ISLAMABAD: The Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has turned from an educational institution to an agent of positive socio-economic change and is playing an important and effective role in the development and prosperity of the society, says Dr Nazir Ahmad Sangi, vice-chancellor of the university.
“AIOU is the only university in the country where one can get his education while continuing with his job or business or other responsibilities. The university is offering a huge number of programs through its vast regional network to provide not only general but also professional and skill-based job-oriented degrees and courses, and that too at the doorsteps. Our curriculum lays special emphasis on personality building of the students that in turn results in a collective social as well as economic change in the society,” the vice-chancellor told Daily Times in an exclusive talk on Wednesday
Sangi said soon after assuming the charge in year 2010, he outlined a ‘marshal plan’ to take the university to a new high in terms of academic excellence. He said the university has reached matchless milestones during the last four years. “We now enroll 1.4 million students annually from 1.1 million students in 2010, who are offered 200 courses by 62,000 tutors in 50 regional centres across the country,” the vice-chancellor said. He said a roadmap has been prepared to educate thousands of out-of-school children free-of-cost that will play a significant role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals set by the government related to education by next year.
Dr Sangi said he has laid special emphasis on financial discipline in the university and has turned it into a financially independent entity. “The student budget capital has doubled from Rs 2.3 billion in 2010 to Rs 4.6 billion in 2014. Now, we don’t depend on a meagre amount of Rs 275 million offered by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) annually to meet our recurring and development expenditures. Financial resources have gone up by approximately 40 percent through efficient controls on wastage of funds and end of rampant corrupt practices,” he said, and added that lesser workers are giving better output at the university thanks to enforcement of a strict disciplinary code by him. “The salaries of employees were increased by 150 percent from the university’s own resources. Almost 62,000 tutors are on our payroll right now. Despite heavy increase in expenditure, student fees have only been increased by 10 percent,” he said while spelling out initiatives taken by him for the welfare of the employees.
Dr Sangi said he has devotedly worked to bridge gaps in provision of affordable and quality education to students of underprivileged and far-flung areas, especially girls. He said the university established its centres and campuses even in remote areas of Umerkot, Turbat, Kalat, Chitral and Mithi, where state-of-the-art educational facilities are available to the students.
The vice-chancellor said he introduced innovative practices and technologies like video conferencing, internet, FM radio and dozens of computer labs for technical courses to expand the outreach and cut the costs. “Now, one can pursue even doctoral-level degree by paying only Rs 5000 per month at our university,” he said.
Sangi said students at the university have developed a new drug that will help minimise the side-effects of medicines used for treatment of cancer. He said an electronic stick for blind people has been invented by the students that has the capacity to sense hurdles and guide the user through sonic effects. He said the university has allocated an amount of Rs 5 million for work on scientific projects. “Any student who presents a research-based scientific project idea will be given an amount ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 70,000 along with the facility to work at the AIOU laboratory for six weeks,” he said.
Quelling reports about his PhD degree, Dr Sangi said his degree has been certified by the registrar of the University of Liverpool in United Kingdom, and has been duly verified by the HEC. He said he has won a number of awards and scholarships during his course of study there and a record of his attendance at the university is also available. He said M Phil was not a requirement for doing PhD at that time.
The vice-chancellor said the issue of his degree was raised by a fellow professor when he initiated the accountability process at the university. He said a massive corruption of Rs 23 million in the fees section was unearthed by him. He said he referred the case to NAB for investigation that raised alarm bells among the corrupt mafia and they turned to cheap tactics like strikes at the campus and baseless allegations against him. He said his opponents have miserably failed to prove their unfounded allegations.
“The student budget capital has doubled from Rs 2.3 billion in 2010 to Rs 4.6 billion in 2014. Now, we don’t depend on a meagre amount of Rs 275 million offered by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) annually to meet our recurring and development expenditures”