 85 million citizens under the age of 19 - 54 per cent of the population - this figure is also set to rise.

However, there are concerns that the decade of progress is starting to unravel without the patronage of Mr Musharraf, who was forced out of office in 2008.

A civilian government has not committed the same funds to universities, with money instead prioritised for rebuilding infrastructure after the devastating floods of 2010 and 2011.

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