HEC Invites Pakistani American to Advise Mehran University
By Dr Arif Kazmi , PE, PhD
Senior Manager Design
Arizona Department of Transportation
USA


Dr Arif Kazmi (second from left) and Vice Chancellor of Mehran University present awards to engineering students

I believe it will be worth sharing with readers of Pakistan Link the experiences of my visit to the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro as a foreign scholar under the sponsorship of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan from March 02 to March 15, 2008.
HEC has made commendable strides in the advancement of higher education in Pakistan. The opportunities and programs the Commission offers to expatriates may hardly find a match anywhere else in the developing world. The unbiased selection process by the HEC is evident from the fact that they invited me on the basis of my qualification and work experience: I have no personal affiliation with anyone at the HEC or any of its other links in Pakistan or abroad. We should congratulate HEC for their ingenuity to obtain services from expatriates for the advancement of the higher education sector in Pakistan.
Purpose of the visit: Based on the work experience of transportation engineering, the management of the Mehran University emphasized the following purpose for the visit:
i. Review the academic and research needs of the graduate engineering students and provide guidance.
ii. Assist the faculty to introduce a curriculum that will prepare students for global competition.
iii. Address conference and seminars. Chair and facilitate technical sessions for the HEC sponsored first International Engineering Management conference at the Mehran UET on March 4 and 5.
iv. Review and assess the conditions and requirements of the transportation and soil laboratory equipment.
v. Meet local practicing engineers and compare their project plans and specifications with plans in the USA to the mutual benefit of all engineers.

Observations:

i. Graduate students of Mehran:  The quality of questions and answers by students during the technical sessions spoke for itself as regards the excellent preparation of the students by their respective faculty. At the end of each of the seminar, students competed with each other in asking effective questions on transportation challenges, local environmental issues and constructability problems. Later, the students spent their individual time to have a one-on-one discussion for their academic and career guidance. I fully believe that their four year +- stay in Mehran is very useful and productive. I congratulate the Mehran Engineering faculty on the level of success achieved.
ii. Curriculum: On reviewing the final year curriculum with the Chairman of the Mehran Engineering Department and others from the faculty, it was most impressive to find that most topics/subjects included in the syllabi were the ones needed in the current modern mode of engineering courses. It even included study of traffic volumes, incident analysis, capacity evaluation, delay and congestion challenges. It also appeared that both the professors and the students have to make the best use of their time in the class, because of the induction of a large volume of course material to be covered in a short sequence of each semester.
iii. Conference seminars and technical sessions: Mehran UET has come up a long way in the last few years. I participated in the HEC-sponsored First International Conference on Engineering Management that was at a height of professionalism, knowledge and attendance, and was held at the state of the art venue at the Mehran UET. It was evident that the personal attention of the Vice Chancellor and his Deans and Chairs in every detail of the conference had made the difference. Paralleling that, the dedicated staff, committee members and the enthusiastic students engaged meticulously in conducting the technical sessions. I have nothing but praise for the entire Mehran UET for the  good job done.    
iv. Laboratories and other facilities: Even though Mehran buildings are old and small, the laboratories of soil, earthwork, asphalt, concrete, environment and survey functioned well under their dedicated In-charges. Some equipment was old and over used, too. The students showed keen interest in doing research with the equipment, though at times they expressed concern over the shortcomings of the lab facility. It was a matter of joy to learn that the pro-activeness of the management was truly in action. Chair of the Engineering Department showed me details of the new lab building that will be under construction and proposals that have been forwarded for acquiring new testing equipment. The In-charges of labs provided an inventory of the existing and working equipment. They were confident that in two years time, they would be able to modernize their labs - a great hope for the research students.
v. Meeting practicing engineers: The Department of Engineering arranged and invited practicing engineers from various government departments such as the Chief Engineer Highways, Director General (projects monitoring), several Superintending and Executive Engineers, who attended my seminars about engineering management, preparation of error-free plans, and specifications for  construction projects. The relationship of the Mehran academia and the practicing engineers was unique and indicative of the extensive cooperation with the industry. This cooperation has reinforced the use of Mehran labs and its other facilities. It has provided multiple opportunities to the students to interact and be trained by the practicing engineers. Thus the students learn more about the compatibility of their education to the current working conditions. The University and its faculty deserve appreciation for their leadership that has forged an excellent relationship with the engineering industry.

Future Interaction: 

Both, the students and faculty of Mehran demonstrated enthusiasm in research, obtaining higher degrees and securing suitable careers. Following programs were proposed for research and other activities with the help of Pakistani-American expatriate:
*Traffic safety, research on minimization of traffic accidents on highways, accident reporting system, establishing a data base and identifying design deficiencies to make corrections.
*Provision of tools to do research, for example, equipping the lab to test the construction materials of infra structures.
*Initiate preliminary relationship by introducing memorandum of understanding with the US and Pakistani University such as Mehran UET and Universities in Arizona, California or other neighboring states. .   
*Seminar and research on motorway/highway pavement design, emphasizing the maintenance schedule, and making regular pavement tests and checks (require equipment to check the pavement profile).

Conclusion:

Finding the Mehran UET in such a fine progressive order was beyond my expectations. The academic achievement in the number of PhDs and Masters produced, enthusiasm of the University administration to keep improving in areas such as curriculum, research, facilities, new buildings, student welfare, and the potential of students to promote their own education and careers, is nothing but advancement.


While viewing the success of higher education in Pakistan, I must indicate the positive involvement of HEC in Mehran, and as I learned more, I found that HEC is equally involved in other universities of higher learning throughout Pakistan.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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