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3 Pro VCs plan not a bad idea: Dr Hassan Shah

GCU VC Dr Shah striving to re-improve GCU ranking
Says trying to bring back productive retired teachers
Nine names sent to chancellor for appoint of three dean 

Panel Interview By:
Hassan Hameed, Wajahat Ali and Ali Arshad
Photography: Sajid Baloch

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Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah, Vice Chancellor Government College University (GCU) Lahore, during the very first month of his appointment as VC has taken some much required steps to improve the academic and research standard of the great alma mater. He is focusing on bringing back senior retired but active teachers, foreign faculty, more PhDs. He has sent names for appointment of three deans – a long standing issue, besides advertising for the Dr Salam Chair, which was vacant for the last one year or so. The Educationist conducted a detailed interview with Dr Hassan. Following are the details of the interview:

The Educationist: Sir,please do tell us about your primary, secondary and higher education in detail.
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: I started from Saint Anthony High school Lahore. I remained there from class 1 to 11. Then I did my A-levels from Cathedral after that I spent year and a half in Punjab University as BSc student. Then I got admission to Moscow and went there. From 1973 to 1979 I was in Moscow. I studied physics over there, I learnt Persian. I came back in 1979 and started my PhD at Quaid-i-Azam University. I did post doctorate at University of Sussex, Brighton, England. Then I spent a year at London University. Then I spent a year and a half at the Institute of Space Physics and Technology, funded by Professor Salam’s International Scientific and Theoretical Physics. They had a special scheme. I also went to Italy.

The Educationist:When did you join GC University?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: When I came back from Italy in 1986, I joined Punjab University, Department of Solid State Physics. I remained there till 2002 and the same year I joined GC, which a few months later became GC University. If you go to the Physics Department here you will see that I am the last Head of the Department at Govt College and the first chairperson of the Physics Department GC University. Then I was here till 2014 and retired in February 2014. I served as the chairperson for 6 years and then there was a break of three years and then again for three years.

The Educationist:Why physics people progress so much? In Punjab University Dr Mujahid Kamran and here in GCU Dr Hassan Amir Shah?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: I thinks it’s a coincidence ….. two people in two universities in Lahore and both the physics people. I think it’s just a coincidence. You wouldn’t believe there are several other coincidences in both of us. Dr Mujahid Kamran and I, we both belong to same area in Gujrat and many other examples of coincidences can be found in us. There is no reason for that. (he remarked while giving a big smile)

For that last 4 — 5 years we have had only one dean now we have sent names for three deans, for sciences, social sciences and life studies…I feel faculty deans should be empowered. 

The Educationist: When and how you choose the profession of teaching. Any specific reason behind it?
DrHassan Amir Shah: I ended up studying Physics. In factafter doing PhD it could have been two choices before me where to go. Either to the organization like Pakistan Atomic Energy or it could have been teaching career and I think that’s way I ended up the university. I worked abroad and I came back and at that time it was clear that teaching is my profession. The freedom in the university that was very attractive for me as compared to the organizations and nature of the job, so I preferred to stay with teaching.

The Educationist:So basically due to limitations in other organizations you choose teaching?
DrHassan Amir Shah: Yeah, the university had a great charm for me specially the freedom. Where you are going to be in touch with younger people constantly and regularly, so that’s how I stepped into teaching.

The Educationist:Sir before becoming the VC of GCU, you also served in FC College, according the our information?
Hassan Amir Shah: Yes, I was served in FCCollege for about year and a half.

The Educationist: Whatis the main difference between the two? You have experienced both. Both were established in 1864.
DrHassan Amir Shah: Yeah both were established at the same time. I think the difference is in the style of management I would say because we are fully Public SectorUniversity all of our funding comes from the government or federal government. FCCollege is not that way of public sector, its somewhere between public and private sector. We have policies from the government like salary packages but in FC there is more freedom how they hire people. FCCollege is not the private sector university like Lahore School of Economics or LUMS may be, their fees are high as compared to FCCollege.

The Educationist: What is current status of GCU and where do you want to see it in future?
DrHassan Amir Shah: What do you mean by current status? Current status regarding what?

The Educationist: The current status regarding ranking and academic position.
DrHassan Amir Shah: Last year our ranking had fallen down in the HEC list. So certain remedial measures are needed for that and I am trying to go back to our previous ranking atleast or better. We need to activate our research mode for that. We have problems at two place one at the school of mathematical sciences and other at the Salam Chair. There is been no person in the Salam Chair during the last year or so. So we have advertised for the Salam Chair. We have hireda director for mathematical sciences few months ago. Recently during last few days some foreign faculty has come back and we have also engaged some local faculty so we hope that we will see the increase in productivity in coming few months. We have advertised so it will take a little time to process the things. We are trying to get back our retired faculty that are still active in research. So we are trying to bring back experienced members especially for those departments that have very young faculty. Some senior people are coming back. They may not come back in administration position but just to add the balance between the senior and junior. Just to guide juniors and their presence would make a difference.

