ISLAMABAD: After battling with politicking, mudslinging and leg-pulling for years, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) seems to be coming back on track with a new vice-chancellor at the helm of affairs.
Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s background as an educationist and researcher sets him apart from his predecessors. Right after his appointment in October last year, Siddiqui opted to overhaul the university and subsequently made efforts to streamline the academic environment not only at the main campus but also at the open varsity’s regional centres.
With over 1.3 million students across the country enrolled in distance learning with AIOU, the university is one of the most sought after institution by people from far-flung areas of Balochistan, Sindh, Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“When I took charge there was a lot I reckoned that needed to be improved,” he told The Express Tribune in an interview.
“My prime focus is to provide a sustainable environment to students for research and give them incentives for dissemination of this culture,” he said, adding that seminars and conferences are also part of this campaign.
He contended that for almost two years not a single research journal could be published and they were working to make 2015 the year of research journals.
In support of the move, they have also extended the timings of the library which will now be open on Saturdays. Besides, thesis and research papers will be made available online for students and faculty members, Siddiqui remarked.
The VC announced that they also plan to revise the curriculum and textbooks of all programmes. “We have listed all the disciplines and are prioritising those which have not been revised for years,” he remarked, adding that the courses have become obsolete.
He elaborated that they aimed at including pro-peace, anti-sectarian, tolerant approaches in the curriculum besides eradicating hate material, if there is any.
Besides, a second promotion board will help evaluate employees which will eventually lead to appraisals.
In regards to strengthening the support system for correspondence between students and administration of the varsity, the VC said they have set up a call centre that works for eight hours a day to receive complaints from students and address them immediately.
Taking it a step further, he shared his plan to end the orthodox way of mailing books, documents and correspondence among students, tutors and departments. “Now, a message alert system at every step will guide and assist all the students and they will get to know when an item has been dispatched or received,” he said.
The university has also applied for its own radio license and the management has finalised a feasibility report to fix transmitters in other cities for wider coverage. Besides, the varsity has planned to start its own television channel and also collaborate with the Virtual University for broadcasting of their programmes.
“I believe in one thing, as they say, give them the best and take the best out of them,” he reiterated.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2015.