Financial aid and job placement 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.
Malik Zain, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student at Heavy Industries Taxila Education City University, 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 education is expensive, so I’m looking for scholarships.”
Like Zain, most students at the expo were interested in foreign study programmes and standardised tests required for admission in many foreign universities.
At the Study in Australia booth — which saw a rush of visitors during the day — Senior Student Counsellor Mehreen Naz said scholarships were the most common query raised by students. “We guide them to the Australian High Commission’s website and the web portals of universities because that is where detailed information can be found,” Naz said.
She said most students had a vague idea about Australian universities, so they told students about general study requirements and gave basic information on the IELTS test, which is a visa and study requirement for Australia.
Rafaya Sufi, educational adviser 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 and our fellowship programmes.”
Students asked similar questions at the stalls of local organisations 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 to apply,” Akhtar said.
“The first question students ask is whether we have any scholarships for graduate and undergraduate studies,” Sameena 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 secure jobs after they have completed their studies.”
Job placement was a major concern at the expo. Zain said he was expecting some engineering firms would have set up stalls to lure fresh graduates, but he was disappointed because they did not offer much help.
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 to find 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 fresh graduates.
The two-day expo will continue till Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2013.