FC College: an amazing transformation

Published: September 20, 2011
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The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

Long before the recent security craze, we were told to be cautious if we entered the Forman Christian (FC) College in Lahore. During my school days in the 1990s, the government-run FC College had a reputation of campus violence, drugs, and general disorder. An unsuspecting visitor could easily be scared by the old deteriorating buildings, the unkempt and weed-infested lawns and the frightening predominance of Islamists on campus. Academically, too, the college was a failing institution with low standards, poor quality of teachers and almost no research.

In the 1990s, I simply could not imagine that this college was once, one of the premier educational institutions of India and then Pakistan. Established in the same year as the famed Government College of Lahore (1864), FC College showed the strong commitment of Christian missionaries to education in Punjab — regardless of religion, class or caste, and later, significantly, sex. From its beginning, the mission of FC College has been: “By love, serve one another.” This verse taken from the letter of St Paul to the Galatians, beautifully summed up the whole message of Christian missionaries in India. The establishment of several missionary colleges throughout India was a testament to the firm belief of the missionaries, that service to the community preceded attempts to convert them. In the end, not many people converted to Christianity, but these institutions still continued, serving — in a largely secular ethos — the people of the country.

The college remained a pre-eminent institution in Pakistan, educating, two presidents, a prime minister, a prime minister of India, the first chief justice of Pakistan, numerous ambassadors, ministers and others. However, the short-sighted nationalisation policy of the government in 1972 almost destroyed this once-premier institution.

It was only in 2003 that a former pupil and ex-president Pervez Musharraf, denationalised the college and gave it back to its original owners. Thereafter, undeterred by terrorists threats, political instability and other problems, several committed educationists came to Pakistan (mainly from the United States), to literally reconstruct and re-establish it. Since then, FC College has achieved a most remarkable transformation. Not only has the college been cleaned up, old buildings restored and new ones constructed, but academic standards have also dramatically improved. Today over half of the faculty members have terminal degrees in their fields, faculty research output has increased considerably, and the students, rather than indulging in violence and other nefarious activities, are again at the forefront of social service. The commendable efforts of FC students after the 2005 earthquake, and last year’s floods, clearly exhibit the turnaround of this previously almost soulless institution.

When I completed my DPhil (PhD) in modern history at Oxford, earlier this year, many people thought I would never come back to live in Pakistan. And then I heard of the transformation of FC College, and the commitment several foreigners had made to education in Pakistan. Not only did Dr Peter Armacost leave the comfort of Florida to move to Lahore, his successor, Dr James Tebbe, the son of a former principal of the college, is also returning to the country of his birth. So I wondered: if these westerners can go to Pakistan, amidst such volatile conditions, just to serve the people, then why can’t I go back to my own country and work for my own people?

Dr Charles Forman established the Rang Mahal School and FC College in a hostile environment, with little security and few prospects of success. In 2003, the refounders of the college faced the same situation. In the eight years since, the college now stands at the threshold of being accredited in the US. A lot still needs to be done to make FC College a world-class institution, but let us not again depend only on foreign pioneers to aid us — let us also “by love, serve one another” and our country.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st,  2011.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:30PM

    In other word they did not embraced christianity but also left islam and hiduism and became seculars.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Sep 20, 2011 - 10:45PM

    @ Yagoob khab Bangash
    very well writte i salute u sir and all these peoples who want to come pakistan even in this
    situation when we native scare of.

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  • Max
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:05AM

    It is time now to return Gordon College Rawalpindi and Murray College, Sialkot back to the churches, these institutions belonged. Same should happen to other colleges in other provinces like Edwards and Islamia Colleges in Peshawar. The army should also return Burn Hall in Abbottabad.
    A few more that need to be denationalized in Punjab include, Islamia College Lahore, Zamindara College Gujrat, and Taleem-ul-Islam College Rabwah. All of these were doing far better before the nationalization.
    .

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  • Yousaf Iqbal
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:10AM

    Dear Mr. Bangash,
    Thank you for writting such a remarkable piece of literature on transformation of FCC. The core thing about this article is the participation of pupils like you to join in and help FCC regain its lost glory. Perfection can not be achieved but whatever has been done with in the given circumstances is an extra ordinary service by the missionaries and Dr. Peter’s team. Since, I have the honor to see the real time transformation as part of FCC student body from 2004-09. One thing is for sure, that we have an excellenet infrastruction now, but seriously we need to focus much more on quality HR (students/Faculty). As a whole, it has been a remarkable feat by Dr. Peter to rebuild/re-constitute the dead horse. At least, the market recognize the excellence of FCC throught the quality of the passed out students. Now, FCC seriously need to focus on rebuilding its higher education standards upto the leading Universities akin of LUMS. We need to bring a merit based administration system at every given level (Sports/ Finance/ Teachers/ Students) with due responsibilty and accountability at the same time. Once again I thank you and wish you good luck for your future ventures.

