Although perhaps not one of the first study abroad destinations which come to mind, Pakistan (Officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) has a great deal to offer international students, with a rich diversity in its culture, landscapes and people, as well as well-respected universities.
If you’d like to study in Pakistan, read on for information about Pakistani universities, student cities, applications, costs and more.
Higher education in Pakistan expanded significantly following the country’s independence from Britain in 1947. Today the system is overseen by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), which oversees funding, research outputs, and teaching quality. The commission recognizes 174 universities in the country, including both private and public institutions, and some which are military or vocational in focus. You don’t need to worry about learning Urdu (the national language), as all teaching at universities in Pakistan is conducted in English.
With a landscape ranging from dramatic mountains in the north to its long stretch of coastline on the Arabian Sea in the south, Pakistan is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a wealth of vibrant student cities.
Pakistan is a Muslim country and this is reflected in its laws and customs. You should respect these at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. This means dressing modestly (shoulders and legs should be covered) and women should also cover their heads when entering religious buildings or traveling in rural areas. Homosexuality and pre-marital sex are illegal, and non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol only with a permit. You should also carry a photo ID at all times.
Applying to universities in Pakistan
There are currently two broad categories under which international students can apply to study in Pakistan:
- The self-finance scheme – for entry on to medicine (MBBS), dentistry (BDS), pharmacy (Pharm-D) and BSc engineering courses.
- The general scheme – for all other subjects.
For the self-finance scheme, you must submit your application form to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC). Self-finance scheme students will also need to take a HIV test before they can commence studies. For the general scheme, apply directly to the university where you wish to study, supplying required documents such as an academic transcript and proof of proficiency in English with a valid IELTS or TOEFL test result (unless you’re a native speaker). You may need to pay a small application fee.
Student visas for Pakistan
You’ll need a visa to study in Pakistan, which you should apply for after you’ve gained admission at a Pakistani university. These can take up to three months to process, so apply in plenty of time. The documents you need are:
- A completed visa application form
- Original passport (valid for at least six months) along with a photocopy
- Two recent passport-sized photographs (with white background)
- University acceptance letter
- Original degrees and transcripts along with photocopies
- Proof of residence
- Bank statement of the last three months
As your stay in Pakistan will exceed 30 days, you’ll need to register at your nearest Foreigners Registration Office on arrival.
Tuition fees, living costs and funding
Tuition fees in Pakistan are very reasonable in comparison to many better-known study destinations, such as the US and UK. They vary between universities, locations and subjects, but as an example, the National University of Sciences and Technology charges US$3,500 per year for undergraduate degrees and US$1,140 per year for master’s degrees. As well as tuition fees, you’ll probably need to pay a semester fee, security deposit and admission processing fee.
Those looking to study in Pakistan will be pleased to hear that living costs are also on the low side – and around 66% lower than those in the UK (according to Numbeo). Rent in a students’ residence is around US$200 a month, and you should only need about US$200 for food, entertainment and travel costs each month, meaning you can live comfortably in Pakistan for less than US$5,000 a year.
Scholarships are rarely available for students from developed countries; financial assistance is usually aimed at helping domestic students from poorer backgrounds and those from developing parts of the world.
Health and safety
Most foreign visitors will find Pakistan a hospitable place, but students looking to study in the country should be aware of recent terror attacks and political unrest. Social protests and political demonstrations can and do turn violent, so it’s best to avoid these. Before you arrive in Pakistan you should check the latest travel advice from your home government. Make sure you’re aware of any off-limits areas, and stay up to date with political and military developments.
The sheer size of Karachi means the city faces some issues of crime, poverty and affordable housing, but the city’s crime rate has been decreasing in recent years. As in any major city, you should take sensible precautions to avoid being a victim of crime.
Visitors are advised not to drink tap water in Pakistan due to the impurities, and you should secure health insurance before arrival. You should also visit your doctor a month or so before your visit to check if you’ll need any vaccinations or other preventative measures.
Pakistan is prone to earthquakes, so familiarize yourself with the safety procedures in the event of one. The monsoon season in Pakistan is from late June to early October and can cause severe flooding, while temperatures can get extremely high in May and June – so come prepared!
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