ISLAMABAD: From the looks of it education and research have taken a back seat at Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University (PMAS-AAU) as the varsity is mired in a number of administrative issues.
With several faculty members given additional administrative duties, the university dropped from number seven to the 35th slot in the Higher Education Commission (HEC) general ranking category.
In the agriculture category, it slid to number three from two.
Some in the administration lamented that the system was being run on a day-to-day basis and held Rai Niaz, the vice-chancellor, responsible for all the mess.
Professors in administration
Almost all top administrative posts at the university are held either by faculty members as additional portfolios or by irrelevant officials.
The seat of controller examination has been vacant for the last three years, with deputy controller examinations holding the additional charge.
The post of director research is also vacant for two years while Khalid Saifullah, a professor at the soil sciences department, has been given the additional charge.
Apart from these two portfolios, Saifullah is also the director of students’ affairs as well as the warden of hostels.
Moreover, the university does not have a full-time registrar, a post held by a professor form the forestry department for the last three years.
Likewise, deputy director advanced studies also holds the additional position of the deputy registrar.
A lecturer from the agronomy department, apart from lecturing on agronomy, is also the university’s security officer. The previous security officer now works as assistant registrar examinations.
Officials in the administration have resented the appointments of faculty members in administration block. They said teachers should focus on what they have been hired for.
Tile factory on research fields
The university has 13 acres of land for research on plants and crops on GT Road near Rawat, where a hydroponic plant grows tomatoes, bell peppers and few other vegetables. But apart from tomato production, the university land now also has a tough tile factory, which officials said was a commercial venture.
An official associated with the project said it was a step towards self-sufficiency as recommended by the HEC in the last two vice-chancellors meetings.
PMAS-AAU Vice-Chancellor Rai Niaz Ahmad said the factory, more than a commercial venture, was a project for university’s engineering students.
A faculty member, requesting anonymity, said the land should be used only for what it was meant for — research on vegetables and crops.
More loyal than the king
The university also spent Rs500,000 to celebrate the recent launch of the metro bus service in the twin cities. The varsity decorated the metro station outside the campus on Murree Road, displaying a gigantic banner with pictures of Nawaz Sharif, Shabaz Sharif and the VC himself.
The university also announced a holiday on June 5 in connection with the launch.
A senior professor, who wanted not to be named, blamed it all on the VC. “It is a one man show,” he remarked.
On his part, the VC denied any mismanagement at the campus and termed all these complaints “gossip of a clique”. He said posts of registrar and controller examinations would be advertised soon.
“I am still resolving the governance and other issues and trying best to put varsity on the right path,” he said.
On announcing a holiday for the metro bus, he said the bus service was a good step by the Punjab government and there was nothing wrong in celebrating it. “It should not be viewed negatively,” he concluded.
He also mentioned a rainwater harvesting project, fish ponds and “dozens of other projects” as a few highlights of his achievements at the varsity.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2015.