The University of Baltistan, Skardu: An Introduction
By Attarad Ali, PhD
The University of Baltistan Skardu (UOBS) is a relatively new institution in the higher education landscape of Pakistan. Established in 2017, the university has quickly gained a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and community engagement. Located in the picturesque town of Skardu in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Baltistan, also known as the Balti region, is a mountainous area located in the northernmost part of Pakistan. The region has a rich cultural heritage and is known for its scenic beauty. However, despite its natural beauty, the region faces numerous challenges, including poverty, lack of access to basic amenities, and a low literacy rate. One of the biggest challenges faced by Baltistan is the difficulty of providing education to its inhabitants. Due to its remote location and difficult terrain, the region has historically been cut off from the rest of the country. This has made it difficult for the government and NGOs to establish educational institutions in the area. Moreover, the region’s harsh climate and extreme weather conditions make it difficult for children to attend school regularly. During the winter months, heavy snowfall often blocks roads, making it impossible for children to travel to school. This results in a significant loss of instructional time and negatively affects the quality of education in the region. Another challenge faced by Baltistan is the lack of qualified teachers. Many teachers in the region are not trained to teach at the primary level, and those who are often lack the necessary resources and support to effectively deliver their lessons. This results in a high dropout rate, with many children leaving school before completing their education. Furthermore, the language barrier is another significant challenge in the region. Baltistan is home to several dialects, and many children struggle to learn in a language that is not their mother tongue. This makes it difficult for teachers to communicate effectively with their students, resulting in a further decline in the quality of education in the region. Despite these challenges, the university is serving the region with its limited resources. The UOBS has been working tirelessly to provide quality education to its students and to contribute to the socio-economic development of the region. It offers a unique blend of modern academic programs and traditional cultural heritage with offering a wide range of academic programs in various fields, including Natural and Health Sciences, as well as Social Sciences and Humanities. To maintain and enhance its reputation, the university needs to focus on improving the quality of teaching and research.
The University of Baltistan Skardu currently offers undergraduate and graduate programs in various disciplines, including Botany, Zoology, Mathematics, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geology, Education, Languages & cultural studies, Business management, Tourism & Hospitality Management, and Archeology. The university is affiliated with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan and follows its academic standards and guidelines.
One of the unique features of the university is its focus on local and regional issues and challenges. Many of the academic programs have been designed to address the specific needs of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, such as sustainable tourism, disaster management, climate change, and cultural preservation. This approach not only benefits the local community but also provides valuable research opportunities for students and faculty.
Faculty and Research
The University of Baltistan Skardu has a highly qualified and diverse faculty with extensive academic and professional experience. Many of the faculty members have earned their degrees from top-ranked universities in Pakistan and abroad and are actively engaged in research and publication. The university also invites visiting faculty from other institutions to enhance the academic and cultural exchange.
The university has established its own research center and sub-campuses all around the Skardu city to promote interdisciplinary research and innovation. The focusing research areas include Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, the Mountain Research, Tourism and Cultural Studies, and all other Emerging Scientific, Social, and technical arenas. The research center and campuses collaborate with national and international partners and contribute to the regional and global knowledge base.
Facilities and Services
In near future, The University of Baltistan Skardu is going to shift to its own newly constructed building that will be a modern and well-equipped campus that provides a conducive learning environment for students. The campus includes academic buildings, a library, a computer lab, a student center, and sports facilities. The university will also offer residential facilities for students and faculty members, including separate hostels for male and female students.
The university provides various support services to ensure the well-being and success of its students. These include counseling and career services, academic advising, disability support, and financial aid. The university also encourages student clubs and societies to promote extracurricular activities and community engagement.
The University of Baltistan Skardu is committed to serving the local community and contributing to its development. The university has initiated several outreach programs to address social, economic, and environmental issues in the region. These programs include health camps, literacy campaigns, vocational training, and environmental conservation. The university also collaborates with well reputed universities such as LUMS and local NGOs and government agencies to maximize its impact.
The university’s commitment to community engagement is reflected in its academic programs as well. Many of the programs include fieldwork, internships, and community service components to provide students with practical experience and to benefit the local community. This approach helps students to develop a sense of responsibility and empathy towards society and prepares them for professional and personal growth.
In conclusion, providing education in a deprived region like Baltistan is a challenging task. However, it is crucial to invest in education in the region, as it is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring a brighter future for its inhabitants. Bottom of Form
Despite these challenges, the University of Baltistan Skardu is a promising institution that has made impressive strides in a short period. The university’s academic programs, research initiatives, facilities, and community engagement reflect its commitment to excellence and relevance. The university has the potential to become a leading academic institution in Pakistan and the region and to contribute to the global knowledge and development. The University of Baltistan Skardu is a testament to the power of education to transform individuals and society and to create a better future for all. Eventually, improving the quality of teaching and research at the University of Baltistan Skardu requires a concerted effort from both the faculty and administration. By investing in faculty development, providing resources for research, encouraging collaboration, and ensuring ethical research practices, the university can enhance its reputation as a leading institution of higher education in Pakistan. However, the government and NGOs need to work together to provide quality education and address the challenges faced by the region, including improving infrastructure, training teachers, and providing financial assistance. Only then can we hope to overcome the difficulties and provide the children of Baltistan with the education they deserve.
The contirbutor is Additional Director of QEC at the University of Baltistan Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan Pakistan