Why PhD?

Why energetic youth should pursue PhD?
I think PhD is necessary for our youth, especially those who (1) have the opportunity and (2) have the academic background, for several reasons:
  1. I think it is ingratitude (na-shukri) of our youth who have the intellect and the opportunity to go for a PhD but do not. It is na-shukri because only a minuscule percentage (.0001%) of Pakistanis have been bestowed with these two privileges. 
  2. Consulting careers for those in academics are more flexible and are more attractive even financially over the long-term as compared to the drudgery of routine 9-5 jobs of industry. This is  especially relevant and important for  females. 
  3. One has often nothing to show after putting in even a 30+ years of a successful career in industry. On the other hand, the accumulated experience in the form of publications of research and consultancy and thousands of students who have gone ahead to illustrious careers is a great legacy. 
  4. Academicians especially those active in research and consultancy are more creative and emotionally more fulfilling.
  5. Developing countries like Pakistan have been left far behind because we have ignored the rigors of scholarship. We desperately need people with research qualifications of the highest order to stimulate our mind to create alternatives and to develop the perseverance to tackle hard problems. 
  6. It is also necessary to avail the opportunity as soon as possible, because this window of opportunity becomes narrower and narrower as the age advances, and the barriers to PhD become more and more difficult as explained in my detailed post “why PhD is difficult and why there are so many dropouts

Please note that financial gain and stability is often the primary objective of the first generation settling down in a new country or struggling to rise above the survival stage. 
This was true for many belonging to my father’s generation who had migrated to Pakistan after partition and even the sons-of-soil from rural origins struggling to establish themselves in cities after partition. However, there is no reason why the younger generation should continue to remain in the same survival mode. The new generation must opt for careers that can build the nation and a more prosperous environment for their country in the long term. 

Today there is a large population of young graduates whose parents have immigrated to Canada, USA, UK, Australia or European countries or to Gulf and are trying to settle down in new countries. Their parents’ families spent their lives struggling for survival in alien countries. However, now that they are settled, it is no longer necessary for the younger generation to remain in the survival mode. They must opt for careers that would benefit their communities on a long-term basis and on a continuing basis and help them consolidate. After 9-11, this has especially become a major imperative for the families that immigrated to Western countries. We therefore need community leaders like Martin Luther King, Obama or Condoleeza Rice who were all PhDs and made great contributions  to the strengthening of their communities. 

The young generation that is not fighting for survival must think about some great intellectual achievement,  especially those among the youth who are bestowed with thinking and analytical mind. As Muslims and as Pakistanis we have a great dearth of thought leaders. We are engulfed in pseudo PhDs like Rahman Maliks, Amir Liaquats and Babar Awans and much worse universities and a system that is awarding such degrees and continuing to give prominence to such characters.

We need community leaders with great intellectual depths that can steer the country out of this quagmire. Although we have had technocrats like Dr Mahboobul Haq, Dr Ishrat Husain, Dr Salman Shah or Dr Hafeez Pasha, who have been in important positions like Finance Minister, Finance Advisor and Governor State Bank. However, such technocrats coincidentally (?) belonged to the area of finance and accounting, and typically have had links with IMF/World Bank. We now need thousands of community leaders who are PhDs in social and other sciences with much greater intellectual depth and even better grounding in our culture, traditions and history. Only such community leaders would be able to give us the vision and the road map to steer us out of the woods that we find ourselves in. 

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  1. well-written and contains sound, practical advice. In fact, You pointed out several things that I will remember for years to come. I look forward to reading your next informative work. Thank you.

  2. Thanks. I thought I should write down the pitch that I usually make when I meet some energetic youth having opportunity to go for a PhD.

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