In a country where the standard of educational institutions is appalling and where mediocrity is accepted as a compromise, the ones which can be labelled pockets of excellence are so few that they can be counted on the fingertips of merely one hand. Prominent among them is the 60-year old IBA (Institute of Business Administration).
Starting on a modest scale in the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs building on what was once called Havelock Road, way back in 1955, it was for the first five years of its existence called IPBA because it offered degree courses both in Public Administration and Business Administration. However, when it was delinked with the University of Pennsylvania, which had been providing expertise, public administration ceased to be IBA’s responsibility, hence the deletion of the letter ‘p’ from its name.
Under the stewardship of Dr Wright Hoffman, the founding father of the institution, the IBA went from strength to strength. Among his worthy successors in the Institute’s early years the one man who stood out was Dr I.A. Mukhtar. While emphasising the importance of extra-curricular activities, the dean and director of IBA laid utmost stress on the academic side of the development of a student. A case in point was the rule that he laid down that students with deficient academic records were not qualified to hold any post in BASC (the students’ club at IBA).
After his departure, momentous changes in all aspects had to wait till 2008 when Dr Ishrat Husain took over as the dean and director and transformed IBA into one of the top ranking business schools of the world. The advancement has been made in many fields. For instance, he has laid great emphasis on recruiting PhDs and has encouraged existing faculty to do doctorates too. The results are astounding. From 19 PhDs on the staff in 2008 the figure has jumped to 56, with as many as 24 faculty members pursuing their doctorates.
IBA with its 60 years’ history, studded with extraordinary achievements, merited a publication as exhaustive as the one written by one of its alumni, Sibtain Naqvi. He has researched painstakingly by going through records of his alma mater and files of daily Dawn, in addition to interviewing a very large number of people, at home and abroad, who had anything to do with IBA. He has also spoken to the students currently on IBA’s rolls and the present faculty members in both the city and the university campuses.
While chronicling the history of IBA Naqvi has highlighted the features that have characterised the institution and has, at the same time, dwelt on the changes that have increased its prestige.
IBA happens to be the first business school outside North America and the first educational institution in Pakistan to adopt the semester system. The biggest advantage is that it keeps the students on their toes all the time. With monthly exams and regular quizzes, not to speak of final semester exams, students do not have the luxury of relaxing until the end of the academic year when final exams take place. The author recalls that on one occasion due to disturbances in Karachi, the students stayed back on the campus so that they could sit for the exam the following morning.
Absenteeism is not tolerated either. The writer remembers that in March 2004 he and his classmates had to resist the temptation of bunking their classes to watch the thrilling Pakistan-India ODI match at the National Stadium in Karachi. History, on that occasion, was repeating itself because way back in 1956 the Australian cricket team played a Test in Karachi, which the under dogs, the Pakistani team won. Sibtain Naqvi’s predecessors also didn’t succumb to the temptation of watching the well fought battle.
IBA has in all these years followed strict eligibility criteria in its admission policy. Like AKU and LUMS, this more senior institution attracts the most talented candidates for admission. As one who has followed IBA closely, I feel that the eligibility bar is continually being raised. As Dr Ishrat Hussain says in the foreword of the book only one out of ten applicants emerge successfully in the written examination, interview and group discussions. The system is fully transparent. A former dean Prof. Abdul Wahab once said that his own son was not granted admission because he could not go through the rigorous procedure successfully.
The battle doesn’t end after admission. If anything, it becomes tougher. The all round performance has to match the high standard set up over the years. Those who are unable to do so are shown the door.
Naqvi also mentions that no student, once he or she has gained admission, is asked to leave if he or she is unable to pay the quarterly fees. There are quite a few scholarships and freeships that the deserving students can and do benefit from.
Back on the advancements made in the last six decades, if one needs to see physical proofs then all one should do is to take a round of so many useful and impressive structures that have come up in both the campuses of IBA in the last few years.
One final point, the monumental volume, otherwise meticulously and consummately produced by Sibtain Naqvi could have done with some bit of editing. For instance, in the first chapter there is a mention of one Syed Sibte Raza Naqvi taking a tram from the newly built locality called PECHS could not have been so because tram service remained confined to the old sections of Karachi. It was never extended beyond Soldier Bazaar or Jodia Bazaar or Cantonment Station.
Likewise, to say that CENTO was also known as Baghdad Pact is not entirely correct. Appearing on the political horizon in 1955, Baghdad Pact was signed originally by the Great Britain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan (the US was a supportive observer) but when Iraq pulled out of the treaty four years later, it was renamed CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation). Like SEATO and NATO its raison d’etre was to counter communism. These two mistakes can be taken care of in another edition of the book, which one hopes will follow sooner than later.
Chronicling Excellence: A History of IBA by Sibtain Naqvi can be ordered from www.libertybooks.com.
Asif Noorani is a seasoned journalist and author of four books. He writes for different publications on a wide variety of subjects. His email address is: email@example.com