Saturday, 9 April 2011

A letter from Oxford

Respected Sir!
                             i am a big fan and regular follower of your columns and my observation is that you have always written for the TRUTH and the Raised the RIGHT voice no matter how difficult the situation may become for you.

I want to draw your attention to a Tragedy, a National Disaster which is going to happen if people like you and us dont raise our voices.

First of all my brief intro, i am an HEC scholar pursuing my Phd degree at oxford university. Being from a middle class family, like thousands (4800 to be rpecise) of other students we could not have even dreamed of studying at an elite place like oxford, cambrdige, yale or stanford. But the recent Devolution of HEC by the Federal Government has Raised certain question marks for all of us who are studying here.

We have been given assurances by the government that Devolution of HEC Wont mean anything to us as our scholarships would continue and we need not to worry about it. But to be very honest, it would be unfair,if we just sit, back and relax without seeing the long term prospects not just for our ownselves but for other fellow students.

The Scholarship programs are part of a bigger strategy of HEC in developing a Knowledge Based Economy(knowledge technologies (such as knowledge engineering and knowledge management) to produce economic benefits as well as job creation. For this purpose there were certain programs like industrial linkages, developing infrastructure of existing universities and opening of more universities, procurement of materials and competitive grants,setting educational standards, developing collaborations both within and abroad and so on which need to be done at a central level and fragmenting them into pieces wont be a viable option.

The Devolution Plan is an ill conceived and hasty decision without thinking of all the stake holders. Just to give you an example, there are so many senior researchers affiliated with many institutions , their fate would be in limbo. My understanding is instead of  dealing with the political wrangling in provincial governments , many of them would prefer going back to their niche in foreign countries and the phenomenon of brain drain reversal would tend to cease. The foreign Scholars who would return to Pakistan were promised buffer zone, research culture, industrial linkages, collaboration with international organizations and so on ... none of this would be possible in the absence of HEC.

HEC has set in its vision the key priorities as agriculture , water resources among other and there were people studying at world's top universities with worlds renowned scientists , agrarains, engineers etc. When there were thoughts of bringing genetically modified crops to increase the yield of cotton , wheat and rice to 10-20 times, when people are getting education about nanomaterials to develop tools for drug delivery, semiconductor devices,quantum computers, when students are getting ready to leap Pakistans into 21st century through expertise in economy and enterprenuership, when doctors were ready to flex their muscles in genetic diseases of pakistan and so on; WE SUDDENLY CHANGE our minds and devolve the institution which was going to create a talent pool to take the reigns of science in future. This is nothing short of INSANITY!!!

Most of Our provincial Governments without naming anyone cannot raise the standard of primary education so we have a literacy rate less than any other country in southasia and even less than 20 of the African countries. I strongly doubt that they would be in any position to handle the sensitive issue of higher education.

HEC was an institution which over the years have made great progress in developing a research culture in Pakistan. I dont say that with its devolution the research would cease in Pakistan but it would be fair to say that the progress of research would be at snails pace.

Second option recently raised by some of the parliamentarians was setting up of another central body instead of  HEC. The simplistic argument would be there is no need for a second body when one is already functioning and performing so well that it has won repute not only from within country but also from abroad.

I can quote examples of China here who have recently opened up universities where 11 year old can sit with professors of 65 years old and share ideas and get tenure track positions, i can give examples of scotland where despite funding cuts the government is trying to protect the funding of consortia of universities or i can give the examples of MIT which is going beyond its capacity to invest in science and technology. But onething is common in all , while they are ready to experiment new things , they believe in strengthening of the institutions and not messing them up.At the end of the Day Institutions are vital than EGO of individuals.

Best Regards,

Aitzaz Bin Sultan Rai M.D.

Clinical Research Fellow

Oxford Center For Clinical Magnetic Resonance

and Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility

John Radcliffe Hospital

Headley Way, Headington

Oxford, United Kingdom


Unity, Faith, Discipline (Muhammad Ali Jinnah)

"Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius."

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