THE BIRTH OF NUTECH
The idea of NUTECH was born in early 2015 based on the interactions with local industry in the context of Pakistan’s economic growth and consequent realization that the non-availability of well-trained human resource in the technical fields and dependance on imported technologies is seriously retarding our industrial growth. Discussions started about the poor quality of education in the realm of technical skills and technologies in Pakistan. The consensus developed that a model university was needed to educate Pakistan’s youth as future industrial leaders through higher education, in the realm of technology creations and innovations, and in the process, hopefully, stitch together a coherent technology framework for the country. The task was assigned to Engineer Khalid Asghar, a visionary and ardent supporter of creating indigenous technologies and improving the skill levels of the country.
The private musings of Khalid Asghar turned into discussions that slowly made it to higher tiers of government. With CPEC promising an economic revolution in a country where the external debt has risen almost continuously for the past decade, the idea of NUTECH was a breath of fresh air. A vision focusing on creation of technologies and vocational skills to enhance national self-reliance was not easy to dismiss. The Higher Education Commission bought the idea, but the main responsibility for executing the vision fell on Engineer Khalid Asghar, a dreamer and no stranger to grand visions. He took NUTECH to heart and changed it into “My-NUTECH”.
The first step that Khalid took was to create a hand-picked three members core team, Aftab Ahmed, Tariq Mahmood and Javed Iqbal. They immediately got to work, cutting through bureaucratic channels in trying to make a top-class university, even though they had little academic experience between them. In June 2017, they were joined by Dr Adnan, another visionary who could speak for hours on the benefits of creating indigenous technologies. The team’s efforts bore fruit, and on 21 August of the same year, a bill was passed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Science and Technology of Pakistan to establish a technology university under The National University of Technology Bill, 2017.
“In Pakistan, technological education sector has generally remained ignored and under developed. It is a well-known fact that the non-availability of well-trained human resource in the technical fields is seriously retarding our industrial growth. The situation is accentuated by the lack of recognition and virtual non-existence of the state of the art, higher education stream in the realm of technologies,” beamed a triumphant Aftab to the media, adding that NUTECH would redress this deficiency. The bill was subsequently passed by the National Assembly on 20th November, 2017, by the Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology on 10th January, 2018 and finally by the Senate on 26th January, 2018. The President’s assent was received on 22nd February, 2018.
Over the months, the team grew in size and confidence, and continued to progress at breath-taking speed. In August 2018, the team added another important member. Hard-working, brilliant and meticulous, Dr Shahid Iqbal joined the team as Dean of the University. NUTECH was now open for business. The first undergraduate class entered the University on 1st October 2018; hence the dream came true on this historic day.
A TOUGH START
The first semester did much to dampen the enthusiasm of a team that now had more than a hundred members. The buildings had gone up at record speed. But catering to its student customers was a different story. Lack of required labs and office space as well as designing and implementing a world class curriculum were far bigger challenges than anyone had foreseen. The faculty, young, ambitious and hungry to publish but with no graduate workhorses, had to turn to their alma mater to continue churning out papers. But the biggest challenge lay ahead. As more academics joined, questions were raised about the means to the end, the direction the university was taking on its course to becoming an academic and industry-supporting powerhouse in Pakistan. In view of NUTECH’s vision of creating innovative industry leaders of the future, debate flared over whether restricting our scope to technologists and technicians will be enough or should NUTECH cover complete spectrum of engineering and technology education. By extension, accreditation with PEC or NTC became a charged topic. Soul-searching became routine. Was this yet another university whose vision was in fact a naive dream? Finally, the conclusion was that as per its scope and purpose, if NUTECH was to contribute in self-reliance of national economy then University must focus, create, develop and commercialize technologies, and this will not be possible without offering applied engineering education alongside engineering technology and skills education; which meant level 1 – 8 education as per National Qualification Framework (NQF).
ON ITS FEET
The first academic success came in the form of ICAT, a one month Industrial and Creative Activity Term after Fall semester 2018. This one month gave students confidence in the university as they built working engineering and technologies projects. But this activity did much more than that. It brought the first major academic success for a university program and did much to boost the confidence of faculty and support staff alike. Success breeds success. The curriculum was finalized and it was truly world class. Academic processes started to come together. For existing undergraduate programs, PEC was the way to go. A successful zero visit was completed in September 2019.
