Talks and Interviews
Keep up-to-date with Vice Chancellor Dr. Arshad Ahmad by reading his speeches and watching his latest interviews.
- THE University Impact Forum 2022September 1, 2022THE University Impact Forum 2022
Salams and Greetings everyone!
I’m really delighted to be here this morning!
Thank you Rector Baghirov and our Kaspi hosts, as well as Phil Baty and Times Higher Education, who have brought us together in this wonderful impact forum.
SDG 4 asks us to focus on quality for a better future – a more sustainable future, which is an excellent theme for today’s event. We need to think carefully, about how quality is reflected in our priorities, and how we can rapidly turn challenges into opportunities.
This morning, I’d like to explore “How Small Universities Are Able to Make a Big Difference in Quality and Sustainability.”
At LUMS where I the privilege of working for a 5th year, our institution was ranked as the 50th best small university in the world by Times Higher Education. This gives us a lot of hope. We are classified as “small” because we have about 5,000 students. We also have over 40 mission-driven programs across 5 Schools, with more than 300 top-class faculty, and over 17,000 alumni around the world.
But how can small universities, make a big difference? Before giving you concrete examples of high-impact initiatives, I’d like to introduce a paradigm-shifting perspective that is taking our university forward. That perspective puts quality first. It puts learning first. And above all, it puts collaboration ahead of competition.
That guiding perspective is also our slogan, and is summarized in just 3 words:
We call it: Learning without Borders
For us, Learning Without Borders means we cross disciplinary and geographic boundaries to get important work done. It means bridging the gender divide, and socio-economic barriers to harness talent to amplify our efforts.
Learning without Borders also means a singular focus on innovation that changes lives for a better world. Through Learning Without Borders, we think the key lies in how we can drive and sustain innovation.
In the interest of time, I will explore three drivers that are working for us. First, I want to speak briefly about the importance of merit. Second, we see multi-disciplinary Centres as the next stage of university governance to tackle existential threats facing us, including climate change. And third, a radical approach to diversity has become a great source of our institutional strength.
So, this morning I will speak about merit, disciplinarity and diversity.
First, let’s briefly look at merit.
At LUMS, merit defines student admissions, just as it sets the bar for faculty hiring and career progression. And equally important, merit drives resource allocation – that is, linking high quality metrics to all aspects of the budgeting process. We encourage each other to think of merit and quality interchangeably in everything we do. At a national level, we have seen high merit standards produce innovations that have raised the bar of quality for the rest of the country. For example, in 1996, LUMS introduced a 4-year bachelors’ degree when all other universities in Pakistan were awarding 2-year degrees. And 6 years later, that became the norm. More recently, we introduced LUMS 100, the first required course all students must take. In the LUMS 100 course, 12 of our top award-winning-teachers give TED-Style lectures on big questions across disciplines to all incoming students.
These master teachers talk about big questions in science and engineering; in business and society; and deliver insights on issues the humanities, law and education are confronting – insights that provide a glimpse into the academic disciplines.
Teachers also identify challenges facing our communities and invite students to make connections across disciplinary borders. The idea is to connect the curriculum so that students are better prepared to turn challenges into opportunities.
Second, we have elevated a handful of multi-disciplinary Centres to address grand challenges facing us. These challenges are amplified in developing countries, but they are universal.
Our Centres have chosen 6 challenges that face Pakistan. They include how our Centres can better manage issues related to energy and water, progressive policy frameworks, gender inequity, and using technology and entrepreneurship to make for a more resilient society.
Someone once said that wise leaders and successful entrepreneurs understand there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and can turn both to their advantage.
These challenges also speak to today’s conference theme.
For example, the LUMS Energy Institute designed Pakistan’s Electric Vehicle Policy. Collaborating with industry partners in Korea and the US, we have launched several spin-off companies that are producing low-cost Electric Rickshaws that use swappable batteries. Installing swap stations at petrol stations eliminate hours required for conventional battery recharging. Similarly, e-motorcycles stand to revolutionize the current Pakistani market, the 5th largest in the world, where over 7,500 motorcycles are sold each day. In the power sector, recommendations from The Energy Institute have the federal government saving $1 billion each year for the next ten years.
Another example are data-driven interventions in smart agriculture coming out of the Water Informatics Center.
