Education

NUST – A Unique Civil-Military Collaboration

In its journey barely spanning over three decades, NUST has moved forward in monumental strides and earned the infallible reputation of being a next generation university with a progressive and innovative outlook. Currently, it is proudly positioned at #355 amongst world universities (competing with Ivy League institutions, some of which are hundreds of years old) and at #76 in Asia as per the 2021 rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS); a prestigious and one of the most widely accepted and authenticated UK-based Higher Education ranking agency. More recently, the university has also ascended to #41 amongst young world universities under the age of 50. Incidentally, in all these 4 categories, NUST stands at no. 1 position in the country.



Aiming for socioeconomic development sans creation of new knowledge and innovation is not possible in these epoch-making times. The developed world, wielding its supremacy today over the Third World countries, owes its raison d'être to knowledge acquisition and spirit of inquiry, and as a deduction, towards the seats of higher learning, research and innovation. The health of a country’s economy is now inextricably intertwined with the health of education and research in that country. That is to say, in order for an economy to embrace sustainability, the undistracted focus on education, research and innovation becomes sine qua non
Now more than ever, developing countries like Pakistan are keener to invest in higher education and research to attain socioeconomic stability and growth. In the last nearly two decades, this realisation has gained tremendous footing to revolutionise tertiary education and cutting-edge research in the country. For instance, the number of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Pakistan has soared from a paltry 59 in 20021 to 217 as of November 11, 20172, which is indeed a quantum leap forward for a growth model drawing upon the knowledge economy, courtesy the vision of General Pervez Musharraf (R) and the team led by Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, the founding Chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan. 
In its journey barely spanning over three decades, NUST has moved forward in monumental strides and earned the infallible reputation of being a next generation university with a progressive and innovative outlook. Currently, it is proudly positioned at #355 amongst world universities (competing with Ivy League institutions, some of which are hundreds of years old) and at #76 in Asia as per the 2021 rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS); a prestigious and one of the most widely accepted and authenticated UK-based Higher Education ranking agency. More recently, the university has also ascended to #41 amongst young world universities under the age of 50. Incidentally, in all these 4 categories, NUST stands at no. 1 position in the country.
Back in the day, what inspired NUST’s inception was the urgency to indigenously produce Pakistani engineers and scientists attuned to the most cutting-edge knowledge. It sprouted with the formation of a consortium of already established military colleges of engineering across various cities of Pakistan. Later, this landmark initiative evolved into a unique civil-military collaboration – which is one of its kind not only in Pakistan but also in the world at large – with the establishment of institutions alongside the military colleges, so much so that the university has now made its mark as the premier comprehensive and multidisciplinary university of Pakistan. It merits mention that the affiliation of military colleges with NUST has enabled non-military students to get admission to these colleges, which have the distinction of offering some programmes of study not available in any other HEI in the country. It is also interesting to note that currently the number of civilian students studying in these colleges is greater than that of military cadets (53% students in NUST’s affiliated military colleges are civilians). Moreover, NUST is the only university in Pakistan to have its presence in all four provinces of Pakistan, the latest addition being NUST Balochistan Campus in Quetta. 
Starting out primarily as an engineering university, NUST’s strength was derived from its constituent military colleges, some of which have a long and cherished history, having been established soon after the independence of Pakistan. Even today, our excellence in engineering programmes is accredited largely to our military colleges; out of 22 engineering programmes at NUST, 12 are being taught at our 5 military colleges spread across 3 cities of Pakistan.

Military College of Signals (MCS) in Rawalpindi is the oldest among NUST’s constituent institutions (established in 1947) and also the first of the military colleges to come under NUST’s umbrella (1991); it was the first HEI in Pakistan to start an undergraduate programme in Telecommunication Engineering (launched in 1974), later expanding to Masters and PhD programmes in the discipline, which has numerous contributions to the growth of the country’s telecom sector. MCS is also the first institution in Pakistan to start a Master’s programme in Information Security, which was first offered in 2004. 


