Says I am bringing teachers back to classroom
University needs an overhauling
By Shabbir Sarwar & Ali Arshad
Punjab University’s top three challenges are teachers’ politics, internal politics in departments and lack of infrastructure. All the university needs overhauling. Because wherever I go I have found many challenges. We are now trying to resolve all issues one by one. This was stated by PU Vice chancellor Dr. Zafar Mueen Nasir during an exclusive interview with The Educationist. Following are glimpses from the interview:
The Educationist: Please do tell us about your early life and education? Dr. Zafar Mueen: I did my Matriculation from Rawalpindi in 1972, then I joined Government College Lahore and I did my F.Sc., B.Sc. from there. Then I joined Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad for M.Sc. Economics, after doing that I had joined Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). In 1990 I went to US for doing M.A. Economics from Kansas State University. My PhD is in Finance from Kansas State University. They also gave me teaching assignments there specially in education department. In 1997 I came back and joined PIDE again as Staff Economist. I have published a large number of papers. In 2003 I was in Grade 20 there. In 2006 I joined Ministry of Labour, Govt of Pakistan as Director of Policy and Research. They hired me in MP-2 grade. I developed three national polices i.e. National Policy of Employment, National Policy of Immigration and National Policy of Human Resource Development. In 2008 I joined PIDE again as Head and Dean Business Studies Department. I hired top faculty members and gave them good incentives. I also marketed my business studies department very extensively. We were progressing very exponentially. In 2012 I joined American University in the Emirates with a good salary. It was a good opportunity for me. I served there almost four years. I was very close to retirement then I came back and I joined my department (at PIDE). After a few months I felt myself misfit in this environment and I joined University of Modern Sciences (UMS).
The Educationist: Sir, you also worked for IMF? Dr. Zafar Mueen: Yes, I have served in IMF in 2000 there was a competition being organized by IMF, World Bank and Global Development Network, I took part in the global competition. They selected total 5 people from all over the world. From Pakistan I was one of them. I have served there as a visiting scholar in the research department.
The Educationist: Now, you are the Vice Chancellor of the largest university of province. How do you feel? Dr. Zafar Mueen: I think it’s a big challenge ………we are really lagging behind and we have to bring some innovative things at a level of international recognition. I have started working on it. We are working on a portal system. Initially we will launch experimental basis if we got good result, we will expand it to all departments. This will be very good for quality of education. There are two portals, one is for teachers they will upload all the material like course outlines (and other material). Students will have direct access to the portal. It will be integrated with attendance. This will be helpful for top to lower employees. On quality of education we are moving in right direction. While, on quality of research we are going to get the approval from our forums like syndicate and senate. I am establishing a very good incentive system for teachers who will publish research paper in gold star journals. We will give one million rupees, if you publish in silver star journal you will get half a million rupees and if you publish in impact factor journal you will get one lakh rupees. Good incentive for a good journal. This will promote a good research culture in the university. We will have more funding for the research and the teachers will utilize funds for research. These steps will be very productive for the university.
The Educationist: What is your main agenda for PU? Dr. Zafar Mueen: My main agenda is to bring this university in top 500 universities of the world. We need to do those things which will really create research culture and quality teaching environment where teachers work with open mind. University should be the generator of the knowledge. My idea is that in university every research should be beneficial for the community and for that purpose we will bring it to the market. Our ORIC office will be more active now and it will bring these things to the market.
The Educationist: Mr. Syed Raza Ali Gilani, the Minister for Higher Education (in the recent convocation) expressed his resolve that he wanted to see PU in top 500 QS ranking. How you materialize it and is there any deadline? Dr. Zafar Mueen: No, there is no deadline and I don’t believe in deadline. Because this is not that thing, we cannot do it in one or two years. It is the long term process but we have already initiated those steps which can be taken at this level. QS ranking improves when you have quality research. When your students are working really for the benefit of the community. First, we have to create our own standards, then we can go to the international level.
