Rule of law, transparency and merit ensured
Completing one year of academic excellence at the largest Public Sector University of the Country, Punjab University Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Niaz Ahmed Akhtar has implemented his reforms agenda based on rule of law, merit, transparency and accountability. Since he assumed the office of PU VC on June 8, 2018, ensuring landmark increase in university’s world ranking through promotion of research and making progress in all disciplines. For the ﬁrst time in Qs World Universities Rankings, PU jumped up from 232 to 193 position, improving its ranking 39 times in Asia as compared to the previous years.
A special brieﬁng was also arranged on Qs ranking and PU appeared for the ﬁrst time in the Qs subject ranking of physics, chemistry, agriculture and forestry for the ﬁrst time in history. All four departments’ ranking has been improved manifolds.
For improving student-teacher ratio, long awaited vacant faculty positions were ﬁlled purely on merit basis. A total of 153 faculty members were appointed including 17 professors, 29 associate professors, 48 assistant professors and 59 lecturers.
Professors and associate professors’ appointments enhanced functioning of their respective departments and it will help improve varsity ranking further. This has also provided a peace of mind to university’s senior teachers who were awaiting their promotions since many years. Moreover, the vice chancellor, taking care of university’s non-teaching staff, promoted more than 2,000 employees who could not get their due rights since decades.
Punjab University has never witnessed such huge number of promotions and appointments in the shortest period of one year in the history and this has happened only due to the vision and efforts of the incumbent administration. Research promotion remained the vice chancellor’s special focus with Rs 150 million additional budget and restoration of research incentive award for teachers.
For the ﬁrst time in the history of Punjab University, to encourage research, the Vice Chancellor announced special incentives for the students who would publish their research papers in reputed journals. He especially encouraged industry-academia linkage to solve national problems through research, besides focusing on student entrepreneurship to exploit their potential while announcing complete ﬁnancial support to students’ projects based on innovative ideas.
The Punjab government, expressing complete trust in his abilities, gave additional/acting charge of vice chancellorship of UEt Taxila and Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore to Dr. Niaz Ahmad.
Expressing his vision, Dr. Niaz said that the university administration was focusing on good governance, restoration of PU’s academic excellence, research with socio-economic impact and depoliticizing the university. “All statutory bodies of the university have been regulated and senate’s meeting was held after 13 years.
Streamlining the university’s system helped to improve international ranking of the university,” he said. As many as ﬁve meetings of syndicate, 12 Advance Studies and Research Boards and three Academic Council meetings deliberated on academic advancement of university. Moreover, the courses of all academic programs have been revised on modern lines at par with the requirements of industries concerned.
Regarding promotion of research, Dr. Niaz’s policy is very aggressive as he has vowed to increase research productivity of PU. He ensured allocation of Rs 150 million for research. To strengthen research culture, the university is spending Rs 434 million on scholarships, including Rs 70 million for teachers’ overseas scholarships, Rs 64 million for participation in national and international conferences, Rs 202 million for student scholarships, student affairs and career counseling and other activities.
Separately, while inaugurating a chemical reaction engineering lab, he urged the teachers to focus on quality and economic impact research and extended his full support to such research projects in this regard. “Universities are meant for creation of new knowledge. If universities are not creating knowledge, it means universities are not functioning and ultimately we will not survive. PU would play its active role for socio-economic development of the country,” he expressed these view while expressing his vision.
PhD programme is the backbone of any university. Under the leadership of Dr Niaz Ahmed, 186 scholars successfully completed their doctorate degrees during one year and 318 PhD, MPhil research proposals were approved during this period.
Furthermore, Punjab University and China’s North East University have jointly launched Pakistan’s largest and landmark PhD programme in the subject of history. Chinese representative Mr. East Yang and 15 Chinese PhD students, out of which 12 are teachers, attended the inaugural ceremony at PU Department of History and Pakistan Studies.