Here, a team of bioengineers, economists, computer scientists, hydrologists, and economists, asked to use a plot of land behind the cricket filed on our campus to experiment with regenerative agriculture. The experiment was aimed to benefit small farmers in developing countries by cultivating wheat and rice without tilling. By using raised beds covered with biological waste as mulch, after two seasons, the team significantly reduced input costs, eliminating pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and used only a third of the water used in conventional farming.
This is a promising intervention that we hope to scale in partnership with industry.
From an ecological and international business perspective, such approaches create prototypes for value-added green interventions that can be used for earning carbon credits and adapting to climate change.
Overall, by collaborating with industry, scalable, indigenous solutions can benefit millions in emerging markets like Pakistan. By collaborating with your university and industry partners, our South and Central Asian neighbors can showcase innovative solutions to farming.
Let me share one more example of collaboration with the University of Baltistan, in Skardu, located in the northern Pakistan. Over 200 million people live in the Himalayan region and about 2 billion people rely on the rivers that flow from this mountainous area. This cryosphere, or frozen mass, is known as a Third Pole, after the North and South Poles.
Last July, faculty from both institutions designed and co-taught 5 field-based courses on hydrology, energy, life science, entrepreneurship, and e-commerce.
150 of our students twinned with 150 students in Skardu and lived together for a month. A wealth of data is now feeding into research questions that has a direct impact on local communities.
In the Life Science course, over a hundred indigenous plants were tagged by students in one of the largest plateaus known as the Deosai plains. A lot of these plants are used for medicinal purposes and others that were thought to be extinct.
We also had promising results from local ice-grafting efforts that is proving to reverse glacial melting and flooding. Ice grafting is a method to bring together what locals identify as male and female glaciers that reverse melting.
If scaled, the impact is infinite. And here, partnerships with western universities open new doors for research and think tanks.
The students taking the energy course, saw first-hand what it means to live in conditions when there is load shedding for 12 hours each day. Imagine living with no power for half of each day, every day.
I was taken by a simple low-cost intervention that is now keeping the only medical operating theatre in Skardu powered 24/7 so that surgeries can be performed without interruption.
Finally, let me share a few examples that promote diversity and access which have a huge impact in young countries like Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
To support and give access to the ‘best and brightest’ is mission central to all of us.
21 years ago, we introduced The National Outreach Program (or NOP) as a flagship initiative targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose families earn on average Rs. 40,000 or $175 each month.
Last year, CASE – a global NGO, awarded their Platinum Award for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to the NOP. They said:
“The NOP’s ability to identify talent from 140 towns and villages across Pakistan is impressive. We appreciated the varied layers of diversity, and its sustainability could be a model for universities globally, if similar investments were committed.” Unquote.
That investment today means raising about a billion rupees or $4 million annually through philanthropy.
For us, a private university, that investment not only supports disadvantaged students, but also a third of all LUMS students who receive financial support.
And each rupee has been worth raising! We found that NOP students tend to return to their villages to improve the lives of others.
Similarly, one particular gender diversity initiative in our School of Business was featured by AACSB, which accredits fewer than 5% of business schools globally. AACSB recently said:
“The LUMS Business School’s Women’s Scholarship is the first in the world to extend a 50-percent tuition waiver to any woman accepted to its graduate programs, advancing women’s access to higher education and creating transformative social impact”. Unquote
In practical terms, the impact of the 50% tuition waiver has been huge. After just the first two years, the ratio of women in all business-school programs has quadrupled to over 35%. Access and diversity have therefore become central to how we enact a Learning without Borders perspective at LUMS.
In summary, small universities like LUMS are likely to have very different trajectories of growth than larger institutions.
We hope that Learning Without Borders resonates with your philosophy, that puts merit first, that aims to integrate the disciplines, and focuses on diversity and access.
This is one of many ways we can demonstrate how leadership and innovation can serve as a model for collaboration.
I’ll end with my favorite quote from author and futurist H.G.Wells who in 1920 said: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. Yet clumsily, or smoothly, the world it seems, progresses….”.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think all of us believe we can win that race.
- Convocation Speech 2022July 28, 2022Convocation Speech 2022
Honourable Pro-Chancellor Razak Dawood Sb, Rector Shahid Hussain Sb and our keynote speaker Justice Nasira Iqbal, respected members of the Board of Trustees, our distinguished faculty and staff, proud parents, family, and friends, and our remarkable graduating Class of 2022!
AoA and welcome everyone! I offer my sincere congratulations to each one of you!
