I greatly welcome the students, faculty and staff at the commencement of the Fall Semester 2018 and the Academic Session 2018-2019.
The Academic Session 2018-2019 is expected to be incredibly busy but exciting for all of us. In my personal context, the beginning of the Fall Semester 2018 almost coincides with the beginning of my 2nd year as the Vice Chancellor at this great Alma Mater. This affords me an opportunity to reflect back on the preceding year’s achievements as well as the shortcomings and outline our agenda for this session.
The year 2017-2018 proved a great learning year for me and my colleagues that helped us to dig deep into the issues facing the university. When I entered the university last summer, I had no idea about the financial health of the university. My Treasurer, in the very first meeting dropped a bombshell when she, rather very casually mentioned that we do not have enough funds to pay pension for the ongoing month. All of a sudden, I found that all my aspirations about improving the infrastructure, prioritizing the service delivery, revolutionizing the learning standards and enhancing students’ financial aid came to a standstill. To this date we are in a state of war for survival. Despite generating over 60% of the budgetary resources on our own through student fees, rentals and research and consultancy services, the rising cost of salaries, pensions and allowances leave us nothing for infrastructure development and service delivery.
Over the course of last one year, we have under-taken several strategic steps to overcome the financial crises. Firstly, we have kept a virtual ban on further employment except where it was utmost necessary. Secondly, we have drastically reduced expenses on purchases. Thirdly, we have revised rents of certain university properties and have rented out canteens and shops afresh through open bid, which has fetched university additional annual revenue of Rs. 22 million. Finally, we have thoroughly reviewed the student intake of various departments and programs and chalked out a comprehensive strategy to optimally utilize the available resources. For example, this year over 300 additional students are admitted at the Jinnah College for Woman. Likewise, over 200 additional students have been admitted at the College of Home Economics. Our strategy also paid well in BS admissions where over 16000 applications have been received of which we expect a student intake of over 3000 as compared to 1800 admissions the previous year. This is expected to bring an additional revenue amounting to about Rs 200 m/year. By optimizing the student intake, we anticipate to almost double the income from student fee.
All these measures taken by my colleagues, virtually on war footings have given me confidence that we can put the university back to its feet. Despite this, considering the continuous rise in salaries and pensions, we anticipate that the financial health of the university cannot be improved unless the university is afforded some out of box solutions. Ironically, much of our financial woes are not of our making alone! For instance, the annual ~10-15% increase in salaries and pensions is announced by the government. For last 5 years, the university has spent over Rs 800 m in this head with less than 15% of these spending being covered by the government in terms of additional grant. We have calculated that government has increased the pension by 80-100% in the last 6 years and being a seventy years old university, the number of our pensioners have reached to about 1600 in number. Yet, the HEC budget allocations carry no extra head for these expenditures and the University of Peshawar is treated at par with any newly established university who will have their first pensioners retiring in 30-35 years down the line. I invite all stakeholders to join hands and help the Alma Mater to resolve these issues so that instead of worrying about pensions we put our efforts and energies on developing a conducive environment for effective learning and innovative research.
On the academic front, we have taken several initiatives in the last academic year. The functions involving processing of MPhil/MS/PhD cases were taken away from the Directorate of Admissions and assigned to a newly established Directorate of Advanced Studies. This has greatly improved the performance of both the offices. For the first time in the history of the university, not a single MPhil/MS/PhD case remains pending ASRB (Advanced Studies and Research Board) approval by the end of the calendar month. In this regard, establishment of ten sub-ARBs at faculty level for processing MPhil/MS cases have given opportunities to over 80 additional faculty members to be part of ASRBs giving them ownership and experience to improve advanced-studies standards in the university. The Directorate of Admissions, on the other hand concentrated on admissions. Again, for the first time, the University was able to announce undergraduate admissions before the declaration of intermediate results that bring about two-fold increase in the number of applications received.
Our latest initiative is the establishment of the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS). Starting from this Fall Semester, this office will be responsible for a coordinated and uniform implementation of the BS Programs in the University. Starting with issuing annual academic calendar, this office is assigned the task to carry out a centralized registration of students at the beginning of each semester through the Treasurer’s office, and simultaneous declaration of semester results throughout the University through the Semester Exam Section of the Controller Office. This office is expected to greatly streamline the undergraduate programs of studies in the university.
Welcome to Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre.
Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre is a little niche of University of Peshawar that has a unique stance and standing: it has a pro-Islamic aura that blends in excellently with modern day spirit. The Centre offers studies in subjects like Economics, Computer Science, English Language and Literature, Political Science, Mathematics, Statistics etc. along with traditional Islamic subjects like Fiqh, Hadith, Tafseer, Tajweed, Islamic History, Contemporary Muslim World etc. at graduation level. It is indeed serving in a huge capacity to facilitate Madrassah students by including them into the mainstream Graduation study Program of Peshawar University. As Director I am proud to see that it has made steady progress: from a mere 80 students to more than 600; from a single program of BA (Hons) to BCS to MA (Qura’nic Studies) to M.Phil leading to Ph.D and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Islamic Banking. It has improved tremendously in the last couple of years and has expanded its horizons in a great way. It has some unique features like regular conferences and seminars, research oriented mode of study, semester system, make-up exams, a highly conducive pro-Islamic environment for female students, its state of the art labs, a spacious library, its lush green lawns, a playground, a hostel, a Masjid --- may not I say that Allah has richly blessed this Centre. Its corridors echo with heartwarming Tilawat-e-Qur’an and Zikr-e-Rasool (SAWW). Often when I take a round, what I overhear from the ongoing classes is Qur’an and Hadith. Like Pakistan, it was built with the aspiration to serve Islam and may I say it is striving hard to do so in its minor capacity and meager resources. The staff of this Centre is dedicated and thoroughly professional. Yet the hallmark of my staff is their highly co-operative and accommodative bearing towards our students. Our research journal ‘Al-Idah’ is a voice of moderation and is an emblem of all-inclusive nature of Islam. The Centre has proven its worth and earned merit in diverse capacities. It has been a valuable addition to Academia. I wish it the very best and hope that it may achieve further glories and more success in future. Our asset is our students. We leave no stone unturned to groom them, to train them and to equip them to face the challenges faced by Muslim Ummah.