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January 19, 2015

Universities are meant to dispense knowledge through research: AIOU VC


January 19, 2015

Islamabad: With same resources and the same team, new vice chancellor of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Professor Dr. Shahid Siddiqui is determined to improve things at AIOU and it seems that he has already been successful.
Promotions waiting for past many years have been approved by the selection board. Approval of around 80 promotions in a recent meeting of selection board is talk of the campus these days. Meetings pending since past one and a half years have been conducted and next are scheduled. The trainings and seminars planned for professional development of AIOU faculty have been launched and many are organised in past two months.
Soon a new student-friendly website will be launched and the university will have its first-ever issue of English newsletter to be published this month. Besides that, new incentives to encourage research culture in the university have also been approved in the executive council meeting and new rules of medical facilities for staff are under consideration which will be presented in the next meeting for approval.
In an interview with ‘The News’, Dr. Shahid Siddiqui talked about the progress on objectives shared by him in a media interaction two months ago. “My focus is to strengthen the support system for students, professional development of faculty and non-faculty staff and provision of enabling environment for research. These objectives were set after extensive discussions with different departments,” he said.
The vice chancellor said that universities are meant to create knowledge through research. “To create enabling environment for research culture in the university, we have constituted a committee on research incentives. In a recent meeting, the executive council has approved rules in this regard which include cash reward for published research and financial support for researchers for presenting their research in any Pakistani city.”
In addition to that, he said that the university

would introduce two new research journals besides publishing the two regular journals which have not been published since last two years. “These journals will be published once or maximum twice a year. In 2015, we expect to publish at least four research journals,” he said.
To make university library more active and vibrant, the new VC has extended the closing timings from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the library would also be open on Saturdays. “We also plan to introduce software for automation of library so that the faculty could access the information or reserve the available books and journals present in the library from their offices,” he said. “For that, we have organised a two-day training session for the library staff. Soon the library would be fully automated. It is open for research scholars from other universities as well.”
Another priority area for new leadership is to improve the support system for students. The university plans to set up a 24/7 complaint centre in the Student Affairs Section with a staff of eight people sitting their continuously to respond to the calls. This centre will manage all kinds of complaints, whether direct or through emails, letters or telephone.
“It will be the responsibility of the staff of complaint centre to formally transfer these complaints or queries to the relevant departments. There will be daily report at the end of the day mentioning how many complaints were received, directed to the relevant departments and answered. This way, we will hold the responsible people accountable.”
He pointed out that the delivery system is part of the support system. “We are in communication with the postal departments for more efficient delivery system and plan to initiate a comprehensive programme. The ultimate goal is to go completely on line in future. In this regard, we are also working on the website and its content and design will completely change in near future making it a student friendly website. “With increasing number of students, it is not possible to handle administrative work manually and it is need of the hours to do that through information technology,” Dr. Shahid Siddiqui said.
Regarding revision of curriculum, he said that it is a huge task. “We have done the initial work. We are preparing the date of when and where the revision is required. Following that, experts from the university and outside the university will sit together and chalk out the way to do that,” he said.
He said that professional development is a key to realise any vision. Keeping this in mind, the university has initiated five series of lectures including Skill-Based Lecture Series, Distinguished Lecture Series, Sittings with Book Writers, Research Presentation, Awareness Session on Social Issues and Media Dialogue.
“We are inviting all stakeholders to hold their academic events in the university. The Higher education Commission (HEC) has announced to hold next social sciences conference in AIOU campus. We have offered to house next Children Literature Festival in the university. The aim is to make this university a hub of academic activities. I believe that all these activities would ultimately change the environment at the campus.” He said that details about the events held under these initiatives are available on AIOU’s Facebook page.
To improve enabling environment for women, the AIOU has notified anti- harassment committee and has reserved a hostel for women students. “Hostel was a long standing demand of women visiting the university for workshops form far flung areas. Currently, the hostel is under construction.”
When the new vice chancellor joined and conducted initial meetings, he got a lot of feedback on Selection Board and promotions. Faculty and non-faculty staff was de-motivated. They were waiting for promotions for past six years. “I took this issue on war footings. Selection Board was held and 80 promotions were approved in the first meeting. Second Selection Board will be held in February,” he shared.
He is also planning to launch AIOU Alumni which will be soon advertised on AIOU webpage. “I believe that this is the largest untapped resource that can work for the image building of the university,” he opined. “My prime focus is to improve university rating and reconstruct its image. All these initiatives would converge on this target.”

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