The NUST College of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering (CEME), Rawalpindi, established in 1957, is the largest constituent college of NUST, which became part of NUST in 1993. The college initiated the first Mechatronics Engineering programme of the country in 1998. CEME’s Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Engineering programmes were two of the first four programmes in Pakistan that were shifted to Outcome Based Education (OBE) System under the Washington Accord.


Merit is the only criterion for admission at NUST; with an acceptance rate of 4%, the university attracts a pool of the most talented students from all over Pakistan. The true beauty of this merit-based system is reflected in the fact that approximately 60% of our student intake, that qualifies on merit, comes from the lower and lower-middle income groups. NUST maintains an affordable fee structure to promote inclusivity, and also has a robust need-based scholarship programme. 


Amongst the military colleges, Army Medical College was the last one to become a NUST constituent in 1998. In December of 2015, the College was affiliated with National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS).

A special aspect of these military institutions is promotion of Military Science diplomacy. Currently, 162 foreign military students from Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are enrolled in 4-year degree programmes at PNEC, MCS, CEME and CAE. An impressive number of foreign military students from countries like Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, UAE, Oman, etc. have so far graduated from our military colleges. Moreover, many friendly countries have their military leadership trained at these Pakistani military institutions; for instance, the incumbent President of Sri Lanka, Lt Col Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is a graduate of NUST MCS. The NUST Centre for International Peace & Stability (CIPS), as part of NIPCONS, was inaugurated by UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon in August 2013, and till date, it has trained 2,050 military officers (including 240 foreigners from 32 countries). 

College of Aeronautical Engineering (CAE), Risalpur, established in 1965, came under the NUST umbrella in 1994. CAE was Pakistan’s first HEI to start undergraduate programmes in Aerospace and Avionics Engineering in 1965. CAE is also the only institution in Pakistan offering a PhD in Avionics, as well as the only engineering college in the country to be co-located with a military academy. 


Military College of Engineering (MCE) was established at Risalpur in 1952, and became a part of NUST in 1995. In 2012, MCE became the pioneer institution of the country to introduce MS programme in Disaster Management. MCE’s Structural Dynamics laboratory is equipped with the country’s largest Seismic Testing Facility and state-of-the-art Compression Testing and Universal Testing machines. This unique expertise in mining is crucial to the country’s needs. 

The acquisition of Sector H-12 for its Islamabad campus has been a gigantic leap forward for the growth of NUST, as it gave impetus to the fast-paced infrastructural expansion facilitating the launch of new NUST institutions in an array of disciplines. NUST is a staunch proponent of inclusive growth and takes conscious initiatives to bring students from the country’s far-flung areas into mainstream education. Among its foremost undertakings is the establishment of NUST Balochistan Campus (NBC) in Quetta, and a robust Outreach Programme launched in 2017. Initially catering to intermediate students from the underdeveloped areas of Balochistan and the then Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the programme has now expanded to interior Sindh and previously untapped areas of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. 
Merit is the only criterion for admission at NUST; with an acceptance rate of 4%, the university attracts a pool of the most talented students from all over Pakistan. The true beauty of this merit-based system is reflected in the fact that approximately 60% of our student intake, that qualifies on merit, comes from the lower and lower-middle income groups. NUST maintains an affordable fee structure to promote inclusivity, and also has a robust need-based scholarship programme. 

Pakistan Navy Engineering College (PNEC), Karachi, was established in 1962 and joined NUST in 1995. It is NUST’s only constituent institution in the country’s southern region. PNEC’s BE and MS programmes in Naval Architecture, commenced from Fall 2020, are the country’s first programmes in this field.