Graduates, together with family and friends, we are celebrating your accomplishments today. There are many people who have played a key role in your success. Think of the teachers who helped you to learn, staff who served you when you needed them, and your friends. Join me in showing our appreciation for everyone who put your learning first. Let’s applaud your supporters who believe in you and your education.
Today’s commencement is a culmination of the journey that brought you here and a celebration of a new adventure that is about to unfold. It is a milestone event and certainly a defining moment for all of you. The world outside LUMS is an uncertain world. It’s a more challenging world.
The recent conflict in Ukraine has triggered food scarcity. Fuel and commodity prices are spiraling out of control and there is talk of a global recession. We in Pakistan are especially vulnerable to the increasing political uncertainty, trade deficits and unsustainable debt loads. These are hampering our ability to confront our own ongoing challenges in health and education. It’s easy to think that our country is heading downhill fast.
It is also easy to allow ourselves to be defined by these challenges and focus solely on the “what”. Instead, we have to try and address the “why” and discover our own roles to serve a greater purpose. And when our purpose becomes clear, we can inspire others to counter negative rhetoric and instead, our roles must be for positive change. This is a moment in time when we must strengthen our collective hope for a better Pakistan.
Our optimism requires changemakers like you, whose purpose is focussed on growth and development. History reminds us that when a new generation is guided by values we cherish and causes bigger than our individual concerns, the challenges turn into opportunities. Graduates, together we navigated and defeated so many disruptions during the pandemic.
If LUMS was a dress rehersal for life, its time for you to decide how you will lead. We look to your generation to find solutions, one day at a time, to realize our nation’s potential. Your education at LUMS will inshallah propel you to uncover solutions that will allow Pakistan and our broader world to flourish.
Graduates, whatever you imagine for a better world can become real.
When millions of people around the world visited the Pakistan Pavilion during Expo 2020 in Dubai, they saw a country with untold hidden treasures. Our lands come from one of the 7 great cradles of civilization. Our heritage is 8,000 years old. Yet, we are one of the youngest countries in the world. We have huge, untapped markets and low labor costs. Our youth is eager to learn. These factors can usher an era of explosive growth opportunities for Pakistan if we are willing to change our mindsets.
Pakistan’s pavilion at the Dubai Expo was one of the most visited. It earned the 2nd prize amongst 182 countries. In the words of our Pro-Chancellor, Mr. Abdul Razak Dawood who drove this project, I quote:
“We showed the world that Pakistan is a hidden treasure. It has been shaped by a mosaic of culture, craft and traditions that are magical. This is a progressive Pakistan, a tolerant Pakistan, a beautiful Pakistan. It is a land of opportunity for smart agriculture, a land of opportunity for educational technology, and a land for the young to shape”.
Graduates, you are in a unique position to find solutions to many issues our society faces every day. Focus your effort on doing what you can every single day to improve your lives and the lives of those around. These small steps can go a long way to make Pakistan a better place.
Graduates, you come from all areas of Pakistan. Many of you have earned merit and NOP scholarships, others are about to receive various academic accolades and distinctions. Most important, all of you have got the job done. And we congratulate all of you!
If you haven’t heard, there were over 14,000 students who wrote the Civil Service exam last year. The first, second and third places went to LUMS students. The top position was secured by Hafiz Naeem Ali Sheikh, the first NOP student to achieve this amazing result. You have demonstrated what transformational education means and have given LUMS global recognition.
Your graduation year marks our 35th anniversary. With over 30,000 unviersities globally, for the first time, the UK’s Times Higher Education has ranked LUMS as the 50th best small university in the world. The intrinsic value of your credentials is predicated on our reputation and our standing amongst our peers. As LUMS ambassadors, and soon, as our alumni, you are the future of this university. Your individual success and our collective accomplishments are intertwined.
In addition, I am proud to share that during this past year, LUMS has truly announced its arrival on the global stage. After competing with thousands of entries, in your graduation year, your university won several prestigious international competitions. For Example, the Council for Advancement & Support for Education, a global NGO, named our NOP Program the recipient of the Platinum Award for accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity. They said:
“The NOP’s ability to identify talent from 140 towns and villages across Pakistan could be a model for universities globally, if similar investments were committed.”
You also know LUMS faculty are the best in the country and compete with the best in the world. 2 weeks ago, Dr. Momin Uppal was selected as the top University Teacher in Physical Science & Engineering across all universites in Pakistan. His achievement complements his university-wide recognition as winner of The VC Teaching Excellence Award. He is also one of the few in the country to have won the national grand challenge research grant with a truly interdisciplinary focus.
