PESHAWAR: “Towards free education” is the slogan and mission of the new administration of the crises-riddled historic Islamia College University, which would be attained gradually through committed and well-directed efforts, said Prof Dr Gul Majeed Khan, vice-chancellor of the institution.
Concerned by the issues that the historic institution has been facing, the new vice-chancellor is quite optimistic and determined to not only overcome the problems but also revive the historic and academic glory of the Islamia College.
In an interview with The News, the vice-chancellor Dr Gul Majeed Khan said that Islamia College had a great name and fame not only in the province but across the country. But unfortunately, the current status of the institution doesn’t match its glorious past.
“I would say it has been distracted on all fronts. But I am very optimistic and confident that we will restore its actual identity and you will see visible changes in its performance very soon,” he pledged.
Dr Gul Majeed took over the charge as vice-chancellor in March this year when the university was facing serious management, financial, administrative and other problems. The university had been run under a caretaker set-up. The former vice-chancellor had been ousted on charges of corruption and misuse of authority.
The contractual employees of the university were on protest. The top management seats - registrar, controller and director finance were vacant. Financial problems were so serious that the university was unable to pay salaries and pensions to its employees and pensioners.
But instead of losing heart and getting disappointed, the vice-chancellor accepted all those problems as a challenge and started overcoming them one by one.
Within a month of his joining the university as vice-chancellor, he convened an emergency meeting of the syndicate wherein committees were formed to deal with the most urgent problems.
The contractual employees have already called off their protest drive as a goodwill gesture on arrival of the vice-chancellor.
The court awarded some relief to them and the syndicate formed a committee to come up with some workable suggestions for their gradual regularization.
The committee would soon submit its recommendations, the vice-chancellor said.
The financial crisis was no doubt the most serious problem of the university. The university administration had no choice but to make a partial payment of salaries and pensions to its employees. The vice-chancellor wrote a letter to the Higher Education Department and pursued it personally seeking annual grant-in-aid for the university.
Meetings were held with the Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Higher Education Kamran Bangash and officials of the Higher Education Department in view of the sensitivity of the situation.
The authorities promised to assist the university in overcoming the issue but no tangible step could be taken in this regard so far.
The vice-chancellor along with the three other vice-chancellors of the universities on Greater Campus - University of Peshawar, University of Engineering and Technology and Agriculture University - then called on Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood.
He was quite thankful to the federal minister for not only holding a meeting with them without prior appointment, but officials of all the relevant departments were called for another meeting on the same day to discuss the matter and work out some solution for it.
The federal government issued Rs 204 million to the Islamia College University as a result of those meetings which enabled the institution to pay the salaries and pensions and do some other urgent things.
The vice-chancellor had already austerity measures to overcome the financial crisis of the university. The contingency expenses of the vice-chancellor secretariat had been reduced. The vice-chancellor is entitled to use two cars with a chauffeur - one for official use and another for domestic use.
But the vice-chancellor returned the car for domestic use to the transport department of the university and the official care is used only in official hours. Strict observance of official timing has also been ensured to avert misuse of the university resources in the name of overtime.
Another big problem faced by the university was the stoppage of work on the Rs4 billion development projects due to non-payments.
The projects were supposed to have been completed by April 14, 2021.
The vice-chancellor held successive meetings with the consultant, contractor, donor - Higher Education Commission (HEC) - and relevant sections of the university. Some seven bills of the contractor - Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) - have been cleared and payments released. Certain controversial bills have been kept pending. Formal work on the project would be resumed soon, the vice-chancellor added.
The vice-chancellor is also quite serious about the costly properties - both commercial and agricultural - of the university. These properties would be properly utilized and they would become an effective source of revenue for the university. Through effective utilization of the properties, the goal of ‘free education’ to the students would be achieved, the vice-chancellor remarked.
The university owns 222 shops and residential flats in the main Khyber Bazaar for which it gets annual revenue of Rs9.5 million, while the market rents of the same property should not be lesser than Rs1,620 million.
These shops and flats would be renovated and a high rise building constructed on the empty land adjacent to these shops, the vice-chancellor said.
Commercial flats are also being constructed on the university’s 22 kanal land near Board Bazaar. The 221 shops in the vegetable market of the university in Charsadda would also be rented out at market price.
The strategy would also be adopted for retrieval and proper utilisation of the university’s agricultural land, 2000 acres each in Charsadda and Swabi districts.
For the purpose and Board of Management comprising deputy commissioner, police chief and revenue head of each district, vice-chancellor of the university and other officers concerned has been formed, which would ensure retrieval and proper utilization of the properties.
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