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March 20, 2015

The IBA: At 60, a world-class institution


March 20, 2015

To say that the sprawling main campus of the IBA was impressive would be a wee bit modest. As we entered the precincts of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Karachi, we were left awestruck by the impressive visual impact of the academic and administrative blocks.
Our first stop was the Administrative Block, housing, among other things, the office of the dean/director, IBA. It could have easily compared with the most advanced academic infrastructure in the Western world. The sprawling, well-manicured lawns, the building block, complete with facilities for extra-curricular activities, like the 500-seat amphitheatre, the ultra-modern gymnasium, the lush green cricket field, the basketball and tennis courts and other facilities looked more a part of a sports facility than an institution synonymous with the fascinating, but academic, world of entrepreneurship and business administration.
This is not to say that academic and technological aids had not been given their due. The 60-station computer laboratory, the video facility for monitoring lectures from overseas, and the staff lounge equipped with information technology aids were all very contemporary. Perhaps there was not an aspect of state-of-the-art technology that was not amply reflected in the institute’s infrastructure. The cafeterias looked so much like restaurants in five-star hotels. As for the upkeep and cleanliness, the environs were spotlessly clean despite there being a large student body.
After having conducted us on a tour of all the elaborate facilities of the institute, some of which ostensibly did not even have a direct connection with the subject called business administration, Dr Ishrat Hussain, dean/director of the institute, and Huma Baqai talked to us at length on the genesis and functioning of the institute. Dr Hussain, while briefing the two-man team of The News, said that the area of the institute had been enhanced from 8,000 square feet to

1,50,000 square feet. He said that he had a three-pronged approach for the future of the institute which, in a nutshell, could be summed up as: courses’ reorientation; infrastructure enhancement; and faculty development. He said that infrastructure development was his top priority. As for faculty development, he disclosed that right now there were 50 doctorate holders on the faculty, a number that was envisaged to be raised to 70 over the next two years.
Commenting on the other aspects of the institute, he said, “We have to give preference to higher/professional education and for that we have to focus on faculty development.”
“My legacy will be that our IBA graduate should be global. Pakistan’s future is global. Our graduate should be able to fit in anywhere around the globe,” Dr Hussain said in a tone of resolute determination. He said that a large number of students were being provided financial aid.
He said that currently the employment rate of the IBA graduates was between 80 and 90 percent. As for the funds, he said that out of a stipulated target of Rs5 billion needed for the development of the IBA, he had already managed to raise Rs4.6 billion.
Built in 1965, the institute now has 3,600 students on its rolls. The infrastructure advancement exercise took off in 2008.
Dr Huma Baqai, director of public affairs & communication and associate professor of social sciences, said that the institute was not just imparting education in business administration but also courses in economics, mathematics, computer sciences, and CA after three modules.
Dr Hussain said that as for faculty recruitment, they preferred IBA graduates to the ones from foreign universities because the local ones were more familiar with the local and regional conditions and the working of the Pakistani corporate sector rather than the ones from foreign institutions who were not as well aware of Pakistani conditions. “Our role is not to just produce MBAs. We produce leaders for tomorrow for which we have to stress personality more than academics. We teach our students values,” said Dr Hussain.
Delving a little into the inception of the institute, in April 1955, the institute was established with the assistance of the US International Cooperation Administration (ICA, later to be designated USAID). Initial aid and guidance was provided by the Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania. Later, the University of Southern California chipped in and helped set up a number of facilities.
The course contents, pedagogical tools, curriculum, assessment, and testing methods were developed under guidance of experts from these world-class education institutions. The high academic standards have been maintained while at the same time bringing about some changes and updating courses to cope with the changes in the international situation that may occur with the passage of time.
The centre for computer studies was set up in 1983 with the assistance of IBM (Pakistan). The centre now offers BS, MS, and PhD in computer sciences. Besides, the institute also offers courses in economics and mathematics, finance and accounting, social sciences and liberal arts, entrepreneurship and managing family businesses.
The recurrent theme of the IBA’s 60 years of existence is that while the courses should be rigorous, they should also be forward-looking. The institute has an enabling atmosphere conducive to scholarship and research. The faculty, staff, students and industry work in harmony to achieve the learning goals associated with excellence. Students acquire knowledge and skills through constructive and distinctive processes that encourage them to develop an understanding of concepts and issues.
The centre for Business and Economic Research (CBER) within the institute is a think tank that assists public policymakers, the business community, and the civil society. The centre organises research projects and seminars.
Currently, the centre is working in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in producing the Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) that feeds into the monetary policy statement of the SBP.
Another facility, the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), plays a vital role in promoting entrepreneurship in Pakistan, creating a new breed of youth and professionals who believe in opportunity recognition and new venture creation.
Another facility is the Centre for Executive Education (CEE) that collaborates with international schools and professional organisations to sponsor short-term and mid-term courses for business executives.
One came away with the impression that in the IBA, Pakistan can be proud of a world- class institution, and that competent, focused and credible leadership can change not just institutions, but indeed the entire country. Dr Ishrat Hussain exuded a sense of justifiable satisfaction at a job well done. Though pressed from many quarters to accept a third term as dean and director, he was adamant to leave at the end of his second term in mid- 2016. “The IBA is an island of excellence; it is an educational institution that is comparable to the best in the world. It is for others now to build on this legacy. I believe I have created leaders who can take the work forward. My job is done.”

Readers might associate the subject of business administration and its offshoots with mundane accounting and figure work and just teaching the students to be skillful finance managers and entrepreneurs. But no, the institute is as much interested in grooming young men and women to conduct themselves in all kinds of social situations.
As Dr Ishrat Husain and Huma Baqai told this correspondent, students come from the most remote corners of the country which are steeped in conservatism and unfamiliar with modern social graces and niceties.
The IBA takes on these students months ahead of the start of the academic semester and develops a language and grooming programme that includes interaction with the top-notch circles of urban life.
They are even provided money by the IBA to dine at five-star hotels and restaurants to acquaint themselves in the latest of fashions and social graces.
They are even advanced money by the institute to go over and stay in posh hotels on the hill stations for them to acquaint themselves with the latest in modern life and make them aware of the fact that while their conservative and somewhat rustic locale may have a charm of its own, something they should never disassociate from, there’s also a world beyond with which they must familiarise themselves if they are to arm themselves with the educational and social tools needed to compete in the modern corporate world anywhere in the world.

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