By aligning our R&D with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), NUST has become an SDGs-engaged university, an achievement that is recognised by international ranking agencies. Moreover, NUST seeks to amass expertise from within as well as outside the country to boost its academic and research activities. These collaborations help our faculty remain up-to-date with current knowledge and ensure a two-way flow of knowledge. 
NUST has placed special emphasis on military-focused R&D. In addition to our military colleges, several NUST Schools and Centres also have defence-related projects as part of their R&D portfolio. In August 2020, NUST has also established a dedicated Directorate of Defence R&D as part of its Research, Innovation & Commercialisation (RIC) ecosystem. This Directorate develops and maintains linkages with the three services, Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) and defence organisations in the country, and aligns NUST’s defence R&D with current and future national requirements. 
NUST stands aloft with its Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) soaring high in numbers, and has the highest number of patents filed and awarded in Pakistani academia (722 patents filed and 126 awarded – more than 80% of these in the last two years). A total of 36 Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) have been transferred to industry, impacting import substitutions and industrial innovation across multiple fields like Health, Telecommunications, Manufacturing, etc. NUST leads the way amongst Pakistani HEIs to transfer technology to the industry.


By aligning our R&D with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), NUST has become an SDGs-engaged university, an achievement that is recognised by international ranking agencies. Moreover, NUST seeks to amass expertise from within as well as outside the country to boost its academic and research activities. These collaborations help our faculty remain up-to-date with current knowledge and ensure a two-way flow of knowledge.


Amongst the numerous firsts ascribed to NUST, the foremost are:
(a) Pakistan’s first Science & Technology Park – the National Science & Technology Park (NSTP) – at NUST’s Islamabad campus, which was inaugurated by H. E. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, in December 2019. Leveraging the Quadruple Helix Model of Innovation, the Park, which recently earned the status of Pakistan’s first and only High-Tech Special Economic Zone (SEZ), has essentially brought together industry and academia to work in close synergy and create a national research and innovation ecosystem, adding value to the technological index of Pakistan. It merits mention that NUST is the country’s first 3rd Generation university focusing on becoming a 4th Generation varsity that is self-sustainable.
(b) Pakistan’s first manufacturing facility for cardiac stents, angioplasty balloon catheters and other life-supporting medical devices – N-ovative Health Technologies (NHT) – were inaugurated by the Prime Minister in October 2020. This facility aims at making high-quality healthcare accessible to the masses, through world-class cardiac implants and medical devices, being manufactured at an ISO 13485 certified facility that is accredited by European Commission Notified Body and approved by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).
With many other pioneering initiatives to its credit – like Pakistani academia’s first Technology Incubation Centre (established in 2005 and renamed as TechOne in 2019) to promote entrepreneurship, first Intellectual Property Office to protect innovation, first university-based think tank (NUST Institute of Policy Studies – NIPS), Pakistan’s first university-hosted cloud service by the name of NUSTCloud, and much more, NUST is well-poised to become a regional hub of higher education and innovation. 
University Social Responsibility (USR) is a major focal area at NUST, and our students alone contribute more than 100,000 hours to community service every year under the banner of NUST Community Service Club (NCSC). 
Notwithstanding its young age, NUST’s contributions to the higher education sector and technological as well as socioeconomic progress of Pakistan are immense, making it a benchmark for other Pakistani HEIs to follow. Our academic excellence, market-driven curricula, bilateral industry linkages, aggressive Research and Innovation (R&I) portfolio, national innovation platform of STP and an alumni network of more than 38000, lay the foundation for NUST as an ideal place for learning, innovation and growth. Allah willing, the university is poised for a glorious future.


Lt Gen Naweed Zaman (R)  was commissioned in Pakistan Army in March 1980, having won the coveted Sword of Honour. He is graduate of Command and Staff College Camberley (UK), NDU and RCDS (UK). After retirement he served as the Rector of NUST from November 2016 to December 2020.


1. HEC Vision 2025, https://www.hec.gov.pk/english/HECAnnouncements/Documents/Announcement/HEC-Vision-2025.pdf
2. HEC website, www.hec.gov.pk

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