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Posted on: Friday, October 9, 2015


Pakistan’s Premier Financial Daily
(Tuesday, 29 September 2015, Page 20)


There is a paradigmatic shift in the role and functions of universities that calls for 'disruptive' innovative approaches in academic philosophy and methodologies in teaching, research and learning. Heretofore, universities were considered as purveyors of knowledge only; but with dizzying changes and challenges of globalisation they need to be more proactive in building a knowledge-based society and promoting socio-economic development. This can be achieved through cutting-edge research, industry-business linkages, local and foreign collaboration and, not the least, nurturing ethical values of youth for civic responsibilities. 

In this digital age, an avalanche of information limits attention spans of students. Urge for instant gratification and angst about future career choices confronts them and they need wiser counsel. Regrettably, there is lack of human interaction and counseling services are still in infancy. Universities are growing organism and are continuously absorbing new ideas, methods and technologies: they no longer act as only teaching factories in churning out graduates but innovate, instigate inquiry and create new knowledge. As engines of growth, they can help in fostering sustainable development of societies

In developing countries, university presidents/rectors /vice-chancellors, besides performing administrative functions, have other pressing tasks; Governments are generally starved of funds and education is not a top priority. The universities desperately need funds to maintain quality launch programs and new ventures and have to rely capitalise on healthy networks and alumni.  In foreign universities, distinguished professors, retired civil servants, scientists, military officials and diplomats are often offered advisory roles (sometimes sinecure sometimes paid). Their presence is gainful in raising the profile, generating finds, attracting fellowships, joint collaboration, drawing on diasporic talent and collaborating with national and foreign institutes and universities for the benefit of students and faculty. 

These established universities always take pride in their alumni and have 'Halls of Fame' where they display picture and short bios of former students who have achieved distinct-ion  in  various fields:  research, corporate world, diplomacy, sports,  armed forces  and other diverse areas. Nobel Prize winners  and  holders of special awards are proudly displayed to act as beacon of inspiration for young students and faculty. As alumni they are a valuable asset for their alma maters. 

Currently, neurologists and psychologists have noted that with mindfulness, a healthy outlook and active lifestyle it is quite possible to retain cognitive faculties till late in life. With stupendous advances in medical science and technology health consciousness has increased and longevity of life made possible. As an example, most of the Nobel Prize winners are invariably above sixties or even older. Likewise, business executives, corporate heads and university presidents in the West and Japan are mostly advanced in years. 

Pakistani society is undergoing rapid transition. So, instead of thinking in binaries, the old and young should coexist - in fact blend together - and work symbiotically in promoting the cause of education for the societal good. Pertinent to

mention here that COMSATS Institute of Information Technology is already at Trend -setter in this direction.

 (The writer is former President Islamabad Policy Research Institute and currently Adviser Centre for Policy Research, COMSATS, Islamabad)


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