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Quality health and education in Pakistan is a rarity, and at times even a luxury. For the past three decades, it has also become synonymous with one private institution i.e. the Aga Khan University (AKU). A first of its kind study was launched in Islamabad yesterday, which revolved around ‘The Aga Khan University’s Economic Impacts in Pakistan’. The results of the study are intriguing and offer an insight beyond just the economic contributions of AKU to Pakistan.

The said study is conducted by a US based consulting firm, Centennial Group International, and the team comprises of several former senior World Bank representatives. The study estimates an economic impact of a whooping Rs103 billion ($1 bn) in a typical year. The economic impact is based on 2015 numbers.

The study breaks down AKU’s economic impact in Pakistan in three broad categories; Alumni, Operations, and Hospital Care. Unsurprisingly, the flagship AKU Hospital leads the way, contributing almost two-thirds (Rs64.6 bn) to the overall economic impact. The estimation is based on the lifetime income gains for inpatients, as the hospital enables them to get better and be more productive to the economy.

Benefits accruing from operations and alumni follow, at Rs30 billion and Rs8.6 billion, respectively. The study quotes that of the 11,000 AKU graduates, an astonishingly high 60 percent live in Pakistan. This results in income gains of Rs4.5 billion and startup income of Rs2.2 billion – as the AKU alumni earn more because of the higher quality education. Those who opt to earn outside Pakistan, remit close to Rs2 billion back home every year.

Quantifying the multiplier effect of AKU’s spending, the study reveals that for each rupee of direct gross value added, Rs7.3 of economic benefits are generated. The study goes well beyond just the economic benefits, as it puts great focus on the public benefits the AKU creates. Encouraging excellence, empowering women, generating knowledge,  with partnering government, making higher education accessible and making health care affordable, are six areas of public benefits that the AKU creates, according to the study.

AKU, formed in 1983, was the first private university in Pakistan, which paved the way for 75 others following its footsteps. AKU happens to top the key measure of research impact in Pakistan, and is number 2 when it comes to citations of published studies, ahead of many large universities. Believing in gender quality and inclusion, women are an integral part of AKU. Two-thirds of students and alumni, two-fifth of employees, and half of senior faculty at AKU are women.

AKU also complements government’s drive to improve health and education, as it offers advice and assistance in key areas.

The AKU Hospital’s contributions to offer quality health services for the underprivileged are also astounding. Nearly half a million low-income patients received treatment in 2015, on low fees. One hundred percent of patients seeking financial support were granted the same, as Rs1.47 billion were made available from AKU’s welfare programs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018