fbpx

We Do Not Have Enough PhDs Dr. Mujahid Kamran

In our conversation we tried to find out how Mujahid Kamran is doing as Vice-Chancellor Punjab University.

Standing outside the VC House, looking across the Punjab University the long shadows of solitary afternoon lengthened as the time for our appointment with the VC kept shifting ahead by an hour after every hour. The imposing house had more than loyal guards and extra wary administrative staff, not letting us sit even in the sprawling garden that could house hundreds like us. something very typical of our desi style of governance! But the warm welcome Mujahid Kamran gave us quickly made up for the loss.

In our conversation we tried to find out how Mujahid Kamran is doing as Vice-Chancellor Punjab University.

Jahangir’s World Times:
What inspired you to become writer?
Mujahid Kamran:

I have been an avid reader right from my school age. My father was a journalist and he would keep insisting me to read and read. On my frequent visits to libraries I would somehow read biographies and history. That was my latent interest. The other thing that encouraged me to read history or biographies was my desire to know physics inside out, so that the subject that I had decided to adopt as my profession would come to me naturally. Then it is almost natural for an enriched mind to delve into something that sooths ones creative instinct ‘writing is always the ideal way to do that. Thus I ventured into writing. The Founder of Modern Physics was my first book. It also could be that my love for physics had brought the writer out of me.

JWT: What inspired you to write your famous book ‘Einstein and Germany?

MK: I read an article ‘Einstein and Germany’ in 1968 in an American magazine for physics. It was a fascinating article about Einstein. I was amazed to learn that being a German Jew he detested Germany for its political policies to the extent that he eventually gave up German nationality. He went to Switzerland to pursue his career in physics, but when he became famous Germans were somehow able to persuade him to come back. He lived in Germany from 1916 to 1933. By this time he had developed the framework for atomic bomb but knowing Germans he did not want to sell this idea to them. Somewhere in his heart of hearts he knew that this would be sheer devastation. He contacted America and eventually went there to develop the bomb. It is a fact, that he never wanted the bomb to be used, because he knew the consequences. And when it was used, he was so devastated that for the rest of his life that he worked for a nuclear free world. All these things ignited in me the desire to further explore this person and eventually I penned this book Einstein and Germany.
I certainly believe that Quaid-e-Azam and Karachi universities are doing a good job. And why would not they when they got PhD. teachers to the tune of 100 per cent. But that does not mean they are flawless. If you look at both these universities closely, you would find that they each have only one big ticket to their credit. Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) has Mathematic Department and Karachi University has Chemistry Department.
 

JWT: How is Punjab University doing academically?
MK: To begin with I would like to say that our students are doing nice job both in curricular and extracurricular activities. Only recently we have won positions in sports and debates. Our students have surpassed any other university of the country in these two particular skills.

JWT: We do not see any quality students coming out of Punjab University?

MK: I agree there is a problem. We are striving to improve it. Actually a wide majority of students comes from rural areas and they happen to be uncouth by default. Academically these students at times prove excellent but problem comes when their overall personality does not give signals about their academic pursuits. To improve on this issue we need to work on such students at their school level.

JWT: Why Punjab University is not competitive domestically?

MK: This is because we do not have enough PhDs. When I joined Punjab University it only had 20 per cent PhDs. I took this ratio up to 37 per cent. Even this percentage is extremely low; it should be if not 100 then 99 per cent at least. I certainly believe that Quaid-e-Azam and Karachi universities are doing a good job. And why would not they when they got PhD. teachers to the tune of 100 per cent. But that does not mean they are flawless. If you look at both these universities closely, you would find that they each have only one big ticket to their credit. Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) has Mathematic Department and Karachi University has Chemistry Department. The rest is still an unfinished job. The number of research publications in the QAU has been stationary in the last three years. It has stood at maximum 550. In Punjab University, we had 162 research publications in 2007, now it is somewhere around 378. If we keep up with the pace, provided the policies of the universities remain persistent, we would soon be competing with the leading universities not only domestically but internationally as well.
In 2008 I invited some prominent political figures like Jahangir Badr, Saad Rafiq, Javed Hashmi, Imran Khan even his brother-in-law Hafizullah Niazi for negotiations. At one point I even requested them to keep away from university and stop exploiting students for their political ends. Jamaat-e-Islami,  however, refused to give in.
 
JWT: The University is not even ranked among the 500 top universities?

