The Role of Universities in Nation Building
Universities are considered the key institutions in the processes of social change and development. It is a general view that great nations have great universities. This motivates significant public and private investment in universities. These days, much of the focus is on universities promoting economic growth based on a knowledge economy. No doubt, equally important are the contributions that universities can make to culture, political stability and positive social change. Great nations are not just built by brilliant scientists, writers and entrepreneurs, they also require effective school teachers, engineers and small business owners, etc. Furthermore, it needs well-informed citizens and critical thinkers engaged in politics and communities. The best universities are populated with highly-gifted and motivated faculty and students. The most important role the universities have been assigned is the production of highly-skilled manpower and research output to meet perceived targets. Another role that universities may play is in the building of new institutions of civil society, developing new cultural values and training and socializing people of the new social era. From an economic perspective, the role of universities is to produce new knowledge, and commodify it in collaboration with industry. It means that universities must have a candid assessment of indigenous problems and good linkages with community and industry.
Once Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said the role of newly-established universities in Pakistan is more important than that of the older higher education institutions because such institutions have the potential to develop their values, and can easily align their priorities with national goals and objectives. No doubt, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology (KFUEIT) is such a good example among newly-established universities in Punjab. Expansion and consolidation have both been observable since 2019. Now, 180 trained PhD faculty members are contributing to teaching and research at KFUEIT. The strength will increase with the ongoing hiring process. The impact factor of research has risen from 560 to 4500. It secured more than 25 research grants under National Research Program for Universities (NRPU). KFUEIT is continuously improving its position in different international university rankings like Times Higher Education (THE), UI GreenMetric and SCIMago, etc. Quality education and innovative research are priority at KFUEIT.
The KFUEIT has announced 100% fee scholarship for Hafiz-e-Quran and girls in a variety of engineering programs. Such scholarship for girl students is a remarkable effort for women’s empowerment in south Punjab. The scholarship given to the students has crossed a dream figure of Rs.1000 million. As many as 28 active student societies are continuously providing students with confidence and character-building opportunities through seminars, webinars, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, study circles, book talks, magazines and a variety of competitions. KFUEIT campus is declared smoke- and drug-free premises, which is a good step for the healthy future of the youth at KFUEIT. Suitable sports facilities and pieces of training are also available for students. KFUEIT-trained athletes have won more than fifty medals in different national sports events since 2019. Infrastructure has also been rapidly expanding. Already, a state-of-the-art guest house, an executive club, a sports complex and faculty hostels are added, and in a few months, student hostels and the academic block will become part of KFUEIT infrastructure. A state-of-the-art, hi-tech lab has been installed at KFUEIT. It will provide the MS and PhD researchers with modern equipment, and will facilitate their research. The KFUEIT also has good linkages with the community, and offers a variety of social services with the help of students. These services are in the form of free medical camps, availability of drinking water (Aab-e-Fareed), Iftar Dastar Khwan and distribution of ration among needy families, and so forth. During the recent drought in Cholistan, the students of KFUEIT managed the supply of water to different water reservoirs by using tankers. They also managed the supply of fresh drinking water to a large number of families in Cholistan.
It is our priority to develop an environment-friendly infrastructure at KFUEIT. A solar project with a capacity of 145KV has been installed. Under the Clean and Green Campus project, more than 50000 plants (including 20% fruit plants) have been planted on the campus. University designed and installed its own solar-based wastewater treatment plant and recycled wastewater for use in horticulture and agriculture. Electric, environment-friendly motorbikes are provided to the security staff for use inside the campus. Business Incubation Center was also established. To provide students with all services at one window and to save their time the ‘Student Facilitation Center’ was established. South Punjab Skill Development Institute was established in collaboration with NAVTTC. More than 600 students are enrolled in different certificate courses. To improve research and collaboration, more than forty MoUs have been signed with different national and international universities or organizations. Now, the KFUEIT has planned to propose solutions to the indigenous social and industrial problems. It would revolutionize the whole indigenous scenario.
No doubt, with all the above-mentioned achievements, the KFUEIT is a successful model for all emerging higher education institutions in the country. Such excellent planning is the need of the time for better educational future, to address the needs of the region and indigenous society, and for better nation-building. The KFUEIT is an emerging university in all avenues of higher education under the vision of Government of the Punjab. Such marvellous developments at KFUEIT were not possible without the kind support of the Government, hard work and dedication of faculty and staff.
The writer is Vice Chancellor, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology, Rahim Yar Khan