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Punjab Higher Education Minister – New Vision And Food For Thought

 

By Mohsin Bilal

Syed Raza Ali Gilani from Hujra Shah Muqeem, ex-minister in Ch. Pervaiz Elahi’s Cabinet, is now a good addition to the current cabinet of Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif. Syed Raza Ali Gilani has been given the portfolio of the Higher Education Minister Punjab. He is an Old Ravian and classmate of the ‘Prince of Punjab’ Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. Having a charm of attractive personality, Syed Raza is highly concerned about the education related matters and departmental issues.

 

After taking oath as Minister for Higher Education Punjab, he has taken very bold decisions. He turned the table of vice chancellors serving in various universities in Punjab. He is working on the idea of establishing an authority to deal the issues faced by the students of private colleges and universities. To make the affairs of research and academic much better, Syed Raza have proposed/supported a plan to appoint pro vice chancellors in universities. He is of the staunch views of promoting healthy student politics in universities and he wants an end to political cases made against such students. Above all, long time dead Higher Education Department is on the run soon after he took oath.

Trusting his instincts, Syed Raza dreams of getting Pakistani universities on the list of QS Ranking top 500 universities of the world. Believing his dreams may be a notion of promoting Pakistani brands but things are apparently different at the ground. The minister added Punjab University and Government College as competing gems to be a part of top 500 universities.

GCU VC Dr Hasan Amir Shah

Although Government College University produced a plenty of renowned leaders, philosophers, scientists, generals, jurors, journalists, doctors and engineers, however, it still does not fulfill the criteria of being a internationally competing institution. Alike others, GCU too contains the elements of politics. There is an active group of former students who still consider themselves proud Ravians authority and enjoy the de facto right to interfere in policy matters. These Ravians have a great influence over the policy making issues of the university making it a less general and more bureaucratic. The university lacks appropriate numbers of faculty and most of them are completely unaware of the international educational standards to stand in a global competition.

There is an active group of former students who still consider themselves proud Ravians authority and enjoy the de facto right to interfere in policy matters. These Ravians have a great influence over the policy making issues of the university making it a less general and more bureaucratic.

Furthermore, Syed Raza ignored the fact that Government College University still sustains the educational structure of a college and not a university. Faculty is only best qualified to teach the students of intermediate and graduation thus making it an excellent college, which cannot compete as a university internationally.

Contrary to this is the University of Punjab, which contains all the spices of academic and student life. From a better educational environment to the extracurricular activities and to the camp of student politics, there is a lot to learn about and to deal with. Politics matters, be it students or professors, it is a pivotal element. Without knowing it, nothing positive can be done or undone.

Newly appointed vice chancellor of Punjab University Dr. Zafar Mueen Nasar may be termed by some a best choice for the seat and he does know the international parameters to compete but does he know the basic element of university – the politics? Being an outspoken person at the very first interaction with media, he presented his seven point agenda including the sustainability of merit at any cost. However, a few days later, he was himself who ruthlessly rejected his own vision as an administrator.

PU New VC Dr. Zaffar Moeen

PU VC Dr. Zafar Mueen overturned important administrative posts of the university in a haste and gave additional charge to some teachers again – in contrast to his announce policy wherein he had vowed not to appoint any professor on key administrative posts. He is widely said to believe on whatever is whispered in his ears, whether the revengeful gossips or the propagated rumors.

 

Being an optimistic our higher educational institutions are moving in a positive direction but few things are necessary to be acted upon. Giving suggestions to a lawmaker would definitely not be an attempt to undermine his qualification. However I am supposed to do what I have to as a journalist.

Before making any final recommendations or taking decisions, it is always better to study the local demographics of the institutions. If politics is an important part of the Punjab University, more specifically in the departments of Law, IT, Mass Communication, Chemical Engineering and Halley College of Commerce, let’s not over turn it, rather make it more sophisticated and suitable to adopt as a necessity and reform it. Timely surveys from the departments and other collected data would surely help in studying and drafting an education friendly policy in these academic disciplines. Appointment of heads of departments on merit basis can minimize the department level politics and re-win the confidence of the teachers in the administration as well as in the ministry. Once there confidence is won, they would be in better position to deliver their best in the classroom for knowledge dissemination and in the field of research for knowledge creation. Without wining the confidence of faculty dream of getting Pakistani universities  on the list of top 500 world universities would remain a day-dream.

University gets a share of 7 billion rupees as budget, more than 1100 faculty members and 40 thousand students, it is too unfortunate that only a handful faculty member gets succeeded in drafting his/her own research paper which could be presented abroad. Research work should be more emphasized and declared compulsory in all the disciplines. Likewise each class of the university do some research work. How it is possible that out of average 60 students in a class, no student could touch the standard of an excellent research work.

The minister’s friendly policy towards student unions is good but who is responsible for the revival of student politics, which is picked up once again on the campus.   

The visionary approach of the minister is to be appreciated but there are a lot more to do.  Your Ministry is of short age, till the next elections, fast pace data based visionary decisions are necessary with a slight pre-study of the options of do’s and don’ts. Fit the teachers over the driving seats with all the accessories. A hard deadline of results should be given following the administrative examples set by Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, but not Hamza Shahbaz.

The views expressed by the writer don’t necessarily reflect those of The Educationist. The writer is a seasoned journalist and he can be reached at: mohsin.bilal85@gmail.com 

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