IBA: CENTER OF EXCELLENCE

An interview with Dr. Javed Ashraf Director, IBA

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Apr 23 - 29, 2001

The Institute of Business Administration (IBA), the Center of Excellence, started its journey for the cause of education in 1955 from Karachi and never looked back since its inception.

The crop of brilliant graduates it has produced so far is the real strength, identification and introduction of IBA. People having association with the IBA generally observe with a sense of pride that the graduates produced by IBA are like gold and accepted the world over like universal currency. This is certainly a great compliment for the performance of an educational institution in Pakistan. Yet another compliment which IBA deserves is its philosophy to keep off its students from politics. Probably, IBA is the only educational center, which despite having a great strength of outstanding students has successfully managed to keep the environments free from the pollution of the politics. The students and the faculties are sincerely committed to their professional targets, which they are achieving over the years.

IBA was established under the aegis of the University of Karachi with the assistance of Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania in 1955. Initially it was the recipient of $10 million as financial assistance from the US Aid during the years 1955 to 1968 and is now financially viable.

It developed faculty exchange and training programs initially with the Wharton School and later with the University of Southern California. As a result of this affiliation, a number of US professors and advisers taught at IBA and many Pakistani faculty members were sent to the States for Doctoral or Master's programs.

IBA made a start in the PILA Building, Stratchen Road and shifted to Kandawala Building, M.A. Jinnah Road in 1961. In view of the increasing number of programs introduced, IBA's University Campus and City campus were constructed in 1965.

IBA initially offered a degree in the Morning Program only but later started its Evening Program in the late fifties to cater to the needs of the numerous in-service managers interested in part-time business studies.

In 1982, IBA started the BBA (Hons) Program for the holders of Intermediate certificates. This move to take its input at the time when students made important career decisions further improved the quality of applicants to IBA.

The Center for Computer Studies was established in 1983 in collaboration with IBM with the objective of offering diploma in Systems Analysis to overcome the shortage of computer literate in the country. It now offers a full time MBA in MIS Program.

Dr. Javed Ashraf has recently taken over the charge of IBA as its Director. He carries a Ph.D in Economics from Northern Illinois University to his credit. He also holds a Master's degree in Economics and a Master's degree in Political Economy from Boston University. Prior to this he earned a B.A and M.A (Economics) from Government College Lahore.

Dr. Ashraf has published more than 50 papers in international journals and research publications. These include Harvard University's Economics Letters, Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations Review and the University of London's Applied Economics.

One of his papers was also published in Women in the Labor Market, part of the prestigious Critical Writings in Economics series. He presently sits on the Board of Reviewers of 6 international journals. He won the Dyson Faculty Excellence award for Research four times at the University of West Florida. He was also the first recipient of the E.W. Hopkins Award for the most outstanding faculty member in the College of Business at the University of West Florida. In 1997, the Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, awarded him first prize for his research publications.

Dr. Ashraf has held faculty positions at Northern Illinois University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Hartford and the University of West Florida. Prior to joining IBA, he was professor of Economics at the University of West Florida.

Dr Ashraf, who rates IBA as the second to none in Pakistan, has his dreams to take IBA to the height that it deserves. With the approval of the academic board Dr. Ashraf feels that IBA faculties need to be further strengthened.

Currently, IBA has 121 faculty members to its strength and out of them only 16 are on regular strength while of the remaining either working on contracts or on part time basis and some are on deputation.

The faculty for both the morning and evening programs of IBA comprises of high professional, experienced and dedicated teachers and researchers. Dr. Ashraf said that IBA's program to hire more Ph.D would not affect the status of the existing faculty members in any sense. He said that out of the existing faculty members, most of them have rich experience and delivering the goods to the satisfaction.

He told PAGE that under reinforcement of faculties, IBA has a target to hire at least 50 faculties' members on regular basis. Despite having strength of the best students in Pakistan what IBA lacks is the presence of sufficient strength of Ph.D. on its faculty strength. In order to overcome this shortcoming, IBA has chalked out plans to hire more doctors either on contracts or regular basis besides sending its own people abroad for earning Ph.D. from foreign universities. In fact IBA had a program to groom its outstandingly brilliant faculty members or graduates for Ph.D. which was abandoned by the people in the past for the reasons best known to them. Now that program has been initiated again and two of the members have already doing their Ph.D. in the United States and hopefully joining us next year.

IBA believes that the continuous development of professional, dedicated managers is the most important prerequisite for the economic development of a country like Pakistan.

Towards meeting this objective, the students thus selected are exposed to a training program that instills in the individual a pervasive habit to act as an agent of change in a stagnant environment rather than being the recipient of change from such an environment.

Graduates coming out with such a bent of mind invariably distinguish themselves as catalysts of progress for the organization and the country as well.

IBA maintains that education is an essential service and its supply should continue even during emergencies or disturbances. As a result of this philosophy, IBA has not been closed out of schedule even once since its inception and classes have been held in the most difficult situations. Regularity, punctuality and conformity to schedules and deadlines are axioms for the staff and students so much so that the participants complain of restlessness during holidays and come back joyously to the rigors of IBA. This exactness inculcates a strong commitment to professional excellence among IBA students a commitment that forms the cornerstone of IBA's philosophy.

The initial absorption of students through a methodical, merit based admission procedure, their subsequent training in a rigorous academic environment and the ultimate on-time completion of studies have now become a routine cycle at IBA a ritual that may be termed as IBA's way of life.

Environment

IBA ensures that faculty and students get to know each other in the learning process. Students completing their studies at IBA find that in addition to building lifelong friends, they can develop a business network that can serve them throughout their career.

