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PU closure, merger, failures

LAHORE, July 17: The Punjab University (PU) has wound up its two academic programmes and merged 22 centres and projects into its different departments, institutes and colleges as they failed to deliver, with some of them even showing Negative Internal Rate of Return (NIRR).

PU vice-chancellor (VC) Arshad Mahmood, who is completing his second term in office in September this year, had opened a large number of departments and projects and enlisted them among developments in the university "that was passing through a phase of stagnancy and status quo for the last many decades". However, different quarters in the university faculty continued to criticise the VC for opening new departments, centres and projects by using his emergency powers. They alleged that the VC was opening departments and projects and offering prized posts to accommodate disgruntled elements as well as oblige his "supporters".

In the recent past, the Public Accounts Committee as well as the Punjab Finance department observed that the university was opening a large network of small departments and projects which had become 'one-project one-man' show. The finance department also said the university was putting extra financial burden by mushrooming departments and projects.

It is learnt that the university closed Women's Studies Department and Home Economics Masters programme as it (the university) failed to attract even the minimum required faculty to run both programmes.

Similarly, the university has merged 22 centres and projects in 15 institutes and departments.

According to a notification, the Centre for Integrated Mountain Research has been merged into the Geography department, which was already teaching mountain research. The university administration also learnt in due course of time that there was no need to establish the Centre for Integrated Mountain Research as the PU was far away from the mountains. Dr Khalida Khan, who is in BPS-18, was given the charge of its directorship.

Similarly, the university has merged PhD programme of Art and Design into its College of Art and Design. The PU Radio Station and PU Education TV Station have been merged into the Institute of Communication Studies; and the Human Resources Development Centre and Undergraduate Complex (IAS) into the Institute of Administrative Sciences.

The Earthquake Centre has been merged into the Institute of Geology, the University Workshop into the Institute of Chemistry, Student Counselling Services into the Psychology and Applied Psychology department and the Career Counselling Placement Centre and Skill Development Centre into the newly launched Institute of Quality and Technology Management. The PU Education Testing Services and the Sohail Iftikhar Research Centre have been merged into the Department of Special Education.

The PU Floriculture Research Farm and the Conventional and Non-Conventional Vegetable Research Project have been transferred to the Botany department; the Herbal Heritage Garden merged into the Mycology and Plant Pathology department; and the Fish Farm and Honey Bee have been merged into Zoology department.

The university also merged Engineering Research Division into the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Display Centre into the main library and the PU Academic and Co-Curricular Committee into the Registrar office.

PU Registrar Prof Dr Naeem Khan admitted that these centres and projects had failed to meet their aims and objectives and even failed to improve and deliver. In many cases, he said, the university learnt that there was duplication of programmes.

Admitting that the PAC had also criticised the development of small one project-one man disciplines, Prof Khan said the merger would help the university improve performance and efficiency and rightsizing of staff and other financial burden. He said many departments could not even get adequate staff, adding that some of the programmes had created zero impact on socio-economic development, while others showed the NIRR. In some centres and projects, he said there was no workload but a huge wastage of funds.

He said the university had conducted an exercise to assess the performance of centres and projects under Higher Education Commission's guidelines and Office and Management study in the university. He said these studies and recommendations were placed before the vice-chancellor, prior to his proceeding to ex-Pakistan leave, who then approved the merger of 22 centres and projects into 15 departments, institutes and colleges.

Saying that experimentation is essence of human activity and merger a corporate phenomena, Prof Khan said that these centres and projects were launched on a trial basis. "One should have the courage to experiment and wind up all those centres and projects which were not performing well," he added. Dawn
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