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KU: need for cultural shift

March 27, 2013

THIS refers to the news item ‘Mismanagement at KU led to financial crisis’ (March 4). I believe that attributing a financial crunch in the alma mater (s) to just mismanagement is a causal oversimplification of the situation.

With ever-expanding demands for public goods/services, coupled with economic stagnations/recessions, government/public institutions, including public-sector universities across the world, are faced with the challenge of doing more with less.

To this end, university administrators should assume the role of managers and substitute the operational with strategic approach to managing academic and administrative affairs of universities so as to anticipate issues, forecast outcomes, and develop alternative plans to fall back on in situations peculiar to the one facing Karachi University.

Public universities should, therefore, adopt income diversification as the core of their strategy.

This requires a shift from an authoritarian culture to a culture centred on team spirit, respect for ideas, trust, open communication among policymakers, managers, faculty and staff and a bottom-up approach to decision-making.

This will be helpful in identifying opportunities for unique academic and research initiatives and stocktaking of existing initiatives.

Subsequently, freeing resources through rationalisation of existing initiatives and strategic alliance with other institutions at home and abroad can greatly lessen our universities’ reliance on government funding if not make them self-reliant and, in turn, more flexible as well.

For the above cultural shift which seeks to develop and enhance the capacity of public-sector universities to diversify and generate income to become self-sustaining, the government and the HEC should set the direction by coming up with an appropriate institutional framework to remove irritants and offering incentives, facilitating meaningful alliances with other institutions.

To signal resolve on their part, the government/HEC should, in the first instance, freeze block grants and gradually convert these into matching grants given to public-sector universities to instil a sprit of competition, which is important for improving the quality of education, research and innovation for socioeconomic development, the very purpose that universities owe their existence to.

M. SHAHID DAYO Islamabad