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QAU students protest linguistics department's closure

qau More than 100 students from linguistics and other departments protested at the campus and staged a sit-in in front of the vice chancellor’s office. The students said although the department will be phased out gradually and they will be allowed to complete their degrees, yet after its closure they will not be able to pursue MPhil or PhD which the department is yet to start. “It is the only department in the country that offers pure and applied linguistics courses wherein students study various languages including native languages,” said a protesting student, Ali. He said there has been a great demand from the students to start MPhil and PhD programmes in linguistics but the vice chancellor thinks the subject has limited scope and a financial burden on the varsity. The teaching faculty of the university is also against the decision. According to information, they have submitted a petition in the office of President of Pakistan, who is the chancellor of the university, with the signature of over 200 faculty members against the decision, urging him to look into the issue. They believe the vice chancellor has bypassed the varsity’s academic council that is the appropriate forum to decide about the start, modify, or phase-out of any academic programme. As per the university rule, the syndicate has to act on the advice of the academic council but in this case, the council was not consulted at all, said Ilhan Niaz, president of varsity’s academic staff association. He informed a committee was formed to decide about the fate of the department when the issue surfaced in April this year. The committee had recommended modifying or merging the programme with other departments. But the syndicate members who were not properly briefed or misled preferred to go with the vice-chancellor’s decision, he added. Established in 2012, the linguistics department was a brainchild of Dr Tariq Rahman who is associated with the Beaconhouse University. Currently about 118 students are enrolled in the department. “It is a crucial subject which is taught everywhere in the world and we are already much behind in it. India and Sri Lanka have good departments of linguistics but Pakistan does not even have one,” responded Dr Tariq Rahman through email when asked about this issue. “One should not bother about money; otherwise one would have to say goodbye to most forms of knowledge. Linguistics does, however, feed into robotics, study of speech defects, creation of artificial intelligence and in mapping languages. Besides these practical uses it is at the centre of understanding society, personality and politics. It is also necessary for understanding education and the policies choosing a medium of instruction,” he explained. “I think the department at QAU should be strengthened and not closed down. I am sorry to hear that linguistics is being phased out. I established it after 20 years of effort.” The in-charge of the department, Umaima Kamran said: “It is a wrong perception that the subject has limited scope and there is no demand of this subject in the market.” She said their students have been working in various universities and non-governmental organisations and they want the QAU to start MPhil and PhD programmes. Because it is the only department in the country that offers rare courses of clinical linguistics and dying languages in contrast to other universities that only offer English literature courses, she said. However, Vice-Chancellor QAU Dr Javed Ashraf maintained the syndicate, which is the highest decision making body of the university, took this decision after through deliberations. He said the decision was taken two months ago and the protest of the students seems to be merely politicking. The university decided to phase out the programme after taking into consideration all areas and priorities and finances were not the only reason, he said.–Minhaj Ali Lodhi ]]>

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