M Murtaza Noor
THE universities are considered as hub of ideas, innovation, knowledge creation and production of human resources at broader level. The quality of a university is measured more by the kind of student it turns out than the kind it takes into its fold. These are the benchmarks of its quality in the long run. Quaid-i-Azam University(QAU) Islamabad is not only top university of Pakistan, but also an international seat of higher education learning, advancement, intellectual contribution that has illuminated the human minds and broadened the vision during last fifty years. Quaid-i-Azam University (previously known as Islamabad University) was established in 1967 through an Act of National Assembly.
Since then it has been producing post graduates and doctors through PhD and MPhil programs. It was, however, decided later on to offer Master’s, graduate, and now undergraduate programmes. This prestigious institution of higher education learning is celebrating its 50th year of establishment. During last fifty years, the university, for its international repute, faculty and programmes attracted a large number of foreign students although it offered admission to a measured number of students from all regions of the country. Being a sole federal public sector university, admission in the university is offered as per federal government quota policy. Due to this unique characteristic, it is not only a dynamic place of learning but also reflects social diversity and rich culture of Pakistan through syncretic nature of students coming from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The university is a mirror of Pakistan at microcosmic level.
The top-notch faculty is real asset of this top ranked university of Pakistan who are alumni of top ranked universities of the world. Moreover, a reasonable size of the faculty members of the university have been working in the international universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, Heidelberg etc. earning applause and awards each year such as International Peace Award and civil awards from government of Pakistan. Recently two faculty members have been nominated for these accolades—another feather in its cap. So far, QAU has produced 1,221 PhDs, 8,464 M.Phil and 27,793 M.Sc students both in natural and social sciences. Most of the alumni of QAU are rendering valuable services at important positions in Pakistan as well as abroad. The old graduates still state their stay at QAU campus and their interaction with the qualified faculty as the best part of their life.
As this leading federal higher education institution is celebrating its 50th year celebrations, it is currently facing a number of problems which need immediate attention by the concerned quarters and government authorities. Due to limited financial resources and annual deficit of more than five hundred million rupees, QAU is unable to hire qualified faculty and staff, purchase new buses. Adding fuel to fire, owing to financial constraints it is unable to repair the present fleet of buses. The hostel residents are facing a number of problems due to lack of development and expansion of hostel vicinities. The decades’ old infrastructure and labs needs exigent focus to be addressed. Although as per signed MOU, QAU administration and the Alumni Association are working closely to involve old QAU students to cope with the situation but a special financial package for QAU could be greatly helpful as an immediate solution to overcome its financial deficit and to meet its growing needs.
Another important problem being faced by QAU is non-demarcation, illegal occupation of varsity land and the shrinking of its estate on all sides by influential land mafia. According to the recent letter sent by QAU Vice Chancellor to the federal cabinet members, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Land adjacent to QAU, along 3rd Avenue and Diplomatic Enclave Islamabad, has been illegally occupied, despite repeatedly requesting proper action against land grabbingelements; no effective action has been taken by concerned authorities. Further, within QAU estate, it says, there are small illegal settlements that are slowly growing. QAU simply does not have the capacity to remove these elements and several appeals to the ICT and CDA, while politely entertained, are invariably ignored on practical level.
The letter further states that on October 30, 2016, fresh encroachments were discovered and verified as about 200 acres of QAU land worth of hundreds of millions are under the occupation of various land grabbers. The Vice Chancellor appealed to the federal government to help QAU retain possession of its precious land. According to the university officials, in spite of payment for 1,709 acres of land, only 1,507 have been handed over to the varsity in spite of repeated reminders.
It is more misfortunate that this tragedy is going to happen on the eve of 50th Year celebrations of QAU and instead of announcing special package for QAU, the federal government is being requested to save the precious university land. This issue has created a lot of resentment among university faculty, student, employees and alumni. The QAU Academic Staff Association and the Employees Welfare Association have also been preparing to protest against the illegal occupation of QAU land. Quaid-i-Azam University Alumni Association has also decided to form a delegation of its senior members in order to meet members of the federal cabinet, parliamentarians, and senior government officials to draw attention towards this important issue.
It is high time to pay immediate attention towards resolving the problems being confronted by this leading higher institution which has rendered valuable contribution for Pakistani nation during last fifty years. Following the international best practices in higher education sector, it should be declared a flagship institution along with announcement of special package. With more support, Quaid-i-Azam University could win more laurels for the country in coming times.
— The writer is working as National Coordinator with Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan, an autonomous largest alliance of Pakistani universities.