When faculty work together more magic happens. Recently, Dr Nadhra Khan from History and Dr Murtaza Taj from Computer Science, were awarded first prize among 500 hundred Asian entrants. They won in the category of Excellence & Innovation in the Arts announced at a recent Times Higher Education International Conference in Nagoya, Japan.
AACSB which has accredited only 5% of business schools globally including SDSB –said the following about our Womens Scholarship Program:
“This Scholarship is the first in the world to extend a 50-percent tuition waiver to any woman accepted, advancing women’s access and creating transformative social impact”.
Out of 1,399 graduating today, 45% are female, and we look to you as role models and leaders who will inspire others, including the best of our men to take this generation to new heights.
Graduates, you are at a crossroads in your life. As you embark onto the next phase, I encourage you to be optimistic. You have all the skills, tools and attributes for success. These will propel you forward and bring success to you and to Pakistan.
Your predecessors have already paved the path for you. Historically, over 95% of LUMS graduates find employment within months following convocation, which is a glowing testament to the rigor of LUMS curriculum and speaks to the value of your credentials.
As you go into the world, today, know that employers value most, a strong work ethic – something that has been encouraged during your years at LUMS. They want people who demonstrate integrity – something which we hope to have instilled in you as well. Punctuality and respect, patience and empathy – these are timeless and will always serve you well.
But the world need more than essential good habits. Employers also want you to get things done. They want you to be able to think on your feet and problem-solve. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Whether you decide to work as part of a large and established organization, create or join a start-up, or choose to engage in civic activism, I want to share my sincere hopes for all of you. I hope that you will build better cultures of quality.
Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
Quality shines not only through the knowledge you pursue, but also in the company you keep, in the ways you help others, and in the character you build. I hope that you will walk out into the world and make Quality your hallmark!
Graduates, you are leaving here as highly educated citizens who are destined to play a pivotal role in shaping the future. I urge you to embrace your full potential and work for the greater good.
Thank You and congratulations once again to the graduating class of 2022!
- SOE Practicum Conference 2022April 28, 2022SOE Practicum Conference 2022
Founding Pro-Chancellor, Syed Babar Ali, Dean, Dr. Faisal Bari, faculty, students, and distinguished guests, AoA
My apologies for not being there in person and I hope to see all of you soon. I’m so happy to be with you on this very special day. Thank you for inviting me.
You have been waiting a long time to come together in this Practicum Conference to celebrate your learning. So, in my remarks, I’d like us to focus on your learning.
I would like you to remember the people you met and the experiences that have shaped you.
Ask yourself: What have I learned that has become a part of me?
How have I changed? What did I do? And as a result, how do I think?
Here’s what Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon said about learning:
“Learning results from what the student does and thinks, and only from what the student does and thinks.”
So, when it comes to learning, Simon puts students first. When it comes to the type of learning, he puts doing first. And by reflecting on what we do, it changes our thinking.
The Practicum is the ultimate expression of doing and thinking which we call experiential learning. What you did and how you think will likely stay with you for a long time. And this is not by accident, but rather by design. A design that puts learning first. Putting learning first means a dramatic shift away from Pakistan’s dominant instructional paradigm that is teacher-focused. This means we need to enact a learner-centered paradigm, focused on what students do and think and learn. A paradigm espoused by this School of Education.
As you know, putting learning first requires thoughtfully designed, high-impact interventions that immerse learners in doing and thinking. And your practicum is that intervention.
Your teachers also play a critical role in putting learning first. It requires them to embrace new approaches to assessment and to provide you with ongoing guidance and feedback on your progress. The practicum is an applied exam that makes your work visible and changes a community. And this too is critical for supporting your learning.
Your teachers are modelling educational leadership in an education system that is rife with poorly designed assessment practices that value rote memorization at the expense of quality learning.
During your practicum, did you encounter an assessment that tested material that wasn’t taught?
How many students are trapped in the rituals of surface learning to please the teacher?
Or the strategic learner who can ace the exam but has little to show after?
These types of assessments can become the silent killers of learning.
But we know you have learned differently, here at SOE. You know the value of experiential learning and authentic assessments. And what it means to truly participate in shaping your own learning.
Reflecting on my own memorable learning experiences, even though I have always loved teaching, when I started, I knew very little about learning.