Prof Niaz Ahmed believes, “the joint PhD program would strengthen Pak-China relations further. It is a good opportunity to learn from each other’s knowledge and experience and understand culture of the two countries. He said that PhD program would groom the international students in a different way and improve quality of education in the subject. The vice chancellor laid foundation stone of Pakistan’s ﬁrst-ever USFDA approved laboratories for the production and applications of stem cells at Centre of excellence in Molecular Biology.
University of Health sciences’ Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram, former PU Vice Chancellor Dr Raﬁque Ahmed, renowned scientist Prof Dr Riazuddin, CEMB Director Prof Dr tayyab Husnain and many other renowned scientists were present on this occasion. Prof Niaz said that the university was promoting such research projects which would lead to socio-economic development of the country.
He said that science and technologies were changing rapidly in the world and we must make efforts to create new knowledge and contribute in advancement of our country. Prof Niaz Ahmad also laid foundation stone of Technology Park at PUCIT New Campus to help support ever increasing demand of technology graduates in the country.
Prof Niaz Ahmad has established Cancer Research Centre to ﬁght one of the most fatal diseases. For using social entrepreneurship to resolve issues being faced by the society, Prof Niaz is introducing social entrepreneurship Centre, which would also help generate employment opportunities for its graduates.
The vice chancellor has urged the students that they must identify the problems in their relevant area, present a solution and prepare a plan to convert it into a business activity. To encourage students, he announced funding of such projects which would provide employment opportunities to the students.
To help country come out of various challenges, Prof Niaz Ahmad has implemented his vision very exclusively. He thinks that this must be the role of universities to give policies to the government and resolve problems being faced at national level.
Due to his encouragement and support, various departments have developed policies to set national discourses in various ﬁelds for the development of country. For instance, the country is facing serious challenges in the ﬁeld of economics and progress in country’s overall economic spectrum is a must for Pakistan’s development.
Taking up this challenge, Prof Dr Mumtaz Anwar, Chairman, Department of economics and a veteran economist, has developed and submitted a comprehensive national economic policy, which can help improve country’s economy. This initiative is being seen as a landmark academic contribution which is dire need of the country and academic institutions.
Following the vision of the vice chancellor to provide most affordable education to the students, the PU administration is providing maximum subsidies to the students. On the instructions of the vice chancellor, PU is providing Rs 190 million hostel subsidy, Rs 55 million transport subsidy and Rs 7 million internet subsidy to students. The net subsidy on the mentioned services has been increased from Rs 166 million to Rs 252 million. Rs 285 million are being spent on development projects.
For industry-academia linkage, a team of Punjab University Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization is actively working to enhance industry-academia linkages. The team discussed problems of the industry during meetings with the members of the Lahore Chamber of industry and Commerce and other stakeholders. These problems are put before the PU researchers for giving solutions. A total 13 Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) were signed with national and internal organizations during last one year.
Admission reforms were another milestone of PU administration under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Dr. Niaz Ahmad. Every year there were political problems in the name of admission stalls by student groups. Students and their parents had to travel from all parts of the country just to submit admission forms. Under Dr Niaz’s leadership for the ﬁrst time, admission applications were received and processed online.
A total 1,27,000 applications were received out of which around 10,000 candidates got admission purely on merit. He congratulated newly admitted students and said they were lucky they got admission in the most prestigious seat of learning in Pakistan. He said that Mohsin-e-pakistan Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has given a message to the students to work hard for the development of the country.
Also for the ﬁrst time in the history of varsity, in order to enhance security system of PU, VC laid foundation stone of e-Lane system at the university’s Gate No. 1. The e- Lane comprising ﬁve separate lanes for cars, motorcycles etc. would be completed within 45 days on fast-track basis.
Following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Green Pakistan, Clean Pakistan vision, Dr. Niaz announced that 100,000 trees would be planted on campuses as part of PU administration’s vision to play its role in protection of environment. He made this announcement while launching tree plantation drive at institute of Agricultural sciences.
“Conserving environment is need of the hour because we cannot survive without healthy atmosphere. PU will launch research projects to help save our nature. It is our national duty to keep our environment clean as various types of pollution is taking the toll of hundreds of thousands of lives every year and if we do not take steps in right directions, it will be difficult for our upcoming generations to survive,” he remarked.