A peek at investable tomorrow's human-technology interface, today.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A World Class University for Pakistan

How can a country with 150 million people do not have a single university that is within the 'top 100' ranking in the world?

I had the privileged to know Abdullah Dadabhoy for six years years now. His little outfit know as DIHE had grown into a respectable institution, with his first crop of graduating students convocating next year. We both shared a common sentiment, how Pakistan has got everything, and yet it has got nothing. I mean, what is happening to the talents? Where have they gone to? Everywhere! But not in Pakistan.

Abdullah Dadabhoy led a foundation that owns a piece of land in Hawkesbay - a full 250 acres which he gladly set aside for a university campus. Both of us agreed that if there is ever going to be a world class university in Pakistan, it will come from the private sector. It is no accident that DIHE is seeking recognition from Higher Education Commission of Pakistan to recognise it as one of the better institution in Pakistan.

It now seems odd to think how our relationship started. Two disparate parties from totally way out of the world got to meet, and shared a common vision. It was on 3 March 2001, when Pakistan was considered much more favourably then, before the September 11 crisis, that CommerceNet's task force spin-off, the Institute of E-Commerce (IOEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dadabhoy Foundation to work hand in hand with the foundation to assist in the growth of a forward looking institution, leading to a new university.

The foundation has just received their university charter from Sindh government and is working with IOEC to establish what will ultimately be known as Dadabhoy University at Hawkesbay, Karachi. IOEC was originally set to transfer the technical expertise, know-how, and experience in the field of Information Technology and teaching expertise in assisting the setting up of Dadabhoy University and will actively work on the curriculum development pertaining to the needs of 'new economy' sectors.

Dadabhoy Foundation was represented then by its Managing Trustee, Mr. Abdullah Dadabhoy. I was representing CommerceNet via its special IOEC task force then. We agreed that establishing Dadabhoy University on the 250 acres Hawkesbay land, owned by the foundation, may be the best thing that can happen to Pakistan. The project is to include the larger science park framework to be incorporated into the master planning.

It took us longer than expected. Trust indeed needs time to be formed, and work habits too needs to be synchronised. Abdullah was a busy man, and my scheduled is no help either. It was not until 2004 when we started seriously working on the core elements. I had outrightly criticised the original master plan for its amateurish and lackasaidal approach to university planning. I was surprised Abdullah took the criticism gentlemanly and agreed a total revamp for a world class university. Three full years after that stinging comment - the university campus was re-planned. We never looked back since. Each hurdle was taken with even greater positive stride.

Our bottom line is this: Pakistan needs a world class university. One that is ranked within 'top 100' in the world. And it will come from the private sector. Since we cannot lay our fate in the hands of others, we may as well do it ourselves. And do it right. If you intend to support a university for humanity, CommerceNet humbly suggests that you put your bet and efforts behind Dadabhoy University!