Interview of Dr. Javaid R. Leghari

May 22 - May 28, 2006

As Pakistan is progressing and working towards establishing its name in the race with other developing countries, various institutes have come about to give a better future to its pupils. The proliferation of such institutes gives an idea as how popular has become the need of business education in our society both in public and private sectors. In order to understand this phenomenon, we took a journey to one of the popular institutes of Karachi that is SZABIST.

The Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology become apparent in 1995 when it was given a charter through a legislative act of the Sindh Assembly and approved and recognized by the Higher Education commission (HEC), Pakistan, as a degree granting institution. SZABIST has campuses in Karachi, Islamabad, Larkana and Dubai. Here in Karachi, we met Dr. Javaid R. Leghari the Vice Chairman and Project Director (Vice Chancellor) of SZABIST, let's listen to his views.

PAGE: Tell us a little about your background also how you become the Project Director of SZABIST?

JRL: As to my background , prior to joining SZABIST, I was in US, spent 20 years in North America and I was at the State University New York as a full tenured Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies and that was in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

It was around that time that SZABIST was established in Pakistan and they were looking for a Project Director to establish the University and I applied and amongst 22 names that were short listed, I was interviewed and selected for the position so I was the first person who started of with SZABIST about 10 years back since then there has been no going back.

PAGE: What actually is called SZABIST and how this University came into being?

JRL: Well, SZABIST is a society that wanted to establish a university and they were looking for a person to establish the University, I applied for the position in 1995 and then joined. My earliest responsibility was to have the SZABIST act pass through the Assembly so SZABIST was given a charter in Oct 1995. I was here, we started of with this building here, we renovated it, my goal was to start something right away even though we had a land on the outskirts of Karachi, where we had a master plan to establish a number of faculties for SZABIST but that even would have taken a number of years in terms of its construction so I convinced the board that we should immediately start of inside a premises in the city and we easily started of with two faculties, so in Jan of 1996, we started of with the faculties of Computer Sciences and Management Sciences so this is basically how we started of.

PAGE: Talking about your family background, much has been known about Legahris for producing highly qualified people, you are one of them ... what's your statement on that?

JRL: Well, Leghari's are a Balochi tribe that are actually scattered throughout Pakistan, majority of them are focused in Southern Punjab and in Sindh. I come from the Legharis of Sindh, we speak Saraiki and yes you are correct, a number of Legharis ,as far as I know, give a lot of importance to education. Even though there are Legharis in the agriculture field, in education sector, in foreign services and in the judiciary. Legharis are quite intellectuals I would say.

PAGE: As a senator, how do you see the role of government in evolving educational institutions, how government is fulfilling this need of society?

JRL: There are two sectors in education, private and public sector. Public sector has been there since pre-partition days. Private education is a new phenomenon and it started with LUMS, which was the first private university in the mid 80's, then there was Aga Khan University.

Basically the private universities started mushrooming from the mid 1990's so SZABIST was among the earlier private universities along with Sir Syed and CBM, we all were given the charter more or less on the same time and this was actually the policy of Benazir Bhutto, she encouraged the private sector to come forward and since then private universities have been established. Basically the government at that time did not have a clear cut policy as to how to regulate the private universities but since then the HEC and even the governor houses in various provinces they have established sectors for the regulation of private sector.

PAGE: But just giving charters to establish is enough on the part of government or do you think they should also entail the curriculum policy?

JRL: Absolutely not, that is where academic freedom comes into picture. Public universities are highly regulated by the government, they are spoon fed, they are given a curriculum and asked to work with it... which should be in accordance with the needs of a community ... where actually education is subsidized so every citizen has a right to education.

Now in the private sector of course the focus is on something else because since government does not support us at all. There are no subsidies ,and grants for the current education so we have to support ourselves through private financing whether through endowments, donations or through tuition fees, so we have to be extra careful in offering quality education because unless we can offer quality education, the students would not come to us.

You know the average cost of giving a private education in Pakistan is about hundred thousand rupees a year, that is on an average, so everybody cannot afford a hundred thousand rupees a year unless the type of education that you are given is of quality however on the public sector side the annual fee is five to six thousand a year, so anybody can afford it but then they are not accountable to public and that's why a lot of mismanagement is taking place in public sector and I guess we now see a big growth in the number of students in the private sector and it's the survival of the fittest.

PAGE: Having an edge in providing business education, what basic principles does SZABIST follow ?

JRL: Well, since our curriculum is not regulated by the government, we do follow a certain minimum criteria in terms of a number of credit hours, but our curriculum is very dynamic, it really changes every year because there are so many advancements made in the sectors of management sciences and computer sciences. In computer sciences almost 100 % of the curriculum changes in about every three years time, most of the languages, soft wares become obsolete in three years time so there is a big challenge for faculty and on us to completely revise the curriculum almost every semester.

In management sciences, there are new emerging fields, IT services is one, chain management is another one, retail management sector has come up very strongly which was not there in previous curriculum if you go five years back. If you start comparing the curriculum of management sciences of today with what it was five years back, you will see big differences. Human Resource Management for example at one time was hardly a subject, it was taught within a subject as few chapters, then it emerged as an independent subject, today there are specialization in Human Resource Management.

This year for example SZABIST will be starting with separate masters degree programme in International Human Resource Management so there will be about six to seven courses just offered in HRM this year.

PAGE: How do you see the need of business graduates in our society?

JRL: I think there is a big mushrooming demand of business graduates particularly in the service sector, in the finance sector, in the marketing sector and in Human Resource sector. You see a big demand and there are not enough quality graduates coming out from institutions so yes everybody does get employed but those coming out of quality institutions are having excellent salaries and also proceeding to other countries as well.

