rofessor Dr Bushra Mirza was appointed the permanent vice chancellor of Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) for four years in July 2019. Dr Mirza was earlier a professor of Biochemistry at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. She did her PhD from Cambridge University, UK, in 1996 and post-doc from University of North Carolina, USA. Her area of expertise is molecular genetics of medicinal plants. She is a recipient of a number of awards and honours, including Professor AR Shakoori Gold Medal (2010), Best Young Research Scholar Award by Higher Education Commission, Pakistan (2009) and PAS Gold Medal (2008). She is also the present chair of the ISESCO Women in Science wing. She has produced more than 100 MPhils and 20 PhDs, besides having more than 150 peer-reviewed journal publications under her name along with over 200 IF and 1,000 citations.In an exclusive interview with The Academia Magazine, Dr Mirza discusses the challenges and opportunities the university faces and how she plans to take them on.
When there is no permanent leadership it causes a lot of problems in the institution. These issues were related to administration, faculty and students.
Tells us about some of the major challenges you have faced since taking the reins of affairs at LCWU. What has been your strategy to get them resolved?
As you know, there wasn’t a permanent vice chancellor at LCWU for the last four five years. When there is no permanent leadership it causes a lot of problems in the institution. These issues were related to administration, faculty and students. Image building of the university was another big challenge. There was polarization in the university and I have been successful in taking everyone on board in the last six months. People who had conflicts with each other are now cooperating because I am not favouring anyone and working purely on merit. There were 11 to 12 pending advertisement of faculty appointments but none of the appointment or promotion had been made. Currently I am in that process of appointments/promotions.
What do you think what is the reason that LCWU has not gained HEC rating like PU, QAU other institutions?
First of all one cannot compare LCWU with PU and QAU, because those were established universities where as LCWU was converted from a college to a university relatively recently. When a college is converted into a varsity, it creates a lot of challenges, the major being the difference between the environment of a varsity and college. A college has a different prestige and environment and a university has a different way of teaching. The mindset of teachers, faculty and staff is another challenge. In a college, a teacher has to maintain prestige, but at a university, the teacher has to focus more on research with students. There is no comparison of LCWU with PU and QAU. Both those institutions were built and established as a university. In my opinion, a university should be setup as university; a college should not converted to a university.
What new programs does LCWU plan on introducing and what will be there market orientation?
Well I think that rather than starting new programs, we first need to rationalize which programs are performing better and what improvements are needed to impart quality education in already running programs. For starting new programs, I have in my mind the Kala Shah Kaku Campus, as we will have enough space over there to initiate a number of programs, but only when the campus is built and ready.
When a college is converted into a varsity, it creates a lot of challenges, the major being the difference between the environment of a varsity and college.
How did you manage the cuts in budget and what is your opinion about this policy of the government?
Yes it is a problem for universities, but fortunately at LCWU, we were able to manage this crisis. The reason is that we were not relying completely on HEC budget only; we generate 60 percent of the budget our self, 10 percent is given by the Punjab Government and 35 percent was provided by HEC. But we have faced problems nevertheless. Public sector universities cannot be run without government support, otherwise there will be no difference between government and private universities. Universities have no other choice but to increase fees or increase enrolment. Both these cases are not suitable for students. Government should seriously think about this matter, review this and sort it out.
What changes do you feel are required in the administration of higher education in Punjab, including appointment of VCs?
I think the vice chancellors appointment process is really good and transparent. I didn’t have any political affiliation or contacts and was selected purely on merit. This is a clear example that the current government believes in transparency. Everyone knows that in the past, no vice chancellor was appointed without political contacts or affiliations. I did not apply for such a slot in the past because I believed I could not get selected due to a lack of political affiliation. This was the first time I applied for any post and got selected purely on merit. All other VCs were also selected on merit which is great on part of the government.
The current government aims at establishing a number of new universities. Do you think there is a dire need to establish new universities?
As I said earlier, a new university should be established as new a university rather than converting a college to a university. There is a need for new universities and we need more universities in accordance with youth’s population. But if the government is facing budget issues, it should focus on improving previously established universities rather than setting up new ones.
How do you feel about your shift from a researcher to an administrator?
Well it has been interesting and has its own challenges. I am enjoying this role. After working as professor for over 20 years, I am now in a position to do things that I always thought a VC should do. But I must say it is a different lifestyle, has different responsibilities and a different way of working.
LCWU is the largest university for women in Pakistan. What is your vision, policy and guideline for running this university?
It is the largest university for women in the Asia, but I am astonished that it hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. The university has huge potential and should be at a much higher level than it is now. I feel that there was lack of vision and management and the major reason was short term planning and limited goals. A VC who is not permanent cannot really work for long term policies. Now we are taking on board management and faculty for sorting out matters.
What is the issue with LCWU Jhang campus? Has it been approved by the syndicate?
We have received a letter form HED and we placed that in our syndicate and it was decided that we will follow the policy of HED. We have not received any clear policy guideline from HED. I can’t exactly comment because it’s not my personal desire. It is a university being run by taxpayers money so cannot work on VCs personal liking or disliking. We also taking teachers and students on board about their consent and problems.