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KARACHI, Feb 28: The 21st convocation of the NED University of Engineering and Technology was held on the university’s main campus on Thursday when a total of 2,011 candidates received their degrees.

It was also said to be the university’s Vice Chancellor Engr Abul Kalam’s last convocation. Some students became rather emotional as realising this after the closing of the convocation they hurried up to the stage to have their pictures taken with the longest-serving head of the institution.

Arham Sohail, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering, said he was four rows behind the vice chancellor when the camera clicked. “I think I’ll go back for another photo,” he said before going back to the stage.

Basil Andrew, another bachelor in electrical engineering, also did not want to miss posing for a snap with the great educationist and former bureaucrat. “We won’t get another chance,” he said a bit emotionally.

Ramsha Fatima, the third position-holder in bio-medical, said it was an end of an era. “I’m sure life at this university will not be what it used to be after he leaves. Engr Abul Kalam was known for his discipline,” she said.

Rumaisa Khurram and Shumaila Sajid, bachelors in urban engineering, agreed with her.

“This must be the most disciplined university in the country and the credit for that goes to our management the working of which was overseen by our VC,” said Ms Khurram.

“We studied here without any tension even when there was violence all around us in Karachi. And the bus points worked like clockwork with Rangers escorting us to and from the university. This was all because of our VC’s taking an active interest in our education,” said Ms Sajid.

Engr Abul Kalam, while reading out the vice chancellor’s report, said the total number of enrolment of the university, which was 3,014 in 1996-97, when he took over, had risen to 8,443 in 2012-13. “This increase has become possible only because of two support systems — first from the chancellor’s secretariat by continuous efforts to increase campus accommodation for the university and second, the Higher Education Commission, which channels adequate funds to facilitate long overdue development and which has proposed the affiliation of the Pakistan Marine Academy for eventually becoming a constituent college,” he said.

He, however, added: “Nevertheless the financial position of this university is still quite precarious. The services of some contract employees have had to be terminated. Reduction of salaries of contract employees shall soon be unavoidable. The perks of permanent employees have to be curtailed also along with reduction in overtime rates and medical facilities. So the smooth running of the NED university with such paucity of funds will not be easy.”

The chief guest on the occasion, provincial finance minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, said he felt proud to be returning to his alma mater from where he had graduated 28 years back.

To the graduating students, he said: “I know how it feels to be leaving your safe havens and stepping into the real world. Life won’t be a bed of roses. There would be setbacks, too, when life hits you with a brick in the head. But your friends, teachers’ advice, education and everything else you take from here will shape you as an individual up for all kinds of challenges. Believe in yourself, go where there is no path and leave a trail.”

A total of 1,702 candidates from 17 four-year and three five-year disciplines received their bachelor’s degrees although just 1,289 could actually attend the convocation. Besides them, 307 also earned master’s degrees in 15 postgraduate programmes. However, 127 of them were present at the convocation.

University registrar Engr Javed Aziz Khan read out the list of absent candidates, who were then conferred upon the degrees by the VC. Two PhD degrees were also awarded to members of faculty, Associate Prof Dept of Civil Engineering Dr Arjumand Masood and Assistant Prof Dept of Electronic Engineering Dr Sadia Muniza Faraz. The university only extends its doctorate programme to faculty members.