KARACHI: Sukkur IBA is one of the country's leading universities - a status it has achieved through sheer perseverance.
"Gone are the days when we struggled to compete with leading universities at home and abroad", said the Sukkur IBA University Vice Chancellor Nisar Ahmed Siddiqui.
When the idea of this institute was first conceived, there was not a single business school in Sindh except one in Karachi. This prompted Nisar Siddiqui, the then commissioner of Sukkur, to take the initiative.
An education enthusiast himself, Siddiqui acquired two rooms in the Public School Sukkur and started the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration (SIBE).
After his transfer to Karachi in the late 90s, he continued to work for the institute and with the help of Khalid Soomro, who replaced him as the Sukkur commissioner, and the former education minister Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, he managed to acquire the land and funds for the construction of the building that houses the varsity today.
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The construction of the first block was completed in 1998 and the institute shifted to its new premises at Airport Road. Siddiqui became the Director (Vice-Chancellor) of Sukkur IBA in 2004 and the institute finally gained the status of a degree-awarding institute in 2017.
Expanding the horizons
The mission of the Sukkur IBA University is to serve the community by imparting quality education through innovative teaching and applied research.
Currently, the varsity offers various programmes at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. The undergraduate programmes include Business Administration, Education, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Energy, Mathematics, Physical Education and Sports Sciences. The graduate programmes include MBA, MS, ME, M Phil and PhD.
Siddiqui said that the varsity has highly qualified faculty. "There are 184 faculty members, of whom 76 are PhD, 64 have MS or M Phil degrees, 44 have bachelors and masters degrees, while 91 of the universities teaching staff are abroad for faculty development programmes".
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Determined to serve the community, Sukkur IBA not only strives to serve the privileged. It has opened its doors to all who want to gain knowledge. The varsity is the only institute in the country, where only 30% of the students are studying on self-finance and the majority, a whopping 70%, are studying on scholarships.
To recruit and empower the brightest minds, Sukkur IBA in collaboration with the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) is running a fully-funded National Talent Hunt Programme (NTHP) through which, 75 students from each province are selected each year on the basis of merit and offered a scholarship to further their education.
Similarly, under Sindh Talent Hunt Programme a total of 300 students are selected from across the province. They study at the varsity for six months or zero semester after which the students who manage to maintain the prescribed GPA are offered scholarships while those who fail to do so are given the option to continue their education through self-finance.
These programmes are aimed at bridging the gap between urban and rural education and in turn help create a diverse student body that serves as a source of learning for everyone present.
A step even further
The aim to impart quality education is actively driving the varsity which is now working on a unique venture of establishing community colleges across Sindh, said Siddiqui.
According to the VC, the colleges not only provide basic education but also equip students with technical and vocational training. Through this long-term initiative, greater access is given to the community to acquire quality education, he added.
Currently, there are 12 community colleges across the province but the university plans to expand this initiative by establishing 26 more community colleges.
Research and development
The Vice-Chancellor said that under its Executive Development Centre (EDC), Sukkur IBA is providing technical and managerial skills to individuals as well as employees of non-governmental organisations, public sector and corporate sector. So far, the centre has trained around 6,000 employees.
Other centres of the varsity include the Research and Innovation Centre, Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Incubation and Career Development Centre, said Siddiqui.
Sukkur IBA Registrar Zahid Hussain Khand shared that the university also houses a Fab Lab. "Our Fab Lab is the first ever in Pakistan, which has been established in collaboration with Fab Foundation (MIT) USA" said Khand, adding that through Fab Lab, one can turn conceptual modelling to real world objects. "Establishment of Behavioural Lab and Blockchain Innovation Centre are yet another milestones of our university," he said.
Speaking another initiative of the university, he said that the Trade Centre (Finance Lab) provides students opportunity for mock trading.
Khand said that the Mathematics Resource Centre and English Writing Centres were established with the aim to acquaint students with the modern learning methods. This is not all however.
"Sukkur IBA University's BBA agri-business programme is seen as a marriage between the agriculture and business fields," shared the registrar. He said that the Chinese Language Centre was working on the future workforce for CPEC. Mobile Science and Technology Lab are two other initiatives the varsity has undertaken to ensure innovative teaching.
Talking about future initiatives, Khand said that the establishment of Media and Communications Department along with a Television Station and FM Radio Station, Science and IT Park and Centre of Excellence and Artificial Intelligence Centre were also on the cards. "Never compromising on its motto of Merit-Quality-Excellence, Sukkur IBA University sticks to its resolve to provide quality education to the youth, so that they may prove to be an asset for their families and the nation as well," he said.
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"Keeping pace with the rapidly changing technology, we are now looking to compete in the Info-tech and Bio-tech fields," said Siddiqui with a sense of pride. He added that the varsity plans to establish Info-tech and Bio-tech departments as the future lies in the STEM education system. Siddiqui, whose motto since day one has been Merit-Quality-Excellence had his eyes set on the furthering on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
"Now we have taken a U-Turn," he said with a smile. "Don't get me wrong, it's not like going back to where we started all this, but we are moving towards achieving the goal as the top university in artificial intelligence, info-tech and bio-tech".
A sustainable future
Speaking on the green initiatives of the varsity, Khand said that the Sukkur IBA is the first university in Pakistan with solar power system, which is producing 964 KWp of clean and renewable energy and reducing the carbon emission to the environment. He added, "Not only this, we are also supplying surplus electricity to the power utility SEPCO [Sukkur Electric Power Company]". Sukkur IBa is also the first university recognised as a green campus by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
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Sukkur IBA University's SIBA Testing Services is providing testing services to various government, non-government and private organisations and helping them in recruiting the right persons for the right jobs.
To ensure the process is effective, the Education Management Organisation handles hiring of additional teaching and support staff, besides establishment of cheating free examination centres, said Khand.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2019.
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