End of a ‘bumpy road’ for QAU!
Farooq Awan


ISLAMABAD: If we call the last couple of years the most tumultuous, if not outright worst, in the history of Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), it will not be wrong. In these years, the country’s once top-ranking university had had months of protests by both students and faculty, its departments shut down, its research centres shattered and its fees multiplied – all this led to the university’s international ranking plummeting down. Worst of all, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had to step in to roll back illegal promotions of some faculty members in the university.

The recent appointment of Prof Syed Muhammad Ali as vice chancellor has rekindled the hope that the university will gradually be taking back its due position. Strength of any university is its faculty as their research publications and talent bring its reputation up or down. Despite being subject of adverse actions by the management and consuming much of their time in resistance movement, the QAU faculty is producing quality research. Since most of them are part of alumni, they have a sense of ownership of the institution they work for and a nostalgic pull, which has been witnessed during their hectic protests under the leadership of Dr Aqeel Bukhari, president of the Academic Staff Association (ASA).

One of the most imposing factors that HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri counts for what he called Prof Ali’s ‘well deserved’ appointment as the QAU VC is his characteristic of mobilizing the younger faculty members. In his congratulatory message, Dr Banuri also mentioned “inspiring students, building the entire campus, promoting innovation and commercialization, building bridges with the business community …” and much more as the skills and achievements of Dr Ali he demonstrated during his stint at the GC University Faisalabad. “We expect the same energy and dynamism from him (Prof Ali) at QAU,” the HEC chairman hopes.

Those who know him say that Prof Ali had proven his mettle when he was director of the Institute of Bio-Technology at Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan. Since he himself has been engine of faculty activism being president of the Academic Staff Association, faculty members are hopeful that he will bind up their wounds.

Prof Dr Sajid Mehmood Awan, former director of the National Institute of History and Cultural Research at the QAU, says part of the reason for quality education at the university is that it opens its doors for talented yet poor students. “These students got down to their research projects because they knew that they could not afford fee for supplementary examination,” he said. But the previous management enhanced fees and now “we have a new breed of students for whom flunking exams and paying fees for supplementary papers is not a big deal. Talented students are unable to get admissions because of higher fees.”

Prof Awan hopes that with a diversity of experience, Prof Ali will succeed in restoring the lost position of the QAU. A graduate of the QAU, where he has headed one of the most prestigious research institutions, Awan hopes that the new VC will prove the best his alma matter has had over the years.

The university has gone through a difficult phase as it faced severe administrative and financial crises in the last years wherein students, faculty and staff protested against malpractices, poor administration and the low education standards. “Therefore, it will be a great challenge for the newly-appointed vice chancellor to restore the fast deteriorating image of the once leading university of the country,” according to Prof Hasan Zaidi. However, he was hopeful that under the leadership of Prof Ali, the QAU will not only get its lost glory restored but also see new highs vis-à-vis quality education and research.