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  • Sep 21, 2011 - 1:11AM

    I am freshmen 2014 at fcc and i really appreciate what you have written about our university
    me and my team r doing our level best to bring a change in fcc
    WE ARE PROUD TO BE Formanite :)
    God Bless You All
    peace !

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  • faraz
    Sep 21, 2011 - 1:20AM

    The goons of a known religious party must be expelled from all university campuses. They have destroyed the only few places of learning in Pakistan which are affordable to the common man.

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  • Tariq Nawaz
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:15AM

    I am an old student of FCC.I went to see the College two years back when I was on a visit
    to Pakistan.I was really happy to see lot of new developments,specially Ahmed Saeed Block.
    Hostels and some other buildings require repairs.On the whole College was in very good condition and I am sure The present Management of The College will do whatever is required to be done.My best wishes to them.

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  • Sajida
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:21AM

    nationalization rally harmed Pakistan. And what was done with FC College was just one example. It also greatly harmed manufacturing and banking.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:38AM

    You can change the building all you want but it is one of your alma-marer who is trying to block Facebook. Invest in the people and their education too Recommend

  • Ifrah Mirza
    Sep 21, 2011 - 11:13AM

    Inspiring indeed!
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  • Dr. Asad Sadick
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:22PM

    I still remember the good ole days at FC. Good to know that its back in shape.

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  • Shabbir
    Sep 21, 2011 - 4:36PM

    A very moving article. Being an old Ravian I regret that unlike FC College Govt. College Lahore is taking a downward slide and educational standards at GCU are deteriorating every day. GC management is oppressive and there nothing like anything called educational freedom. Salute to FC management…!

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  • Ghous
    Sep 21, 2011 - 7:38PM

    Let me crown my words,, I did inter from FC n current ravian.. unluckily GC is now going backward, recently our VC retired after 18 years of rule along with his own cabinet in administration…and still an advocate of autocratic registrars n bureaucrats.. if u need a duplicate transcript i need to wait for 15 days with 2 round trips to exam deprtment daily.. whereas in FC we get in 10 minutes..
    another event i hated was this?
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/106311/deedar-dances-at-gcu-fundraiser/

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  • omg!
    Sep 21, 2011 - 7:42PM

    its the best university in the pak.. the growth is amzing.. i visited it personally.. but still needs time..

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  • lmo
    Sep 21, 2011 - 8:01PM

    formanites r dynamites :P :P :P jk
    i luv to b a part of an institution that has a great influence on my personality and thinking.. i really like the humble dr peter, he reaches the office at 7 am.. n walks on the tracks of fcc himself.. i m sure in nxt 10 years a huge difference we will see..

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  • Shehram Khan
    Sep 22, 2011 - 4:58AM

    After reading your article, I’m really looking forward for my classes this October.

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  • khan s ahmad
    Sep 22, 2011 - 8:45PM

    @shabbir, @lmo, @omg!
    FC is a great institution of pakistan, plz do not compare it.. we are not taught this way

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  • Sep 23, 2011 - 2:35PM

    I came from Quetta to FC college in 1973 after my high school. This was to begin a period of my life that is embedded in my mind to date.
    Griswold hall and the cubicle i was alloted, the immpressive campus,kind and learned faculty and the eager and devoted staff were all to be part of a unique learning and inspiring experience, the friends i made and the bonds i created there are still my best assets.
    What Mr Bangash is saying must have happened after i left in 1975.
    Good to hear that FCC is regaining its past glory and once again old formanites can proudly call themselves that.

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  • Mumtaz
    Sep 24, 2011 - 12:38AM

    This is true. FC College also changed my life. Specially Dr Dubash is ding his job good. He is person who know how to change the future. I did BCS (Hones) 206 – 2010 Proud to be FORMANITR

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  • Oct 11, 2011 - 9:35PM

    Salaams, can anyone give me the contact details of this author? Email address?

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  • rozzak
    Oct 11, 2011 - 10:31PM

    Thanks god this paper published something other than LUMS

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  • ahtesham
    Oct 27, 2011 - 10:46PM

    tomorrow is my uni.class and i just got admitted in fcc and blown off to see the way they are teaching liberal arts education first ever in pakistan not even lums teaches that
    what is liberal arts education?
    student of computer science have got a chance to meet other disciplines like geography,bio, economic,mass com.,etc
    this is totally extra-ordinary and most of the top uni. in the world like Stanford,oxford,are trying to change the traditional teaching courses
    fcc is amazing

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  • Nov 2, 2011 - 1:10AM

    all credit goes to president musharraf….

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