Discipline

The system of education at IBA is a unique blend of classroom instruction, case method, role playing, business games, class presentations, personal research a practical training in business organizations. It demands total commitment, concentration and self-discipline. An important distinguishing feature of IBA is its adherence to the academic calendar known to students at least 12 months in advance. A detailed program is given to students on the very first day of the semester. Students are required to be regular and punctual in attendance as well as in reading assignments. Classes and examinations have been held on schedule even during curfew, political disturbances, riots etc. Students are evaluated and examined over the entire semester through quizzes, term-reports, hourly examinations, class presentations and final exams.

Merit

Admission procedures, curricula, methods of instruction and the system of examination at IBA give it a unique position among the educational institutions in Pakistan. Admission to IBA is granted strictly on merit basis. To demonstrate its adherence to the merit formula, IBA makes available answer books to candidates or their parents, if they so desire. IBA has earned a reputation for resisting pressures and recommendations for admissions.

Opportunities

Employers' interest in IBA graduates is high and is reflected by the fact that graduates get jobs within weeks of their graduation. A number of organizations place their job offers with IBA's placement office well before a class comes to maturity. Employers' representatives visit IBA to interview the graduating class and students often have to divide their time between their studies and appearing for job interviews in the last month of their stay at IBA. Students get attractive job offers even before graduation.

IBA's placement office keeps a liaison with the hiring organizations throughout the year. Graduates directories are sent to prospective employers to give notice of an outgoing batch and to introduce the graduates to the employers' offices.

The office also coordinates the summer internship, which is a requirement for the degree. The internships also provide the students a chance to evaluate prospective employing organizations. It gives them an opportunity to get inside knowledge about the organizations and develop contacts. Students often decide their area of major concentration on the basis of their experience during the internship. Some students go back to their place of internship as full-fledged employees. Students going through the BBA/MBA program complete two internships and in the process get to evaluate two organizations.

Facility

IBA's prestigious complex of buildings is spread over slightly more than 80 acres of land. The two campuses can compare in size and beauty with any campus in Asia and Europe and true to IBA's tradition of achieving excellence, are immaculately maintained.

Nestled in a serene corner of University of Karachi, the IBA Main Campus gives the impression of peace in spite of the hectic atmosphere that prevails behind this facade. IBA's main Campus is a large complex of buildings spread around lush green sprawling lawns, which serve as a backdrop to an extremely conducive environment for academic pursuit. The complex houses the Main Campus Program offices, the faculty offices, a library, auditorium, a dozen classrooms, three computer labs, spacious car parking and a cafeteria. In addition to the main campus facilities, students have complete access to the facilities at the City Campus.

The city campus, is spread over 3.5 acres in the heart of the city of Karachi is within walking distance from the business and financial nerve center of the country. Apart from the 24 classrooms, it houses the Evening Program offices, its own library, an auditorium, conference halls and seminar rooms, four computer labs and a roof top canteen. A new complex for preparatory and BCS program has recently been completed.

Auditoriums

The City Campus has a specious auditorium. Seminars, graduation ceremonies, plays and other functions are usually held at this auditorium. It has a seating cpacities for 334 persons and has ample backstage room for plays, which are, held these regularly every year. In fact, IBA deserves a world-class auditorium. The present building of auditorium, Dr. Ashraf said that the auditorium has to be restructured with an estimated cost of Rs60 lakh. IBA has already launched a fund raising campaign, which has been warmly responded by the corporate sector. United Bank has offered to contribute Rs10 lakh in response to the fund raising campaign of IBA.

The canteen, which does not, complies with the status and image the IBA has earned in the eyes of the people again present a poor look. He was of the view that the auditorium presenting a shabby looks also needs to be renovated in accordance with the image of the IBA.

He said that the corporate sector both public and the private is always willing to cooperate to facilitate the students' activities in IBA. He disclosed that PEPSI had offered Rs2 million for upgrading the canteen facilities at IBA campus. Similarly the financial sector was also willing to provide funding for restructuring of the facilities at the auditorium. He said that their proposals are being examined and after approval of the board the canteen and auditorium would be refurbished shortly.

He said with a sense of pride and satisfaction that IBA has earned a reputation among the business and corporate sectors that they voluntarily offer financial assistance for up-gradation of various facilities at IBA campus, this spontaneous support was however not utilized in the past for the good of the education and the students.

Libraries

Regarding the current state of libraries, Dr. Ashraf was not happy due to limited number of books it contain on business management and related subjects. He disclosed that IBA has launched a campaign for collection of quality books within the country and from abroad. He said that former IBA students now working in USA and other Western countries have responded warmly for collection of books and have started sending books for IBA libraries.

The libraries subscribe international, local journals and periodicals. The libraries however maintain copies of these journals since 1962.

Hostel

IBA has its own hostel for out of town students. The Professor A.S. Nagi Hostel has one hundred rooms and is for the exclusive use of IBA students. Dr. Ashraf pointed out that despite having enough land and premises, IBA lacks facilitating the girls students for hostel facilities. Some of the girls students coming from outstations have to stay at the girls hostel of Karachi University which is comparatively most costly and costs Rs2500 per month. In order to facilitate girls students a girls hostel is essentially required by IBA. He said that the proposal for construction of girls hostels has been moved to the board which is likely to be approved shortly.

Outlook

It is unanimously agreed that the human resource development is the only way out to face the economic challenges faced by the developed world. The situation doubles the responsibility of education sector to help out the country by contributing their due share in the efforts of the nation for human resource development.

IBA enjoys the reputation of producing graduates providing agile and vibrant leadership in various walks of life especially in the financial, economic and business sectors of the country. IBA being the public sector organization need to come out with a plan to spread the light of education to the grass root level at a massive scale enabling the nation to fight against unemployment and poverty. Pakistan is passing through tough times of its history due to enormous challenges both internally as well as externally. It is now the responsibility of the young leadership to shoulder responsibilities to cope with the situation.