A unique offering of the university is its experiential learning programs. In learning communities, students deepen their understanding of the physical, life and social sciences in small interactive groups. This first year experiential learning program is followed by a career advisory year in the second year. The third and fourth years groom students to take part in research and engineering leadership and entrepreneurship. Equally important is industrial engagement during the first three years. Students visit industry, relate these visits to their curriculum and are accordingly tested. This ensures that they are able to experience the engineering and industrial ecosystem throughout their university experience. It also helps in job placement. Finally, ICAT is a fun and creative term where students dare to think big and materialize their dream projects.
THE PIONEER STUDENTS
The initial student body of 150 students started classes on 1st October, 2018. The second batch of approximately 189 individuals started UG classes on 16th September, 2019.
The faculty is steeped in the philosophy of NUTECH. This is to think beyond the university and work towards nation building. At under 100 members with qualifications from around the world, NUTECH is striving hard to enable its faculty to participate in creating self-reliance through the creation of technologies. From inviting business leaders to encouraging entrepreneurship, NUTECH is aware that it has to help its faculty and students to create new opportunities and new jobs.
In September 2019, PEC approved the university’s four engineering programs, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Computer. Approval for the Computer Science program by NCEAC quickly followed.
NUTECH is looking for partners in its pursuit of creating technologies. It has created a strong partnership with Heavy Industries Taxila to help them in making advanced diesel engines. NUTECH is also looking to work with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex to create technologies in the aviation division. It also has forged a strong relationship with Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University and Shifa Hospital to create a state of the art undergraduate biomedical engineering program in the country. Amongst international partners, NUTECH is deeply engaged with University of Utah (UoU), USA, University of Tor Vergata, Italy and also trying to develop with a number of Chinese and EU Universities.
As of today, NUTECH has signed Memorandum of Understandings with around 20 industries/ organizations including international industry, and has started its journey as per its slogan “University for Industry.”
Skills development as part of levels 1 – 5 of NQF, plays an important role in NUTECH’s vision of transforming the nation. On this side, NUTECH has made huge strides. Partnerships with various sectors have been created which will see several personnel, with skills imparted at NUTECH, going to Japan and Germany to help in their industries. The NUTECH Skills Development Framework (NSDF) is the guiding framework for this endeavor. In a time frame of 3 – 5 years NUTECH shall have around 50 technical institutes under its folds where in approximately 10,000 skilled workers will be trained per annum for national and global industries. For this purpose NUTECH is in the process of getting QAB status from NTP, NAVTTC and IBCC.
In its first year of birth, University commenced certifications in areas of industrial stitching, hospitality management and computer graphics. NUTECH has also started working on the concept of “lifelong skills” wherein the “Recognition of Prior Learning” and “Skills Testing Centre” shall play major role in enhancing boundaries of our skills promotion in Pakistan.
In next 10 years NUTECH intends graduating 25,000 – 30,000 students per year in complete spectrum of education in time with its mandate. As the admission numbers swell and so the number of faculty and support staff, the university has started to look for a new home for its growing student body. In the meantime, extra emphasis is being placed on research and industrial collaborations, and consequently the establishment of many research centers is to come, the first two on the table are: (1) Indus Water Centre, and (2) Disruptive Technologies and Skills Park. Hopefully, these centres will come up as part of NUTECH Future Main Campus (NFMC).
NUTECH is a philosophy, concept and a change as much as it is a university. NUTECH is a place where Head, Hearts and Hands (H3) will combine to materialize NUTECH Motto of i.e., Leaders in Progress and Excellence. It is a growing university with large buildings, and a soul and a heart to match. It is now producing skilled manpower and is on its way to producing top quality engineers, technologists and technicians. NUTECH, probably, is the only university in the world that will offer all levels of education, from basic skills certificate to PhD.
Our road map will continue to focus on “How to fulfill the promise of transforming the industrial landscape, building a knowledge economy and transforming Pakistan into an industrial powerhouse?”
NUTECH shall strive hard to fulfill this dream. The solution undoubtedly lies in high quality HR at NUTECH and the time and freedom to execute with patience.