TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
May 11 - 17, 2009

That what best a synergy of medical and social studies can imbrue in a demagogue with an arduous task of marshalling higher education is a conspicuous suggestion when one visits inside one of Pakistan's few general public sector universities-University of Karachi that nurtures microbiology and agronomics researches and initiatives pertaining to renewable energy as incumbently as it attracts score of local as well as foreign students aspiring for European studies and other dynamic social sciences.

A meeting with Dr. Prizada Qasim-an educationist, a poet, and a scholar-having a long and indefatigable journey on his back does not only give a feeling of consoling dive in to the sea that smacks of nothingness on the surface but beneath harbours treasure-troves, but also is a real treat. At present, he is gathering his leadership skills to change the mindset of people under his ambit to mobilize monetary resources for managing university affairs amidst economic recession.

The resource generation, the Vice Chancellor UoK succinctly remarked, is vital at this crucial time when financial constraints have brought all the projects in the university to a grinding halt. Out of total education budget, government allocates 23 percent for higher education. While it earmarks annual budget for the higher education, funds for recurring expenditures are provided quarterly. He said government decided to approve recurring expenditures for capacity building and regular developments in the university. 'What we get on this account is in fragmentation and therefore at least fund evaporates by 20 percent in every quarter.'

Government should increase funds for recurring expenditures by 30 percent, he pleaded. In lieu of salaries only, we incur Rs60 million per month. With 24,000 students, the university employs 1,000 teaching and research and 2,500 supporting staff members. The university has established a Quality Enhancement Cell that for last four years has been functioning for teachers' training, curriculum revision, and infusing quality components in education standard, Dr. Qasim underscored.

Worldwide, there is a principle of keeping education budget at four percent of GDP, he said referring to Pakistan's education budget that dropped by 0.2 percent to 2 percent because of trimming education outlays. Higher education is expensive world over, and without government's subsidy or alternatively resource generation by university itself or by students this is not viable, said Dr. Qasim, who has accomplished a special course for heads of educational institutions on resource learning from Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, UK. In addition to this, in Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok he participated in a course on modern technology specially designed for VCs and heads of universities.

"I personally feel resource generation has become all important and public sector universities depending on government grants and funds should come towards it," he says. 'The dilemma is that in Pakistan there is a weak linkage of academia and corporate sector as both are unaware of mutual advantage of this connection.' He is of the view that universities should collaborate with corporate sector to establish companies. Giving an example, he said a department of the university could make an alliance to set up an advertising agency and it being 'idea nursery' could provide talent as well as other inputs. By the example, he wanted to summarize real potentials in various departments of the university that can be harnessed for mutual assistance. He is keenly seeking industrial collaboration for this. Then again, no mindset is a barrier, he reiterated.

He said that in last one year the university started to make connection with industry. 'HEJ has devised a bond with a pharmaceutical company that placed its incubator in the department.' Responding to a question, he said the link would take three to four years to be strengthened. For him strong relation would reflect in at least 30 percent budget contribution by the resource generation in UoK. In this regard, a meeting of FPPCI and UoK, to be participated by industry leaders and businesspersons, will be organized.

"We plan to bring the university in the phase where socio-economic oriented programmes should take place," he said. The university has already started specialized programmes in satellite technology. Dilating upon the research initiatives in agriculture, he said university's Institute of Suitable Hallophytes was conducting experiments on saline-tolerant technology through which Karachi-Balochistan coastline could be exploited for the agriculture production. UNESCO has acknowledged this research programme. 'We are looking for sponsors for the programme.' Similarly, microbiology and pharmaceuticals are two other areas of further exploration, suggested Dr. Qasim, who did his doctorate from University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England 78 on Neurology and worked in the laboratories of Lord Walton of Detachant. An energy park electrified with solar energy was constructed in the University of Karachi. Dr. Qasim says Institute of Environmental Sciences is working to promote alternative sources of energies. There is a plan to grow all species of plants available in Pakistan in Botanical Park, first phase of which has been completed.

Having served on different posts in UoK, Dr. Qasim has affiliation with the university since 60. He was honoured first VC of Federal Urdu University, Karachi. He said quality of programmes would be enhanced in tandem with new introductions. 'Courses in sociology, criminology, economics, and foreign affairs are relevant to present socio-economic conditions. There is no institute in the country that has future studies, no think tank that is essential to help the country rise above the crises. What we have are intellectuals, writers, individuals working in isolation and harping on issues with voices that fall on deaf ears,' he lamented. There is a dearth of faculty development in social sciences in the university. He recommended the government to set up Chair for Future Studies in the university.

UoK has 60 percent share in total research papers produced in all PSUs nationwide. Dr. Qasim termed political intervention as a bane. He appeals political parties must work for the welfare of students and the university instead of working for political agenda. A triangular of indiscipline, illiteracy, and emotionality is a recipe of disaster, posited Dr. Pirzada Qasim who has written two collections of poetries.