In 1992, I experienced an “aha” moment during a conversation with a colleague from Physics who asked me the following question, he said:
"You have been acknowledged with a national lifetime teaching award, so tell me, what is your favorite theory of learning? Maybe a theory or some framework can help me better teach physics."
I could not answer the question because I did not know a single theory of learning. I was dumbstruck. My thinking was bounded in a discipline. My teaching expertise focussed on what I did to teach, but learning theories, and connecting my discipline to physics seemed out of my reach. That sparked my curiosity to learn …. about learning.
I started reading about cognition, psychology, and other topics which naturally led me to explore the vast field of education. Next thing I know, after 15 years of teaching, I was back in school, to learn about learning.
Some of the many greats I read about in my PhD studies are probably familiar to you as well. Blooms taxonomy, Bigg’s constructive alignment, Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, the great John Dewey’s pragmatism and common sense for school reform, Paulo Freire’s work on social justice and critical pedagogy, and there were so many more.
But learning from these greats taught me a lesson. A lesson which Einstein summarized as “the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”. But I did feel more confident, and I found a deeper sense of my identity as an educator.
It was a series of experiences that introduced me to new concepts from a new discipline that resulted in opportunities to make new connections….Where learning seemed to have no borders. I started to read some of the top journals that were also exploring the boundaries of education such as The Journal of Financial Education, Art History Pedagogy, The Journal of Economics Education, Teaching Anthropology, Physics Education Research, and the Journal of Educational Psychology.
Education is really the nexus of all the disciplines. This is why it is so exciting to see that SOE students are offered electives that discuss the intersection of education with technology, with computation, economics, philosophy and psychology.
And it’s encouraging that SOE continues to increase its interdisciplinary focus to offer undergraduate minors in policy, politics, governance, and curriculum with multiple courses cross-listed with other schools and joint programs in the making.
Friends, what we may be really celebrating today is a unique and agile education program designed exactly for the purpose of breaking down disciplinary boundaries and learning without borders.
Completing a practicum prepares you for the future.
The founders of this school, from Dr. Bari and his predecessor, Dr. Andrabi, to Dr. Chugtai and the founding faculty Dr’s Tayyaba, Yasira, Gulab, and Qaisar – had this vision. Their work set the stage for the possibilities we see today to open SOE to all of LUMS and beyond. And as we thank and acknowledge our founders, and mark the celebration of your work, lets also look to the genius of Syed Babar Ali who realized the potential of SOE long before it was established.
You already know that Mr. Babar Ali is passionate about Education. That passion is matched by his vision for a no-borders School of Science and Engineering that was founded over a decade ago. It is a vision that has inspired LUMS Learning without Borders perspective that guides us today.
In an amazing 25-episode interview series with Mr. Babar, which I highly recommend watching, he revealed his favorite book and author to me in episode 19. The book is Gulistan, a landmark of Persian literature authored by the great poet Sa’di who had a huge impact on Mr. Babar and he said Sadi’s work changed his life.
Mr. Babar Ali’s inspiration taught him to always put learning first. And this is what he has done in doing everything he has, which is revealed in his autobiography “Learning From Others”. I urge you to read it.
Mr. Babar’s story is also revealed in a bigger narrative that he has curated over the past 35 years, which is the story of LUMS. That story uses our guiding perspective of Learning Without Borders to amplify diversity and access which make LUMS a mini-Pakistan.
For example, you will be proud to know that this year LUMS had applications from over 450 villages, towns and cities across Pakistan – from Gilgit Baltistan to KPK, from Punjab to Baluchistan and all corners of Sindh.
He also champions an excellence framework for research and teaching which, by design, now aims to unite the disciplines so that we can think collectively about the challenges we face in making a better Pakistan. But most of all, let’s remember purpose. According to Sir Babar Ali, the purpose of education is quite simple, and it is this:
“Make sure those who you work with end up better than you.”
In this journey, your journey at SOE, what have you unlearned?
So that you can relearn to make pathways for others who will be better than you?
What are the memorable lessons, or ‘aha’ moments that changed you?
Will you follow in your teachers’ footsteps?
Will you define a future where you make a unique difference through your learning and your leadership?
Let me also talk briefly about this conference.
When I look at some of the wonderful programs, I am struck by just how you have put learning first. Collectively, your expansive range of practicum experiences demonstrate the very best in active learning, co-operative learning, situated learning, and service-learning. Again, this is not an accident but by design resulting from many formative conversations and collaborations.
