Established in 1992, NUST’s curricular focus, during its earlier years, remained restricted to the academic content and its application in the field of science and technology. Addition of NUST Business School in 1999 expanded the domain in diversity somewhat, but did not go beyond the inclusion of a few more disciplines i.e., management science and business studies. However, establishment of Higher Education Commission in 2002 urged the universities to review their curricula and mandated them to introduce social sciences with minimum of 30% credit hours dedicated to foundation courses and social sciences. This step resulted in filling the void which existed before giving wider coverage to humanities and social sciences.
NUST Community Service Strategy
A revisit of our vision and strategy revealed several serious curricular deficiencies in the social and humanistic context. The revised vision thus clearly articulates “a discernible positive impact on the society” as one of the five major strategic thrusts. It is especially for this very reason that NUST has joined Talloires Network which promotes Community Service through active citizenry.
Presently, NUST pursues a clear Community Service Strategy (CSS) which encompasses the following:
Means and Instruments
Develop NUST graduates into socially active citizens with a global vision and a clear conception of the integration of science and technology with the socio-economic environment of the country.
Create opportunities for vertical social mobility for talented students from socio- economically disadvantaged sections of the society.
Help minimize conflict within society and between society and the environment, thereby promoting sustainable culture of socio-economic development.
We are living in an information age and a globalized world in which physical borders of nation states are losing their meaning and transnational challenges call for collective response by the global community. The major challenges facing the human society are ideological, intellectual, psychosocial, environmental, economic, technological and political. The national, regional and international issues are so inter-connected that human beings find it extremely difficult to cope with them. The educators of today too confront these challenges while they try to groom and develop future citizens and leaders of their countries, helping them understand themselves and find true meaning in their lives. To educate their students so as to make them useful citizens, it is essential to involve local communities to work with students in their efforts to build a healthy society.
The objectives of NUST Community Service Strategy are as under:-
Transformation of NUST students into socially active citizens
Assisting the primary and secondary schools in inspiring their students to opt for science, technology and social service
Promoting the following causes:-
Scope of community Service Strategy (CSS):
The objectives of NUST CSS are both vast and multi-dimensional in scope. However, the focus will primarily be on education, health, environment, sustainable development and conflict resolution. It is within these broad disciplines that NUST has to find its main focus. Some of the possible areas of major thrusts are as under:
Health care through the use of ICT
Reduction in environmental degradation
Sustainable development keeping in view the possible adverse impact of development on water, energy, natural resources, infrastructure, environment and the society
Conflict resolution through intra-cultural and inter-cultural dialogue
Disaster relief and rehabilitation
Means and Instruments of CSS:
Universities alone are constrained by their financial, human and technical resources. Hence, they have to rely on what they have and what they can get from their partners in academia, industry, society and networks at national and international levels. Many a time, these constraints determine the scope and size of their effort and delineation of their objectives. Universities that are new in this field and are just in the formative stage have to start small and then build on their success.
The means available with NUST are:
About 900 strong faculty with diverse skills in almost all the disciplines of engineering, IT, medical science, natural sciences, art, architecture, management sciences, earth science and social sciences including economics, sociology, mass media, public administration, international relations and strategic studies
About 11000 quality students with very high level of motivation
Staff skills in planning, preparation and execution of projects especially in the areas of civil engineering, IT services, management, disaster relief and rehabilitation
A very strong linkage with the Armed Forces of Pakistan that have an extensive experience of disaster relief and rehabilitation, management of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their rehabilitation, UN peace keeping operations and national development projects
Linkages with foreign universities and international networks including Talloires Network that can provide knowledge, consultancy and technological support in the areas of community service
Collaborating partners in the civil society of Pakistan
Most important of all, the image and credibility of a university that values and upholds merit in student admissions, financial support to needy students, ensures justice within its systems, and maintains quality and academic standards. A reflection of this image can be seen in the growing increase in undergraduate admission applicants every year. In 2010, over 42000 students applied for admission against a mere 1800 available slots.
