French Ambassador Martine Dorance conferred the Order des Palmes Academiques on University of Agriculture Vice Chancellor Iqrar Ahmad Khan at a ceremony in the varsity’s old campus on Monday evening.
Ambassador Dorance said the award was originally established by Napoleon in 1808 to felicitate those affiliated with the University of Paris. She said it was re-established by former French president Rene Coty on October 4, 1955.
The ambassador said Khan had devoted his life to education, research and food security. She said the varsity had secured a place in the top 100 universities across the globe under his leadership. Ambassador Dorance said the French government had chosen to honour him for his services in the research and education sector.
She called for bilateral ties in the agriculture, education and textile sectors to be strengthened. Dorance said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been inked between the varsity and the École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Rennes to facilitate scientific exchanges on applied research, students’ training and transfer of technology.
Khan said the French were world leaders in cheese, artificial insemination and biomass. He said the idea of establishing a bio-energy centre at the UAF was inspired by developments in France as the nation had tremendous expertise in green energy. Khan said a French language centre had also been established at the varsity to facilitate bilateral cooperation.
He said the UAF’s strong showing in international leagues was attributable to the industriousness of its faculty that had been striving to constantly improve standards. Khan said the varsity’s competitive research and development grants had exceeded Rs10 billion. He said the UAF had produced over 100 PhD scholars last year. Khan stressed the need to promote technology-based education to remain ahead of comparable institutions.
The vice chancellor said the varsity had made a seminal contribution in setting up other universities such as the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore, the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi and the Ghazi University in Dera Ghazi Khan. He expressed hope that the UAF’s campuses in Toba Tek Singh and Depalpur-Okara would emerge as universities in their own right in the future.
Khan said the UAF had hired 132 academics to reduce the student-teacher ratio. He praised the government for providing the varsity with record funds. Khan said the establishment of modern cattle markets and the Khadim-i-Punjab Rural Roads Programme were landmark initiatives of the government that would produce tangible results.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2015.