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July 25, 2016

Poor QAU infrastructure fails to match international level universities


July 25, 2016

Islamabad: Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) tops the Higher Education Commission (HEC)’s ranking of Pakistan Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) but as you enter the university, the first thing you notice is the bad shape of infrastructure which completely fails to match the standards followed by international level universities.

Though the place is blessed with the natural beauty due to its location, the dilapidated roads, buildings in bad shape, lack of hostels, no proper auditorium, inadequate transport service and host of other issues highlight the need of more attention and investment to improve conditions at the campus.

Quaid-i-Azam University (once named Islamabad University) was established in July 1967 under the Act of National Assembly and started teaching and research programmes for PhD and MPhil degrees. The university, for its international repute, faculty and programmes, attracts a large number of foreign students although it offers admission to a measured number of students from all regions of the country.

As its website mentions, QAU has been able to establish its links with some selected universities in Europe, South Asia and the United States. The international educational and research institutions including UNESCO, IRSIP, Agencia Espanole de Cooperacion International (Spain) etc collaborate their research activities with QAU.

Currently, the Quaid-i-Azam University has four faculties and nine other teaching and research Institutes, Centre and Schools including Faculty of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Medicine (affiliated), Area Study Centre for Africa, North and South America, Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, National Institute of Psychology, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, National Institute of Asian Civilizations, and the Computer Centre. In all, the university’s academic programmes have an enrollment of over 5,500 students.

“We are working on both academic and infrastructure development of the university,” said QAU Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Ashraf in an interview with ‘The News’. “We hope to receive funds of Rs3 billion for infrastructure development from HEC in coming November and another agreement of Rs1 billion is expected with the Chinese embassy for the same purpose. We are also in communication with the Aman Foundation for collaboration in the domain of infrastructure development,” said the vice chancellor who is perusing many measures to bring QAU at par with the international universities.

The vice chancellor agreed that there is lack of standard facilities in the university. “We need at least 10 more busses to cater to the increasing demand. One bus costs around Rs7 to 8 million. The hostels lack internet facility which causes great inconvenience for the students. We need more hostels, especially girl’s hostels. Many good girl students refuse to join the university due to the lack of in-campus hostel facility. There is no Faculty Guest House for visiting faculty members. These are not academic issues but they have a great impact on the academic progress of the university,” he said.

Currently, the university has total 10 hostels with four hostels for girls. Each hostel accommodates approximately 300 students. Two hostels are under construction. “Even ten new hostels would not be able to completely cater to the needs of students as most of the QAU students are from other cities,” said the VC.

As university prepares to celebrate 50 years of its establishment in 2017, there is no proper university auditorium at the campus. “For short term, we have proposed to renovate the auditorium of Earth Sciences department but a proper auditorium is the basic requirement of the university,” said Dr Javed Ashraf.

Talking about dilapidated condition of roads connecting different departments within the university, the vice chancellor said that it would require around Rs60 million. He said that the university administration is looking for all avenues of fund raising to give best infrastructure facilities to the students. “Recently Turkey has gifted two computer labs to the university. Similarly, expected funds from HEC and Chinese embassy would also be utilised for creating more facilities and improve the existing ones,” he said.

On academic side, he said QAU has 70 per cent PhD faculty. “We want to take it to 100 per cent. I am optimistic that before the end of my tenure, the remaining 30 per cent faculty will also be in PhD programme. For that, we are connecting to different international scholarship programmes.”

The VC said that among existing faculty, a big majority did their PhD from QAU. “We are planning to send those faculty members abroad in American and European Universities for post doctoral degree. I am sure that it will bring diversity to the academic environment of the university.”

He said that in 2015, QAU produced 1,018 research publications which are the highest in the country in publications per faculty member. He said the university is trying to strengthen both quantitative and qualitative side of research.

“We are taking many steps in this direction. To reduce teaching burden from the teachers so that they can focus more on research, the teachers are directed to take only two courses. Similarly, we are encouraging them to publish their research in HEC recognised journals. Research publications are now one of the basic criterions for promotions. The faculty member has to be the leading author in case of joint authorship of any publication.”

About starting undergrad programme, he said that all good universities have under graduation programmes. “Besides arranging for the resources to start a quality programme, we are considering different models to run the programme. My suggestion would be to engage PhD students as teaching assistants as is done in all standard universities. In this regard, the final decision will be taken by the syndicate,” he said.



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