And university (getting in, staying in) was a right royal pain in the ass. But there was a reason. The Universities are ancient institutions with ancient and deeply rigorous standards. They have to be, to justify the insane quantities of governmental subsidisation all of them undergo. So they're rigorous to the point of driving us shortcut looking Pakistanis, insane. Hell, that's why we overthrow dictatorships (or try to). Democracy is safer, boring but less rigorous than the education the IMF backed technocratic suckups surrounding any dictator, went through. In Pakistan, the equivalent of serving corporate interests at this time would be serving the Pakistan Military`s (corporate) interest. Stupid idea.
But back to think tanks. They serve corporate interests and are endowed by private or corporate funding. Universities at some level have to serve the public interest.
Interestingly, in the United Kingdom, there`s been a spate of fake universities, in fact fraudulent, private universities, so much so that the mouthpiece of middle classiya Pakistan, The News carried a piece on a clampdown on them. Now if I could find it.....
(Gratuitous ideological point: Maybe neo-liberalising everything was a bad idea? It let the fraudsters loose.)
I sort of realised how easy and simplistic the messages are, coming out of think tanks, in comparison to universities because:
1) The pronouncements of Think Tanks, always seemed a bit too simplistic.
2) Before the neo-liberal era, (the Bretton Woods era of the sixties and seventies, and yes Bretton Woods ideas are not completely applicable anymore) the main engine of ideas was the university, not the Think Tank.
After the rich started getting richer, in the late seventies onwards (not just in Pakistan, but across the West), Think Tanks seemed to rise to greater prominence than universities, as a sort of rival generator of ideas. This was driven home by this piece by Adam Curtis where he writes on the strange rise of this competitor to idea generation, the Think Tank. And considering the furore over the report published by the Jinnah Institute (the Think Tank parade/charade comes to Karachi) the history of the Think Tank, as an alternative to the University as idea generating machine. The university, in world politics, were so important to the world`s history during the sixties and seventies, that it echoes down to this day. Even in Pakistan.
But I always felt that serving the corporate interests was easy, and it is. It`s so easy, a high schooler could do it. With a high school education. And then earn a high schooler`s wages for life. Which is why kids are told by their parents; get lost to university and come back with good grades.
The rise of neo-liberalism was paralleled and aided by the rise of the Think Tank industry. Corporate power in the west, and military corporate power in Pakistan rose during the last thirty years, aided by a think tank industry acting as a handmaiden, and corporate ideological armourer for it. The power of think tanks has gotten so great, as idea based rivals to universities, that with New America Foundation and the Jinnah Institute, those trying to serve democracy and stop the excesses of corporate military and corporate power are finding themselves needing to recreate the tactics of their ideological opponents. To have ready made ideas lying around, except this time in service to democcracy.
Maybe universities and their students should consider stepping up on this matter. If they can stop worrying about the constant problem of jobs and grades that plagues them.
In the meantime, have a look at the strange rise, and rise of the Think Tank.