Owing to low enrolment ratio and lack of full-time faculty members, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology has decided to merge various departments of social sciences,...
Owing to low enrolment ratio and lack of full-time faculty members, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) has decided to merge various departments of social sciences, including the Social Work, Sindhi, General History, Islamic History, Arabic, Special Education, Sports Sciences, Physical Education and others, into one single department.
This was revealed by Fuuast Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Dr Syed Altaf Hussain as he was interviewed by The News.
The VC said the Fuuast administration believes that such a decision will help the varsity’s finance department reduce expenses being spent on keeping these individual departments functional. “When Fuuast started as a varsity in 2002, many departments were established for facilitating research and imparting quality education in social sciences. But those departments are now abandoned,” said Prof Hussain remarked, adding that these departments even lack competent faculty members as per the requirements of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and some of the teachers at these departments are even habitual absentees.
He clarified that the departments of various social sciences are not going to be closed and the administration has only planned to merge them under single administrative unit. The VC informed The News that the future of inefficient departments will be decided in the coming meeting of the varsity’s Senate, which is its highest decision-making body. “The varsity can’t afford to spend funds on those departments which have failed to attract students.”
Dr Hussain also discussed the administrative disarray at the varsity that had almost paralysed it in the near past. He admitted that Fuuast unluckily lacks competent officers in the management, due to which it takes time for some of the decisions to be implemented. “When I assumed the VC’s office, I first tried to overcome mismanagement and put the things in the right direction,” he said.
The VC was of the view that if the faculty members and administrative staff want to make Fuuast one of the most prestigious educational institutes, they should support the decision-makers of the varsity in their revolutionary steps for the varsity’s betterment. “Fuuast can’t move forward without the support of faculty members and officers.”
Issues with Urdu medium
The VC said there was no need for starting the department for engineering at Fuuast. He candidly remarked that some of the departments, including the department of engineering, were set up at the varsity without any proper planning.
“On the one hand we can’t teach engineering in Urdu while on the other hand employers are reluctant to hire our engineering graduates as they believe studying engineering in Urdu was not the right choice,” Dr Hussain remarked.
Regarding the practicality of teaching all the disciplines in Urdu, he said not all the courses can be taught to the students in Urdu as some subjects, particularly the natural sciences, have thousands of technical terms that cannot be translated into Urdu.
“When our engineer graduates pass out from the varsity, the prospective employers ask them why they had opted to be enrolled at a varsity offering Urdu medium of education,” he said. “Such discriminative remarks are very discouraging for our students. But the employers need to know that we can’t teach all the courses of engineering in Urdu.”
Prof Hussain criticised the teachers’ unions at Fuuast, saying that some incompetent teachers are involved in politics on the campuses.
He said the unions at the varsity are not like the other trade unions as they comprised subversives who try to pressurise the administration into getting unlawful advantages, including illegal admissions, undeserved promotions and monetary gains. He said various such elements at the varsity have been doing destructive politics over the last decade.
“I have conveyed a clear message to such elements that illegalities and irregularities will not be tolerated anymore,” he said. “I would suggest that such teachers should spend energies on conducting research instead of politicising an educational institute for their personal objectives.”
As the other public varsities have been suffering a financial crunch after the sweeping cut of 10 per cent in their funding from the HEC, Fuuast also faces the same situation. “Our funding from the HEC has been decreased from Rs986 million to Rs856 million,” he lamented, adding that the varsity hardly saves funds for pensions, salaries and the expenses for ongoing projects.
This year, the federal government has slashed 40 per cent budget of the HEC but the commission expects quality education and research from the varsities which doesn’t not make sense, he remarked.
Fuuast has housed its campus in Islamabad at a building of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda). Last year, Wapda issued a notice to the varsity to get its building vacated, the VC said, adding that since then, the varsity has been trying hard to complete the construction work of its Islamabad campus.
“The Fuuast Islamabad campus is almost ready,” he said and blamed various administrative issues at the varsity for the delay in construction. Even the HEC had to cancel the PC-1 of the project, he explained, adding that now all the issues have, however, been resolved and the inauguration of the Islamabad campus will be held next year.
Promotion of Urdu
Prof Hussain said that the Urdu university was a dream of Maulvi Abdul Haq who worked for the cause of Urdu throughout his life. He, however, lamented that after the establishment of Fuuast, scientific and other works in various languages of the world should have been translated into Urdu on a mass level but it did not happen.
He said Fuuast was an educational institute and its focus should be purely on imparting knowledge and modern sciences to its students. A single university is not enough to serve the national language.
“It’s our collective responsibility to give importance to Urdu. However, we can’t set aside the importance of other languages. We have to address the international communities in their languages,” the Fuuast VC opined.
It has been around six years since Fuuast held its last convocation. This year, finally, the varsity has invited the recent graduates to register themselves for the convocation 2020. According to the Fuuast examination department, around 1,500 graduates are position holders among the other graduates and holding a convocation for such a large number of graduates need some huge arrangements.
“We will hold the largest convocation in the first quarter of 2020. The varsity has launched a web portal to register graduates for the convocation 2020,” Prof Hussain said. He concluded the interview by saying, "I see Urdu university flourishing as the largest general university of Karachi. The varsity makes higher education accessible for the students belong to low-income families.”