I want to congratulate the faculty practicum advisors, Dr. Faisal Bari, Dr. Mariam Chughtai, Dr. Gulab Khan and Dr. Qaiser Khan. I want you to join me in applauding them and Director Mehreen Noon as well as Associates Maydda Nabeel and Rukhsar Fatima.
I also want to give a shout-out to three students, Sadaf, Arslan and Maham. These guys asked me for a 15- minute interview for their program evaluation on the LUMS pedagogical partnership program but instead we talked for 150 minutes. That’s a conversation I will remember. You can be sure that your work will impact Fatima, Dr. Launa, Dr. Tayyaba, and now Dr. Razia who are deeply involved in the partnership program. Did you imagine that?
The program also reveals so many other hidden treasures that will be celebrated today.
We will learn about Ms. Khalid’s project with the Pakistan Monitoring and Implementation Unit exploring ways to facilitate the learning of differently-abled students which takes inclusive education to another level.
I’m also inspired by Ms. Jannat Karim and Ms. Hina who were paired with the ITA or 'Idaara-e-taaleem-o-agaahi'. They worked with six schools in the slum areas of Lahore on ‘life-skills’ required to survive for a better life on the street.
If we are lucky, maybe Mr. Muhammad Ali Zafar will perform for us today. He has made his mission to improve the lives of struggling musicians, especially during Covid-19. His practicum, like some others, is entrepreneurial. He hosts his educational program on an app which improves ear training, sight reading and music theory. Wow!
Congratulations to Sehrish, Maydda, Fatima and Mohammad who founded Parwaaz e Umeed—a social welfare project where digital platforms were used to educate children of LUMS janitorial staff.
Congratulations to Abdullah, Sumaya and Farwa for founding Tabbir, Jugnu and One Earth Toys.
Through your Practicum, you are fortunate to have been paired with excellent institutions making a real difference in people’s lives.
SOE has created so amazing affiliations with organizations like The Citizens Foundation, Akhuwat, Knowledge Platform, SABAQ, TEVTA, and many more
You are all planting the seeds for a forest of learning and a lifetime of education.
Students, you must continue to build better partnerships, better friendships, better communities, and a better world.
50 years ago, Pakistan joined other countries in becoming a signatory to the United Nations’ covenant that recognizes education as a human right. However, rights require action. How do critical measures of societal well-being including nutrition, sanitation, numeracy, and literacy, supersede Pakistan’s educational reform agenda? Could a learning-focused system that attends to these priorities, enable the country to become a better steward of its 50 million students, almost 2 million teachers, and over 20 million children who are not in school? We know education is the greatest equalizer and the most powerful engine for Pakistan’s economic development and societal well-being.
The lesson from the pandemic and from the disruptions before us are an invitation for all to learn how to learn, to unlearn, and to relearn.
As a society, we must put learning first.
- Hubei- South Asia Conference 2022April 1, 2022Hubei- South Asia Conference 2022
Deputy Director-General Yu Xuemin, Party Secretary, He Weijun, President Wang Yanting, Vice President Huang Yingping, Vice Chancellors, and distinguished colleagues, Da Jia Hao, and greetings to everyone!
On behalf of LUMS university, thank you for organizing this Conference to increase cooperation and collaborative exchange between universities in Hubei and South Asia. As partners in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan, we look to China’s Double First-Class University Plan to provide inspiration to create and develop world-class universities and disciplines here.
We recognize Chinese advancements and successes in space, quantum technologies, and cutting-edge chemistry that underline its superpower status in research. In our case, China has been a good teacher.
It is said that a disciple of Kǒng Fūzǐ (or Confucius) once asked the great educator and philosopher the following question:
“Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?"
The Master replied:
"How about 'reciprocity'! Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself”.
Similarly, in this President’s forum, we were never told to follow the Chinese Plan, but instead, it is expected we offer our own vision so that we can become true partners and share in our mutual successes.
So what is our vision?
Simply stated, for the first 35 years, the vision was to become one of the top universities in Pakistan. Having achieved that, for the next 35 years we aim to become a top university in South Asia. With this vision, we know in our hearts that China wants us to succeed, because strong neighbors are essential for mutual and reciprocal success.
