To bid ‘bon voyage’ and good luck to the students of Islamabad who are going to France for postgraduate studies under the Pakistan-France cooperation in higher education, French Ambassador Regis de Belenet hosted a reception in the Shamadan Hall of the Serena Hotel.
Besides the students, members of the embassy and Alliance Francaise, Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, Nust Rector Lieutenant General (r) Muhammad Asghar and other faculty members were present on the occasion.
Addressing the gathering, Ambassador Belenet congratulated the students and praised them for passing the high, competitive standards set by the HEC and hoped they would be ambassadors of Pakistan while in France and ambassadors of France when they returned. Regretting that the balance between male and female students was tilted in favour of the young men, he hoped in coming years this would be more evenhanded. “I wish you good luck and a happy stay in France,” he said in conclusion.
This year 190 students have been selected from all over Pakistan through the HEC selection process on the basis of academic merit. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman informed that after the initial shortlisting of candidates, the HEC had nothing to do with the final selection, which was handled by a French team of professors. He debunked theories of favouritism and irregularities in the HEC and said two foreign education authority institutions, one from the US and the other from a European country, had given their seal of approval to HEC in reports which should satisfy critics.
Nust Rector Lieutenant General (r) Muhammad Asghar dispelled the notion that Nust was a military organisation and gave preference to students from the armed forces — though students from different schools of the armed forces did study there. “It is a national university and we select students on merit only.” He said thousand of students apply and he wished they had room to accommodate more — they have 6000 students studying in various disciplines — but it was impossible, so only the best got through. The university will be shifting to its new premises in Islamabad in August and has a well-paid and highly-motivated faculty, which is why it is the first choice of those who want to excel in their field of endeavour. Nust is among the 500 best universities of the world.
There were about half a dozen or so female students, one with full ‘hijab’ and two with headscarves, so I asked Ambassador Belenet if they would have a problem a suggestion he refuted emphatically. “University students are free to wear what they want,” he said, “It is only in the state-run primary schools that this law is enforced because the state is separated from religion. The headscarf controversy was no controversy at all but it was made into one.”
Two female students Samina Akbar (Arid University) who will study Nutrition and Molecular Biology and Razia Haider (Nust) who has chosen Computer Sensor Network were thrilled to be going to study abroad and while one said her father had some reservations, the other said her parents had been most supportive. Both said they were looking forward to interaction with students from around the world and try and mitigate some of the wrong perceptions people had about Pakistan.
Alliance Francaise Director Matthieu Declercq who is doing his second stint in Pakistan and has very positive things to say about this country, conducted the proceedings, informing that the students were taking French lessons at the Alliance Francaise and would have two months of advanced lessons when they reached France.
Source: The News, 21/6/2008