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This book contains a candid account of the post-autonomy phase in the 150 years history of the Government College. It shows the readers true picture of the circumstances leading up to the transformation of an old College into a degree-awarding institution and, later, a university with a high ranking by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. The story about the formidable challenges of that period and the resolute search for solutions reflect the perceptive vision of the author. This insightful work should be of great value to educationists and administrators. The revealing information contained in the memoir would also have immense appeal for general readers.
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Title: Against All Odds: Institution Building in the Real World
Author: Professor Khalid Aftab
Year of Publication: 2017
Number of Pages: 253
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komal_hashmi – January 7, 2019
This lovely book is written by one of the most successful vice chancellors of my alma mater; Government College University, Lahore. I did my MS from this university, have countless unforgettable memories with this institution. The book “Against All Odds (Institution Building in the Real World)” by Professor Khalid Aftab is a realistic account of how one man’s futuristic approach, vision to succeed, honest commitment and dedication can truly build an institution in a way that fulfills its true purpose of creating successful, confident & innovative individuals with upright morals & positive thinking. Prof. Khalid Aftab has done so much for this institution & has the longest association by being its student, teacher, Chairperson of the Economics department, Principal of the college (before it was given a status of the university) & as its founding VC. GCU has gone through so many hardships and problems but he made sure that this institution rises from the ashes and retains its reputation of being the finest of all the other colleges/ universities. In his memoir, he has discussed everything in detail about the golden history of GCU, how it was given the degree awarding status which was rare at that time, various challenges that rise not only from the inner management but also by the government and bureaucracy due to the red tape system in Pakistan, the introduction of new programs and departments, expansion of the existing building, with a special emphasis on research, innovation, student services & generating its own resources. He described the struggles, disappointments, and efforts in a comprehensive manner. It is a very well written book, encompassing everything & you’ll have a sense of pride in being a part of this great institution. If you want to understand how a government institution works and what problems/ hurdles come in the way then, it is a perfect read for you.
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dissent_travel_literature – June 11, 2019
Government College University Lahore, affectionately known as Government College Lahore among old students of the institutions, has a unique legacy among other public sector educational institutions built in the colonial era. It evokes a nostalgia and loyalty among its old students, also known as Ravians, which is difficult to match. This book is about the transition from Government College Lahore, an institution affiliated with University of Punjab, to Government College University Lahore, an independent degree granting university. However, it also looks back on Dr Khalid Aftab’s tenure as the last principal of Government College Lahore and the first Vice Chancellor of GC University Lahore.
Dr Khalid Aftab takes the reader through the day to day matters of an elite educational institute in which interference by holders of political office or members of student organisations was a common occurrence. He shows equal disdain and disgust for both in this book. He talks about bringing order to college life with an iron hand amidst nepotism and gun violence. In that narration, one may detect a hint of self-righteousness that becomes heightened by the end of the book as he names and shames his former colleagues for not living up to his ideals. The book shows all political forms of student organisation as an evil that had to be curbed. While violence among different student organisations was a common occurrence in educational institutes during the 90s, it must also be remembered that students were denied a legitimate form of representation because of a ban on student unions. Implicitly, Dr Khalid Aftab agrees with this position of discouraging political organisation of students, which shows in the book.
As mentioned before, the author doesn’t hold most of his colleagues at the university in high regard. In his opinion, they were not able to carry forth the work that he had started. He accuses them of being corrupt, incompetent, and opportunistic. Personally, I felt that settling personal scores in a book that is about institution building is not appropriate. One can always talk in general terms and then diagnose the problem.
This is an essential reading for researchers who are working in the field of higher education in Pakistan, and who want to know about the bureaucratic and political intricacies involved in the transition from an affiliated college to a degree granting institution. However, the author in his blissful nostalgia refuses to engage with the colonial legacy of the college, some of which was actively endorsed by him while he was in the office. For instance, (male) students were not allowed to wear any regional dress during the university hours except on Friday. On all other days, they were required to dress formally. This policy was enforced through fines. The author refuses to reflect on the role of an educational institution in a postcolonial country like Pakistan. Still, for students interested in the dynamics of Government College Lahore during the 90s, this book is a must read, though one should be warned that his narrative is by no means unbiased.
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