PAGE: Comparatively with other institutions of the city like IBA, where do you see SZABIST is standing at the moment?

JRL: I think this city has number of good institutions and we find ourselves among the better institutes of the city as well as of the country. We are currently ranked among the best institutes of South Asia and these evaluations are done by the independent magazine and boards. For example there is this Business Week which everybody knows and they have their own independent criteria of ranking and Asia Week and Asia Incorporated have their own independent criteria of ranking and they have ranked us among the better universities, only two universities in Pakistan actually are listed in some of these rankings, one is SZABIST and one is from upper Pakistan.

PAGE: What faculty standards do you follow, have you taken it from abroad or is it from Pakistan as well?

JRL: Well our emphasis here is on faculty that has both post graduate experience and industrial experience because within the subjects like computer and management sciences, you just can't have the faculty member who is a pure teacher, teaching from the books. We want to bring organizational and industrial experience in the classroom. We just don't rely on the visiting faculty for example, you might have a senior brand manager, senior retail manager, senior HR manager working in some of the top multinationals, we reach to these people to come and teach courses at SZABIST on HR, on brand management, on retail management so these electives are typically taught by visiting faculty.

Our core faculty or the full time faculty teaches all the basic service courses and the core courses and the required courses. It's a good mix and match combination of full time faculty and visiting faculty but the majority of our faculty has post graduate qualification, Ph.D's in some cases, a number of them have foreign experience and majority of them have all working experiences. We don't employ anybody who is a fresh graduate.

PAGE: As a senator, you might have an eye towards economic conditions, how do you see SZABIST business graduates coping with it, do you have any particular examples?

JRL: Well obviously, we see sky rocketing inflation in Pakistan, inflation has been going up consistently every year and it is going beyond the means of a common man of course. In terms of our graduates, the salaries that our graduates are commanding are excellent at this point in time and they keep increasing every year and that is actually one of the reasons that there is a big difference that you do MBA from SZABIST; our graduates come out at least twice the salary than what an average graduate receives, so even though things are expensive but I think our graduates are doing well.

In terms of rising within an organization, they typically reach middle management, within two to three years; so far our graduates have not reached to the position of the CEO's or the top executives because we are less than 10 years old but InshaAllah one of these days, we expect number of CEOs may be in the fortune five hundred from SZABIST graduates.

PAGE: Which areas do you think are the best working areas for business graduates at this moment?

JRL: At the moment, this varies from year to year but currently the areas of finance and human resource management are the hottest areas in terms of recruitment and employment.

PAGE: Do you see strong backing of this government towards private institutions?

JRL: Absolutely there is no support even though you continuously read in the newspapers about Higher Education Commission and the budget towards the higher education is almost increasing 50% every year. Currently it is 11 to 12 billion rupees compared to 500 million rupees about five to six years back so a considerable amount of money is going to Higher Education but literally 0% from that is going to private education so the private universities are all on their own and whatever facilities they are developing are basically of their own despite that they are producing better graduates than public universities.

If the government of course would change its policy, and we would definitely debate it in the Senate and in the lower house that like in a developed world such as North America or in Europe, the funding that is given by the government is given to both private and public universities.

it's a competitive funding for example I have an excellent faculty of students in the area of software development, even though as a private university, on the basis of competitive proposal submission the government may decide for the fund for example they thought the centre of excellence for software development is a private university then the fund would be allocated to them and that's how the universities like Stanford, Harvard and Yale are working. Majority of their funding, ever 60% of top ten universities of North America are coming from the government. In Pakistan it is 0%.

PAGE: Coming to the economic condition of Pakistan as our economy is growing, what advancements should be a part of our curricula to meet the upcoming challenges?

JRL: First of all, I will challenge your statement that the economy is getting better every day. It is the government propaganda and fabricated statistics. If I would come down to the grass root level when you talk to communities, you talk to people, there are more people today below poverty line than there were five to six years ago even the poor have become poorer so basically the wealth is accumulated in the hands of few people.

If we look at the macro indicators you would say economy is improving but if you look at the micro level, economy is not improving. Even the better reserves are the outcome of 9/11 and not the policy driven reserves. Today we find that people who are graduating are still immigrating to the places like Australia and Canada and you can find very qualified people even in senior position, they tend to leave. If the economy is so flourishing why would they leave.

PAGE: Coming back to your institution, does your institution also offer law education?

JRL: Yes, we have five faculties here, in addition to management and computer sciences, we have social sciences, economics, law and media sciences.

PAGE: Do you offer business law also?

JRL: We have business law as a subject within business as well in the law faculty.

PAGE: How much do you see the importance of business law education as we have seen quite many loopholes in this area?

JRL: Business ethics is a very important subject, we teach it and with it we also teach subjects like corporate law and intellectual property.

PAGE: In brief, how do you see the performance of our business schools and in what areas they are lacking.

JRL: My advice to other business schools would be that they should not just concentrate on classroom teaching and class room curriculum that should only comprise of 50 to 60 percent of the training. There are lots of things that we need to train and teach our students, how to live, how to be a better citizen, how to be a better professional, how to become better managers and how to become better leaders. One of the subject that we also teach is called "creative leadership" so we just don't offer management courses we also talk about how to create and innovate ideas so that you could stand out and shine and become a CEO of your organization in one of your future days.

PAGE: Message to younger generation

JRL: Younger generation should all work with honesty, work hard, work smarter ... at SZABIST we have a slogan which says "we just don't work hard we work smart". The idea is that everybody should work to become much more effective to produce more than what is expected and let us represent our institution and country as good citizens and good ambassadors.