Dr Abdul Ghafoor has done Bachelor and Master in Aerospace Engineering from College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur, Pakistan and University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA respectively. He did his PhD in Robotics from University of Salford, UK. He has worked as a visiting professor in Kings College London and has also been a Fulbright Scholar at University of Florida, USA. Dr Ghafoor research interests include, Grasping and Fine manipulation in Robotics. He has over 50 publications in the journals and conferences of international repute. Currently Dr Ghafoor is serving as Principal and Dean of SMME, NUST. He is a strong proponent of academia-industry synergy. In a recent interview for Technology Times Dr Abdul Ghafoor shares his thought focusing Academia-Industry synergy

Dr Abdul Ghafoor is a strong proponent of academia-industry synergy

Being a visiting faculty at Kings College London, what major difference you found from our education system?

There are several striking differences in the education system. In abroad, the education is objective based; the students are imparted with theoretical knowledge and then given open ended problems to apply that knowledge to resolve them thus developing their intellectual growth and analytic skill.

The curriculum in abroad is well planned and is completely in relevance to the social application, which is revised periodically as per requirement. The major problem in our country is the decentralized education systems that are running simultaneously that produce multiple products e.g.

We have Cambridge, Secondary and Madrasah System, and each of the system produce different prodigy of students that are not at par to each other in terms of proficiency, skill, and knowledge. Another difference is the qualification of faculty; in abroad most of the faculty members are no less than PhD. whereas we have only few higher education institutions (HEIs) including NUST, which have adequate PhDs in their faculty.

Regardless of all these disparities, I am still optimistic and believe that we are covertly heading towards right direction and improvements are certainly underway.

What are your major achievements in improving the research productivity of SMME?

My ambition is always to foster academia-industry linkage and I have rendered ample success in that. We have worked with many industrial sectors including automotive, energy, and sports etc. and provided effective cheaper solutions to their problem. Recently, we provided quality sorting technique using automotive solution to a football manufacturing concern that enabled them to uplift their standards and thus increase in their income.

What reforms should be immediately brought to revamp the education system of Pakistan?

There are various things that need to be done starting from bottom to top, and overhauling the whole education system. In lower education like primary, secondary and intermediate level, private sector is doing a splendid job but there is need to standardize government institutions as well.

If we could introduce enabling conditions of uniformity to facilitate the entry of large chunk of society into higher education then we can bring a notable change. The focus of some academia is on commercial aspect which is also a serious problem that needs to be addressed as quality of education must be the primary objective. The well-equipped labs and good quality assurance departments must also be established in order to improve the education system.

Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) are regulatory bodies that keep an eye on quality of higher education through policies but still there is much more to be done.

What is the practical solution to bridge Academia-Industry gap?

This can be efficiently done by corresponding with industry; sharing labs and curriculum with them and using their feedback to improve curriculum. Faculty has to step forward to take ownership of a project and must vow to offer solution to that problem. Industry will definitely prefer cheaper solution once their trust is built.

HEC had started UITSP (University Industry Technical Support Program) with the idea to direct industries to commercialize the best idea provided by academia. That was a very good program but unfortunately didnt bore desired results due to gap between academia and industry. The close association of academia-industry can resolve many persisting issues as both complement each other in national development.

We have to replicate the structure of developed countries by making internships mandatory. The resource produced by HEIs must be absorbed by industry and by providing them necessary trainings. I firmly believe that if government, industry, and academia shorten their distances then there is great a prospect of improvement and progression in Pakistan.

Can robotics be incorporated in Pakistani industry for automation?

There is a lot of margin of improvement in bringing automation to our industry as it is imperative for the sake of time effectivity as well as quality assurance. The expensiveness and lack of awareness are the major halting in the slow adaptation of automotive solutions in Pakistan.

Academia can play a great role in providing cheaper solutions to the industry. There is also a need to improve the quality of diploma engineers which is almost neglected in our education system, because they are the middle tier in the industry and much of the important tasks are not executed well due to their inefficiency.

How quality of Technologists can be improved?

Technologists are better trained as they are taught with applied nature of subjects. They have better hands-on experience and ultimately they work as middle tier in industry but they lack in various necessary skills as well, as most of them come from certain degraded backgrounds and their scientific understanding, English language proficiency etc. are not up to the desired level that is why their admission is likely to be restricted in reputed engineering universities.

There are several programs which are under consideration by Government and HEC like establishment of Skill University to produce quality diploma holders. Diploma curriculum should also be improved by taking industry on board. Their hands-on training should be focused as they are required to be very good on it. If academia-industry linkage is improved, curriculum of diploma holders is updated as per industrial requirement, and HEIs also accept them for trainings etc. there is no iota of doubt that they can play a key role in national development.

Reference the importance of Diploma Engineers. How the confrontation on equivalency of diploma holders issue can be resolved?

There should be an opening for Diploma holder as well to enter into higher education. PEC has given approval in this regard and directed universities to accept diploma holders admission in Bachelor degree program. TEVTA and NAVTAC are supposed to look for their quality.

How do you see scientists, engineers, and technologists race of superiority?

All these three categories are vital for development of any nation and role of scientists, engineers, and technologists is equally significant. So, there must not be any kind of race of superiority. I believe resolving problems of society is superior regardless of academic background.

How scientific and technological studies can benefit society?

The institutions made for technological development are required to step forward and introduce new technologies that account for needs of the society. The academia can also play a vital role by focusing on applied researches; industry can give valuable input in curriculum updating. The curriculum must be industry oriented so to stimulate the indigenous cheaper solution. This way unemployment problem can also be curtailed.

What are your comments about Technology Times and Tech TV?

Technology Times and Tech TV are indeed an outstanding effort. Technology Times is much focused kind of newspaper covering only science and technology based news and literature. Tech TV can play a more vital role in youth and society by highlighting the major scientific challenges that are rubbed off under the carpet.

I am certain it will attain its objectives of science popularization and I extend my heartiest well wishes to the team. I suggest that readers especially faculty and the students to continue reading Technology Times and also contribute in it in the form of articles etc. for the sake of noble cause of science popularization.

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