MK:
It’s a marketing flaw. we have not marketed ourselves to the agencies that rank universities for their academic excellence. I have started communicating with them and soon there would be some development coming along.

JWT: What have been your major achievements in University?


MK:
When I assumed the office of VC, the number one issue that needed immediate attention was the paucity of funds for research and development. From indigenous sources the university was generating only four million rupees annually; I immediately appreciated the amount to 50 million rupees. Today it stands on 70 million rupees. Similarly, the Faculty Development fund was insufficient at Rs 50 million. I took it up to almost 80 million rupees. This enhancement in funding has not only increased research and development activities in the university but has enable us to send at least 100 teachers abroad for PhD. Some of them have started coming back as well.

JWT: Do these PhDs really come back?


MK:
They would always come back. There have always been a certain percentage of people who prefer staying back, and that ratio has never been above two or three per cent. When I did my PhD the situation was similar. And this trend will continue to be like that.

JWT: What are the research potentials of Punjab University?


MK:
It would look like beating about the bush but as I have already said it all depends on the strength of PhD teachers in the university. Presently, we got 900 teachers out of which only 350 are PhDs. If this percentage rises to say even 800 the situation would change altogether. Frankly speaking we have not tapped on our potential to the maximum. It is matter of setting our priorities right at the government level.

JWT: What about the Department of Mycology and Plant Pathology it’s an awful story.


MK:
Agree. I understand that the students were not taught relevant syllabi and that their department lacked right faculty, which caused them huge problems in the field. But I actually inherited that problem. Initially, I tried to solve that problem through a committee but when things started getting worse I decided to involve a psychologist to find out why the negotiations were breaking down time and again. To my chagrin I was told that there was a bad blood between the student body and the committee. The moment I spotted the real issue the problem was solved in hardly 10 minutes. You can go and see how they are doing; I have appointed an agriculturist as a director of their department.
The ASA does not exist for me anymore. I am not meeting them for the last few months. I have told them that unless they stop telling lies I would not talk to them. They have been levelling allegations against me. Most of the members of ASA belong to the battalion appointed in Zia-ul-Haq era. A bunch of opportunists I would call them.
 
JWT: Tell us something about the books being published by the University and how important these publi-cations are?

MK:
The importance is immeasurable. Book writing in itself is a source of research work. It discovers new and novel nuggets of knowledge that otherwise remains elusive to the hungry reader. See in certain subjects like Urdu literature for example a lot of research has come out from book writing. There was a reference book called the ‘Contribution of Muslims of Subcontinent in Urdu literature. It was a very fine book. This book was last published 40 years ago. Being such a fine book it definitely needed new editions. We took up the responsibility and have so far published its four editions the fifth one is in the pipeline. Such books are very important. If you visit our website you would find description of books published by Punjab University.

JWT: Do you have any plan to revive student union?


MK:
Student union no doubt is a remarkable platform to bring about organisational and leadership skills in students. I would love to bring it around, but only with a condition, that it has no affiliation with any political party. If the union becomes tool in the hands of political parties it lead to violence. My stand is very clear on this.

JWT: Did you ever try to cleanse student union of political affiliation?


MK:
In 2008 I invited some prominent political figures like Jahangir Badr, Saad Rafiq, Javed Hashmi, Imran Khan even his brother-in-law Hafizullah Niazi for negotiations. At one point I even requested them to keep away from university and stop exploiting students for their political ends. Jamaat-e-Islami, however, refused to give in. Unless there is a consensus within the political parties we cannot have a clean and focused student union. And unless there is a student union free of political affiliation I would never allow it to flourish at all.

JWT: Is Academic Staff Association (ASA)  a pain in the neck?


MK:
The ASA does not exist for me anymore. I am not meeting them for the last few months. I have told them that unless they stop telling lies I would not talk to them. They have been levelling allegations against me. Most of the members of ASA belong to the battalion appointed in Zia-ul-Haq era. A bunch of opportunists I would call them. Some of these people have now reached to the top positions through political bullying and nepotism. These elements want to capture PU so that it becomes a breeding ground for their rogue activities. My stance is clear I will never compromise with Jamaat-e-Islami.

JWT: What about Higher Education Commission?


MK:
My stance is clear on that, it should not be devolved. But if the government is adamant in doing away with it then still there should be some federal coordinating body for higher education. Provinces do not have the capacity or even the capability to take on the job. Every thing will become prey to bureaucratic wrangling and the entire academic momentums will slowly come to a grind.
By: Durdana Najam

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *