Thursday, January 29, 2009

FAST-NU Engineering Fiasco

I recently received an email from OSAF, The Old Students Association of FAST to provide feedback on the curriculum and quality of FAST-NU graduates. I normally try to stay away from political discussions and useless exercises as these never bring any outcome. However after having discussed the situation with one of the CEC members, I finally decided to jot down certain points as my last-ditch effort for the welfare of engineering students and fresh graduates of FAST-NU Lahore. These points might be useful for the FAST-NU Alumni Association (FAA) for their forthcoming meeting with the honorable Rector, Dean and Registrar of the university on February 7, 2009.

Having seen 3 Directors and spending almost 5 years at this campus, it puts me in a great position to write these notes.As Maria rightly pointed out an issue in her feedback

“I believe that the greatest quality of fresh graduates of NUCES FAST is that they are not afraid of putting in the hours i.e. have an ability to work hard. They generally know their stuff as far as their field of expertise is concerned. One of the important weaknesses, in my opinion, is a general lack of exposure owing to too narrow a focus on academic excellence promoted by FAST. Fresh graduates are not as well-rounded or confident as they potentially could be.”

However, I don’t consider it the prime reason and major weakness of FAST-NU graduates. To me, the major weakness is the FAST-NU Lahore’s administration itself. Let us compare ourselves with institutes other than LUMS and LSE, which are majorly business schools. Our technical graduates are much more professionally groomed than even UET Lahore.

Let me just first put the ground facts in order.

1. TE & CE students of Batch 2002, 2003 and 2004 underwent experimentation during the PEC recognition phase.

2. It’s a pity for someone to know that an estimate of only 15 students out of the intake of 250 engineering students graduated on time.

3. Only one student of TE 2004 is in the Dean’s List (without any F, withdraw and CGPA above 3.5)

4. Most of those who graduated on time and those who graduated late are jobless. Only a minority could secure good jobs and that too through their own family references. The rest of the lot is either sitting at home, doing CCNA qualification for VoIP jobs or doing internships at small telcos, VOIP companies and software houses. No serious effort was put in by the management to place the graduates thus resulting in accumulation of great frustration and hatred towards the Alma mater. If a topper of the batch is offered a 12.5K job before the global financial crisis, what more can you expect? Hence, most of the top students joined as Lab Engineer jobs at the campus against their will.

5. The students cannot apply for good Post-Graduate programmes & Scholarships due to the low CGPA. Most of the institutes reject them in the initial screening considering the STAMPED “F”’s.

6. It is not the dearth of good students. In fact, it is the dearth of good faculty, good leadership, and very limited resources. Getting good-quality faculty, and more importantly, retaining them, is a serious concern. A recent statement issued by a senior faculty member (who few years back used to claim that wants to bring in the best faculty) says that he has CV of individuals who are willing to teach at Rs.8K per month and all those who are not satisfied with the pay scale can leave the campus. To me, this is a serious crime and he should be taken into task by the high-ups.

7. The senior level courses whether it be Digital Communications, Microwave Engineering, and Wave Antenna & Propagation Theory etc. etc. are most of the time taught by graduates who are just a year senior to the graduating class. For God Sake, this is not an evening tuition center! I mean these are the courses which should only be taught by senior faculty members to broaden the horizon of students. To be very frank, I can quote that I never got an “F” from any Doctor or Senior Faculty Member. All the F’s that are sparkling on my transcript are the ones that I got from young faculty members and lab engineers.

8. You are bound to do Final Year Project under the faculty members and Industry Projects are discouraged. The faculty member who has just graduated 6 months back, how would he/she be able to guide you on an R&D Project as he possesses the similar knowledge as the students themselves. Moreover, the aim and vision of the FYP is mostly that it’s *DOABLE* and has lots of hardware associated so that FYP evaluation committee doesn't reject it. Thus, innovation is discouraged, projects are not continued and every year we see similar projects being done again and again as were done by their seniors.

9. Theoretical Courses like Satellite Communications are offered as elective whereas the university itself knows that Courses like Database System or Web Programming can enhance the technical skills of the graduate.

The list goes on and on and on. However, we should now realize that what’s done is done. We cannot right what’s been done to the already graduated lot. Perhaps, we can suggest solution and how can we help them out.

My Proposed Solution:

FAST-NU Lahore has one of the best human resource of the country available at a single campus. Whether you speak of business minds, IT and Engineering Geeks, you have it all here. The need is to channelize their potential and take it towards a goal which benefits all. I accept that Telecom Market is low due to the slump. However, we can establish a business incubation center which involves people from all domains. The recent graduates who are jobless or are working in small software houses should be called in to work on the Startups and Commercial Product Development. This can also help in improving the Industry-Academia relationship. This center of young enthusiasts and entrepreneurs should be supported by the NU administration with the facilitation of necessary funds and infrastructure development. Graduating students and juniors should be involved in this process too. For example, a mentor can be assigned to a group of people and if this group comes up with a commercial product by the end of the year this would be certainly more beneficial than doing a worthless non-commercial engineering project which would never be continued by the following batches.. This is one of the ways FAST-NU can distinguish its Engineering School & help the frustrated lot by supporting them in their respective endeavors.

These are my two cents on this topic.You can pen down your opinion in the comments section.
Thursday, January 08, 2009

The fear of NO

Having said that twice in my life and getting those big "NO" slaps in return, the heart doesn't feel like taking any more steps on this path. The 'NO" on this road shatters and ruins you down & its really really hard to get up and move forward. My self confidence went to an all time low.I converted from a social to an anti-social animal. However, its life.You have to move on and so did i.The good part is that you can now feel the pain of others which was unimaginable earlier.

I know i am pathetic at expressing my feelings in person.Thus no matter what i feel, I don't have the courage to stamp another "NO" on my heart.I don't want to decompose my body and soul again.Perhaps that's the fear which has kept me from saying that again.
Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Productive Day

I called up Sheraz Bhai and Jerry Bhai the other day in the evening.Both of them were unable to take my call.5 minutes with Irfan Bhai and Adil Bhai and a 20 minute chit chat with Salman has taken me one step forward.

Tuesday, January 6, 2008.What a productive day!