The Educationist: GC was originally for Intermediate Studies and it is recognized because of its Intermediate students. No doubt,Inter side is much better as compared to university side. Any plans to make Inter side more better?
DrHassan Amir Shah: Yes, Inter side is good. We have got number of medals this time I guess six medals. We have been over admitting people, the classes are overburdened. So we will propose that next year when admissions will take place, we will reduce the number of seats to look after the teaching quality. So that plan is there we should maintain our standards and try to improve as much as we can. I think university side is good also, we have PhD programmes if you look at the PhysicsDepartment, Chemistry Department, Biotechnology, Zoology, Botanyin fact all sciences departments we have large number of PhD and MPhil students and the research of these students is published in international journals. Physics has approximately 44 PhD students, chemistry has 45 or 46 and I think if you compare with 10 or 15 years ago our research profile is very higher now and we are producing lot of good research. I feel our social sciences departments have some distances to cover yet. But with the arrival of some senior members situation would be better and we have a space issue so we are reducing the number of seats.

The Educationist: Sir, there is a problem that the deans’ number is very low. Perhaps the appointments of many deans are pending for last many years. Why?.
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Well,For that last 4 or 5 years we have had only one dean but now recently we have sent names for deans. Dean is appointed by the government. I have sent name for three deans, dean for sciences, dean for social sciences and dean for life studies. (Nine names have been sent for three posts). Hopefully we will have three deans here very soon. This is good. It divides the work. I feel faculty deans should be empowered. I don’t want to do everything, I want others to share burden.

The Educationist: What is your opinion about three Pro Vice Chancellors in government universities?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: If the government wants to do that they should make appropriate changes in the charter. I thinkit’s good. We have only 4 faculties and I think PU has 14 faculties it’s a big university even they don’t have a pro vice chancellor. The provision is there it has not been used by the government. It will provide grooming for future vice chancellors. Suddenly we are here so itslittle difficult to adjust from chairperson to dean, or assistant professor to VC. They should be groomed before. I welcome this idea and I don’t think it is a bad idea.

The Educationist: How do look forward to your four years term? What plans do you want to bring in and contribute? Research or something else?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: I strongly believe that we should move according to the rules we have given and sometimes we don’t like the rules, so we change the rules. We have changed examination rules and I want to get the senior faculty back. We want to expand our research and must make it better. I want my faculty to do research and again the problem is in social sciences and we will try to solve it as soon as we can. The number of PhDs is less there and I want to give special attention over there and for all that we need space and GCU lacks space. We would also hire foreign faculty.

The Educationist: When comes to Dr Salam, PU also counts him in their three Nobel Laureates and GCU also? Why?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Who is third in PU list?

The Educationist: DrHargobind, Chandra Shakhar and Dr Salaam.
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: As far as I know Chandra Shaikhar was born in Lahore and I don’t know whether he studied here (PU) or not. So the three nobel laureates who have lived in this Indian subcontinent were Abdus Salam, Hargobind and ChandraShakhar. (Dr) Salam sahib was a student here (GCU) and (Dr) Salam sahib worked here.

The Educationist: GCU has only one proctorKhadimAli, he is the chief proctor. Is it possible for one person to deal with all the disciplinary issues?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: We have proctoral board, KhadimAli is the chief proctor and GCU is compact and we can hire deputy proctors, if required. GCU is not the undisciplined place. People here are well disciplined. These things change with time. 10 or 15 years ago when we had less students one proctor was enough to deal with the issues. (We will see this issue).

The Educationist: What is the main problem other than social sciences?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Space is a big issue we are of expanding the campus but not here. In Kala Shah Kaku we have 350 acres of land and government has allotted Rs995 million for it. The master planning is complete. We have received the first instalment of Rs250 million. We hope in January we shall have our first brick laying ceremony. Within one year we will have hostel and faculty space over there.

The educationist: Why there is no department for media and law in GCU?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Yes, media and mass communication are very important in this era. As I told we are having space issue we will surely make department for Law and media studies. It requires time and space.

The Educationist: Which books you like to read other than physics in leisure?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: I like reading number of things I like reading novels in evening ,literature and sometimes history and I read much on net. But may be as not much as should I do.

The Educationist: What about movies and Television watching?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Yeah, I watch talk shows and informative sort of material and movies not too much just randomly on TV.
The Educationist: You took the charge now your time for the family is squeezed? Is family happy? Because you would have also taken their time!
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Yes, it’s been a month they are managing and we have a small family my wife is retired from government service, and a daughter she is studying PhD in Oxford and I have a son, a special child.So he needs more time. We spend time together in the evening and on weekends.My mother lives next door to my house so she gives time to my family she is senior citizen but she demands from me to give her time aswell. But yes, during the last month I have neglected my family.

The Educationist: any advice or message to students and teachers of GCU or as a whole?
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Its simple they should work hard and attend classes regularly. They should spend their more time on their studies. Teachers should also attend the classes.

The Educationist: Thank you for your time sir
Dr Hassan Amir Shah: Thank you The Educationist team.

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