But today, the challenge for Pakistan, like many other developing countries, is existential. With a population of 220 million people, a GDP per capita of about $1,200, and low enrolment rates, access to and quality of education is a big challenge in Pakistan.
The visionary H.G. Wells once described this challenge facing us today as: “more and more a race between education and catastrophe”. Despite the difficult circumstances, we are convinced that we will win this race. So, allow me to share a few details about LUMS University here in Lahore.
Our 100-acre campus is located in the suburbs with all modern learning, sports, and living facilities. The campus is known to be a home for all 104 variety of trees that you can find in the province of Punjab including the amazing Amaltas tree, known for its healing properties. We are also home to 10,000 migratory birds that come to live with us and contribute to the ecology of the campus.
Looking at LUMS at a glance, we have about 5,000 students, half of whom live on campus, with 42 academic programs, 1,400 recruiting partners, and over 300 faculty with PhDs from the most prestigious universities around the world.
This holistic ecosystem stands on our longstanding values which is a source of pride and success. This is because everything we have done at LUMS is based on merit, increasing diversity, and on striving for excellence.
Our university’s philosophy is “Learning Without Borders” with the objective to break academic, geographic, gender, and socio-economic barriers.
As a private not-for-profit university, one out of three students at our institution receive generous financial support. 21 years ago, we established our signature National Outreach Program. Our outreach students comprise over 10% of our annual intake. Each year we search for talented students in high schools from over 138 villages, towns, districts, and cities across Pakistan. These students come from disadvantaged households of large families with an average monthly income of Rs 37,000, or about 1,300 Yuan.
At LUMS, all students must meet merit criteria to be admitted. There are no quotas, nor do we offer any preferential treatment. If admitted, we offer full support for tuition, boarding, food, books and living expenses. Over 1,300 students have benefited from this program. And the results over twenty years have been transformational.
We are very proud to have received The Global Platinum Award for Best Practices in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by the Council for the Advancement of Studies in Education, a Washington based NGO.
Many of these NOP students go on to attend top universities worldwide to pursue graduate education, and some lead top organizations worldwide. Last year, out of 14,370 students who wrote the prestigious National Civil Service Exam, the top three students were from LUMS, and the 1st position was secured by an NOP student. Striving for excellence is our quest.
Since we last met in Hubei on October 17 in 2018, our Schools continue to elevate LUMS reputation globally. For example, The Suleman Dawood School of business at LUMS is the only School in Pakistan to receive AACSB accreditation in 2019 – a distinction awarded to less than 5% of business schools worldwide.
Here, The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC opens the door to what we are calling the “China Pakistan Management Initiative”. We organized a conference where academics, policymakers, and practitioners explored CPEC and focussed on bureaucratic and cultural issues that can be a barrier for cross-border business.
Similarly, our Law School is home to Pakistan’s first Centre for Chinese Legal Studies in Pakistan which has collaborated with the University of Wuhan by offering several courses in Chinese law, and hosting conferences, symposia, and training. Today the Centre is holding an International Virtual Conference focussing on regional integration, economic interdependence, and linguistic diversity, which will be highlighted.
Our School of Science and Engineering has set a global agenda by focusing on big data, quantum computing, AI, biogenetics, and the life sciences. It has also been actively collaborating with Chinese counterparts. Here, our fastest growing department of Computer Science and the Energy Institute signed an MoU in August 2019 with Songuo Motors on Electric Vehicle research and development. Under this collaboration, a new venture in swappable battery-based electric vehicles has been launched involving two and three-wheelers in the Pakistani market. The Energy Institute has released several Market Assessment reports that have since been adopted as government policy to create more climate-friendly solutions for Pakistan
These milestones partly explain why last year, LUMS was ranked by Times Higher Education as the 40th best small university in the world. For young universities like ours celebrating its 35th anniversary, Pakistan’s partnership with China is unparalleled among inter-state relations. Unwavering mutual support, trust, and respect are woven into the history of our unique friendship which we wish to strengthen.
While we do offer over 50 unique international exchange programs, few students from China know about LUMS. We wish to strengthen our ties regionally and attract more Chinese students to LUMS. The pandemic has made it clear that educational solutions must come through collaboration and through multidisciplinary expertise. Universities like ours are positioned to become more relevant and contribute more meaningfully to improve the human condition.
Colleagues, I hope my thoughts and ideas will resonate with you and encourage collaboration amongst this group. We can harmonize our core values that will enhance trust, mutual respect, inclusiveness, and a love for learning.