Vice Chancellor - Prof. Dr. Muhammad Asif Khan

Welcome Note for the Academic Year 2018-2019 | Monday, August 27, 2018

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.

Over the years, boys’ hostels have been a major headache for the university. The mismanagement of decades on part of the provost office had let the hostels become a den of illegal occupants that became a great security threat. Over 300 rooms were occupied by illegal occupants in the name of student wings of political parties. These rooms were being used for illegal activities including sub-letting to outsiders. So much so, that out of 428 seats in one of these hostels, only 74 seats were occupied by genuine students who paid for this facility. The Provost Office, with the help of the Chief Security Officer, University Security Force, Chief Proctor and Campus Police have conducted a historical operation during the summer vacations and have retrieved the hostel rooms from these unwanted elements saving the university from a looming disaster. I greatly acknowledge the able support by the CCPO-Peshawar, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, Peshawar who fully backed the University for achieving this remarkable success.

There are many areas where we need to make further advances to bring this Alma Mater to a status it rightly deserves. We are working hard to improve the quality and services of many offices in the University including the ORIC, QEC, Distance Education, Career Development Centre, Alumni Office, Fund Raising Office, Media and Communication Office and Centre for IT Services. We are working on Campus Management Solution (CMS) on war footings and hope to achieve automation of the entire university functioning by the beginning of year 2019. The HEC supported Smart and Safe University project to provide WiFi and CCTV services throughout the campus will be completed by the end of the ongoing calendar year. The recently completed Centralized Advanced Research Laboratory is to become a hub of analytical services in the province in this academic year.

For this year, we intend to focus on some specific objectives. Firstly, I shall urge the faculty to concentrate on improving the quality of our product, i.e., graduating students. Our intake is best of the best; we need to simply ensure to capitalize on the talent we receive and groom it to a level that it turns out to be a brand name for the university, besides being a bread-earner for her family and responsible citizen. For this we have to bring drastic changes in our curriculum designing and learning effectiveness using both traditional as well as the innovative strategies. I call upon the Centre for Human Resource Development (CHRD) and Quality Enhancement Cell to spearhead this cause and hold a continuous array of seminars and workshops to facilitate the faculty, especially those who are at the initial stages of their teaching/research careers to be abreast with modern developments in higher education pedagogy. Secondly, I shall take this opportunity to improve the quality and quantity of research output by our faculty and graduate students. With best of the best library and laboratory facilities, the faculty and graduate students have no excuse not to lead the country on research front. Already, I am proud of Assistant- and Associate-Professor level faculty for the quality of their research projects discussed at ASRB. Without compromising the quality, we need to encourage and facilitate our graduate students to complete their research in time and timely publication of their research articles. Side by side, our applied and social scientists need to equally concentrate on relevance and application of their research in solving real-life problems. The ORIC at the University is slowly gaining momentum to provide a platform for our scientists to make their research applicable and commercial. I hope we shall have many success stories emerging from this collaboration between ORIC and applied and social science departments by the end of the of this academic year. At this juncture, I may share that new books worth Rs35 millions are being added to the libraries of the university, with additional purchase worth Rs 20 m in pipeline.

Finally, the University, in this academic year, is particularly concentrating upon co-curricular activities. In addition to well-organized sports calendar, the University is holding an inter-faculty debate/declamation contests through student societies immediately at the end of the fall semester to groom the public-speaking and leadership skills. The College of Commerce and Institute of Management Studies (IMS) are organizing a Business Plan Competition to select potential startup at the newly-established Business Incubation Centre under ORIC. Finally, the Career Development Centre is being tasked to organize a University Job Fair in spring 2019 that will allow students and faculty to interact with market and industry and help in increasing employability of graduating students.

Dear faculty members, administrative staff and students! Safeguarding the interest of this university is our profound duty for which we need to play a proactive role. We need to develop unity between ourselves and take a stand against those elements who are bent upon using this Alma Mater for their vested interests. A group of outsiders, pretending as students of this university are bent upon spoiling peaceful academic environment in the university. Unfortunately, the bona fide students whose rights are being compromised by these fake students remain silent, rather innocently play in their hands. I urge students and faculty of this great Alma Mater to expose such elements and forge a unity between ourselves to thwart their nefarious designs. With the grace of Allah and sincerity of cause, we shall succeed to make the University of Peshawar, the best university in the country as it used to be half a century back.

Vice Chancellor's Last Year Message