Hoping for revival: Textile Institute brings back former president

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: Following a series of “disturbing events” last month, the board of governors of the Textile Institute of Pakistan (TIP) has brought back Dr Zubair Bandukda from the United Kingdom to lead the premier textile and business school of the country as its president.

Bandukda, who holds a PhD in textiles from the University of Manchester, has served as TIP’s president and dean of the faculty in the past. He has replaced Tariq Ikram, former CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan.

Writing in TIP’s independent student newspaper, Bandukda said the institution was “under severe financial constraints.” Although he refused to share the exact figure with The Express Tribune, saying the board of governors had yet to approve the 2011-12 budget, sources said TIP’s accumulated losses were in the vicinity of Rs28 million.

They said TIP had one of the worst admission seasons last fall. The number of applicants was low, they said, adding that only 40 students were accepted.

TIP has probably the lowest faculty-to-student ratio (1:11) among Pakistani universities. In the absence of grants and with high overhead costs of an enormous, purpose-built campus on the outskirts of Karachi, TIP is finding it difficult to maintain its fiscal balance. Moreover, the board of governors, which has a number of textile tycoons as its members, has practically placed a cap on the tuition fee.

“Tariq Sahab wanted an increase of 10% in the tuition fee, but the board refused,” Bandukda said, adding that TIP’s tuition fee has actually decreased over the years if inflation is taken into account. “The tuition fee was Rs55,000 per semester in 1994. When I left for the UK in 2009, it was about Rs80,000.”

Of late, the performance of the board of governors in terms of securing grants from either the government or the textile industry has also been less than satisfactory.

For example, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) has stopped funding the Textile Research and Innovation Centre (TRIC), the research wing of TIP for technical textiles. TRIC received Rs750,000 every month from Aptma for two years, but the funding ceased because of internal politics of the textile association.

This is despite the fact that TRIC has consistently produced tangible results since its establishment in 2007.

“The rigidity of the board members has been the major cause of TIP’s poor financial position,” a TIP employee said requesting not to be named. “They’re too self-centred to make serious efforts for a grant. The last president wanted to bring financial stability, but the board’s inflexibility didn’t let him work.”

Talking to The Express Tribune, another staff member said the board shares the responsibility for TIP’s crisis. “According to corporate governance norms, the board shouldn’t be involved in operational activities of any organisation. However, in case of TIP, even the purchase of maintenance items for the IT lab requires the board’s approval.”

Bandukda rejected the claim that the board was overly involved in day-to-day operations. However, he admitted that the board members wanted to stay informed about the happenings at TIP because they felt “possessive” about it which, he said, was “natural.”

Sources said TIP sacked at least 17 lower level staff members just before Eidul Azha under increasing pressure from the board to cut operating costs. There was a severe backlash from the student body, which was followed by the resignation of the TIP president.

When contacted, former TIP president Tariq Ikram said he left the institute because of personal reasons. He added that he had informed the board about his decision to quit months in advance.

According to Bandukda, the board has now agreed to review the sackings in its next meeting on November 23.

Bandukda’s immediate objective is to make TIP financially stable which, he says, it was from 2002 to 2009. He believes reaching breakeven is possible if more textile-related disciplines, such as industrial management, are introduced with a corresponding increase in the annual intake to 450-500 students, the capacity of the campus.

Next, Bandukda says he is going to launch a full-fledged fundraising drive, targeting alumni and the influential textile lobby to bring TIP back on its feet.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 19, 2011

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