Implementation Methodology of CSS:
NUST is still learning the art of ‘active citizenry’, social entrepreneurship, and engagement of the community. The concept demands a paradigm shift in the approach of faculty, staff and students towards life and the society. Knowledge-based societies and economies work differently, as they know that at the end of the day all new technologies and their application in all fields of life would warrant changes and adjustments in society’s reaction and attitude towards these changes and keep growing despite the continuously evolving technological, economic, political and military fields.
NUST, of late has aligned itself to the spirit of time and chalked out a well thought out community service framework with the right strategy. However, it is now ready to put the pieces together and weave them into a coherent fabric.
Given the enormity of problems facing societies, venturing community service is indeed a formidable task. In this context main challenges are:
Agreement on common goals, objectives, and threat perception and concord on the response to counter the threat and to attain the given objectives
Knowledge and skills required for community mobilization and participation in implementing the selected course of action
Trust and confidence of the community in the concept of active citizenship and the ability of the university faculty, staff and the students in implementing social entrepreneurship
Support of the national institutions like the executive, judiciary and law enforcement to the university’s “active citizens”.
Nothing works without formal structures and dedicated staff for focus on attaining objectives of a particular strategy. NUST CSS will be driven by NUST Community Service Club that will have a secretariat, permanent support staff and faculty and student office bearers. In order to prepare all students of NUST for community service, the subject will be included as a core subject in the curricula of all the academic programs.
The key to this whole program lies in the engagement and participation of the community, which is a huge challenge in Pakistan. Pakistani people have traditionally looked towards the government and its institutions to resolve their issues. Unfortunately, government institutions are constrained by their capacity, capability and even the resolve to surmount the challenges. Individually, Pakistanis can compete with the best in the world in their field, but as a community, they find it very difficult to create synergy.
Pakistani citizens have responded well to the rescue and relief of people affected by natural disasters like the Earthquake of 2005, in which more than 73000 people lost their lives and the devastating floods of 2010 that displaced about 20 million people with fatalities reaching close to 2000. It was during the 2010 floods and the Swat refugees of 2009 that NUST Community mobilized to help the affectees of the two calamities. Faculty, students, their relatives, alumni and philanthropists trusted NUST institutions in their relief efforts. The responses corresponded to the level of challenge confronting them. Natural and man-made calamities make human misery so pronounced that communities are compelled by their humanitarian spirit to respond. The responses to calamities are limited in time, space and the nature/scope of relief effort. But community response to long term challenges having less intense but more damaging NUST Community Service Strategy effect are harder to get. Hence, the need to develop a well thought-out strategy to mobilize university community first and then work on the communities around the university campuses, while gradually expanding the sphere of influence to the regional and possibly the national levels.
Essential Measures for Execution of CSS
Following steps are required to be taken to implement the concept:-
Launching/establishment of NUST Community Service Club (NCSC). (Annex-B)
Laying down the mission, scope and objectives of NCSC and identification of social causes and activities that the Club will undertake, with clear time lines (Annex-B)
Inclusion of community service in the curriculum of all academic programs including practical work in selected communities. There could be a 2-credit course included in the curricula of all undergraduate programs
Holding of annual conferences, walks and campaigns for the identified socio-economic causes
Continuously reviewing the progress made and modifying strategy where required
For long Community Service has remained a dormant practice in local universities. Establishment of HEC (Higher Education Commission) in 2002 mandated the universities and institutions of higher learning to revamp their curricula thereby introducing a segment composed of social sciences including humanities and civic engagements. NUST has responded to the calling well. It significantly mobilized its resources to reach out to the service of ailing, afflicted and suffering communities in the wake of catastrophic flood, internal displacement and quakes. The university has chalked out a comprehensive strategy to address all needs and demands of organized Community Service at NUST. It is pursuing a phased plan to make it yet more systematic and meaningful endeavor.