UNIVERSITIES, in recent times, in addition to their conventional activities of teaching and research, have taken up a new role of building communities, economies and leadership.
In this role, universities contribute to the socio-economic growth of nations by generating partnerships with businesses, governments, entrepreneurs and communities at large.
The experience of some universities has shown that their engagement with communities is an investment strategy, and the collaboration between a university and its community becomes central to developing a just civil society.
The following strategies are proposed for the role of a university in building communities, economies, leadership and restoring the hope of society at large:
The universities and the HEC should delineate and set up a structural system to ensure an effective delivery system for outreach and linkage with communities. This may be carried out through establishment of an office of university-community partnerships.
Pakistan is a young nation with two-thirds of its population yet to reach their 30th birthday (Pakistan: The Next Generation, 2010). But, unfortunately, the majority has no access to higher education. Only five per cent of youths go to universities.
Keeping these demographic trends in perspective, universities may devise a mechanism of financial assistance for talented youths who are otherwise unable to bear the expenses of university education.
By 2022 Pakistan needs 36 million new jobs for a six per cent annual economic growth. Universities must equip young people with the right skills suitable for national and global economy through career guidance and counseling units.
Pakistan’s economy has to grow by at least six per cent a year to meet the needs of its growing population. For a sustainable economic growth, entrepreneurial culture must be introduced and promoted within universities. Entrepreneurship and business incubation centres should be developed within each university to prepare innovative young men and women who are job creators rather than job seekers.
Universities can play a vital role in developing leaders in business and other community settings in partnership with organisations to train their human resource through the establishment of executive education centres.
The universities and academia may foster research that provides solution to social, economic, environmental and political problems of the nation with collaborative engagement of the community by identifying real-life problems.Mandatory community service programmes, assigning students and teachers to undertake community services, be initiated by universities.
Emergency preparedness and response training programmes, addressing both natural and man-made disasters should be incorporated in curricula. Community services provided by universities may also be incorporated in ranking criteria of universities.
To improve the quality of public education institutions, universities may adopt school (s)/college (s) and transform them into model institutions enabling young students to undertake university education successfully.
University-affiliated diversity councils should be established to create a cultural harmony and promote inter-community relationship.
Youth leadership programmes may be conducted with focus on moral values, positive thinking and community service in order to equip students with the art of living as active citizens of society.
AHMED FAROOQ BAZAI Vice-Chancellor Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences Quetta