The Educationist: Merit is your top priority for this university. Unfortunately some junior faculty members are working as In-charge directors in the presence of senior faculty members. When will you show your power of merit? Dr. Zafar Mueen: I cannot open all the fronts at the same time. I am doing things slowly but surely I have brought lots of changes in a very short time period. In my administration, I will not go against merit at any cost. I am looking into these things. I will rectify all those decisions which are taken against the merit in the past but it will take time. We will assess the performance of all those. Merit is also who can deliver. Merit does not mean seniority only. All the university needs overhauling. Because wherever I go I have found many challenges. We are now trying to resolve all issues one by one.
I will not go against merit at any cost……..I will rectify all those decisions which are taken against the merit in the past but it will take time.
The Educationist: QAU and BZU believe in rotation policy. Will you consider it implementing in PU? Dr. Zafar Mueen: Yes, the same rotation policy is here. We have this after three years. In the past it might not implemented due to some grievances. Now we can implement it but we need to find some trained people who can perform the task. I am trying to do this and I am trying to find good people for replacements.
The Educationist: Sir, you had announced in your policy that no teachers will be posted on administrative posts, But? Dr. Zafar Mueen: The Registrar’s post is a very sensitive so I want it to be taken by some PU teacher. Dr. Naeem Khan had a good experience in the past. RO is also a very sensitive position we need to fill this post by some teacher. Another important post is controller examinations.
The Educationist: There is a strong perception that IJT is becoming more powerful in PU since your joining. What would you say about this? Dr. Zafar Mueen: No, I think as well as my concern is that I need peace in this university and for that I am willing to talk to anybody. Wether it is IJT or Baloch students everyone is respectable for me as long as they are following code of conduct, code of ethics and they are not creating any kind of disturbance in the university. But if they are involved in such (negative) kind of activities we will take serious and strict action. I have visited hostels and met both groups. I have told them, this is your mother institution and your own university. Focus on your studies, as a student if you indulge in these activities, this university is not for you. This university is for those who come for education and we will fully support those students who is coming for studies and they don’t involve themselves in such kind of dirty politics. My message is very clear. I am not fighting with anybody, my only fight is for PU. I want to bring this university in world ranking and for that I can talk to anybody.
The Educationist: What are the top three challenges or barriers you are facing actually at the moment? Dr. Zafar Mueen: I think we have the very first issue of this university – the teachers’ politics – we need teachers to come back to the original cause. I am trying and doing my all best efforts to bring teachers back to the classrooms. Second is the internal politics in every departments and that is really creating problem for the smooth functioning in the departments. One by one I am bringing them on the table and addressing their issues by performing a mediator’s role. Third is the lack of infrastructure, we need to renovate this infrastructure, we need to come up for international level. We have already started (efforts) and you will see visible change in future. Funding is always a problem but we are trying to manage. PU has 82 departments and 5 campuses. It has big infrastructure. We are generating money but is not enough.
The Educationist: Are you going to implement a pending plan of university lands commercialization alongside Maulana Shaukat Ali Road where estimated Rs 4 billion can be generated annually? Dr. Zafar Mueen: Yes, we will do that. We can build a 400-bed hospital and medical college there and use this land purposefully.
The Educationist: The Institute of statistics is cut off and unfortunately, there are 28 accidents of students on this road during last one year or so due not overhead crossing and underpass. Are you taking up this issue? Dr. Zafar Mueen: I don’t know about this. Now you have pointed out. I will visit the sight and we will take corrective measures in this regard (he asked his secretary to note down and plan his visit)?
The Educationist: What message would you like to convey to the PU teachers and students through The Educationist? Dr. Zafar Mueen: My message is to shun your differences and work for the quality of the education and focus on the positive aspects of you personality rather than on the negativity. This is the way forward. For teachers, please focus on the research and education of your students, because you are the role model.