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GCU: A case of lost prestige

Why has an institution that sustained its glory for over a century been relegated to a secondary status?

GCU: A case of lost prestige
GCU and FC College: stark contrast.

Recently Forman Christian (FC) College and Government College Lahore (now GCU) celebrated their 150th anniversaries. Both the institutions, along with King Edward Medical College, were the first ones to be established by the British in order to introduce Western modes of learning in the province and beyond.

For over a century, GCU excelled leaving FC College behind in terms of the excellence of its student body, academic environment and faculty. After FC College was nationalised in 1972, its academic standard deteriorated considerably with GC still holding its ground as the top institution. Anyone who could not make it to GC, opted for FC. Ravians — a term for current students and alumni of GC — looked down upon Formanites (students and alumni of FC College) with a touch of superiority. But now the joke is turned on them as FC College has made remarkable progress in the last decade while GCU’s standard has plummeted quite tangibly during the same period.

FC College was given back to the Presbyterian Church by General Pervez Musharraf who was a Formanite himself. In fact, the October 1999 coup was pretty much a FC College takeover of power and deposing of GCU. Not only Musharraf but the famous Chaudhry brothers (Pervez Ilahi and Shujaat Husain) — who became his key political allies — were also Formanites, while the Sharifs who were ousted from power were Ravians.

FC College, under official support, started a cleanup operation. Academic staff, which had become a liability, was transferred to different government colleges. New staff was hired and buildings were refurbished and in many cases constructed afresh. FC College has now new hostels and state of the art academic blocks — all of which came up in the course of last few years. After LUMS, FC College probably has the largest number of foreign qualified academics in various departments.

GCU, on the other hand, presents a dismal picture. In the early 1990s, Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif took personal interest in GCU’s affairs. They extended full support to its principal, Professor Dr Khalid Aftab, in his endeavours to get the campus and the hostel cleared of rogue elements. But while ‘discipline’ was enforced on campus, little headway was made in academic affairs.

There is a dearth of senior ranking professors. There are just three full professors and three associate professors in the humanities and social sciences departments.

The situation has become even more pathetic in the last four years. The humanities and social sciences have suffered the most. There is a dearth of senior ranking professors. A cursory glance over departmental profiles available on GCU’s website reveals that there are just three full professors and three associate professors in the humanities and social sciences departments. These three full professors are from Urdu, Persian and Islamic Studies.

Except for Economics, no other department has a head of department who is foreign qualified. In the case of Statistics and English, the heads of the departments hold a simple MA/MPhil degree from a local university while foreign qualified PhDs are either serving as lecturers or assistant professors. The overwhelming majority of faculty in these departments is lecturers with local MA/MPhil degrees.

The reasons for GCU reaching such a dismal state are several. The current administration seems to have no vision whatsoever to foster or promote academic research. It still draws consolation by nursing the much hackneyed illusion that GCU is the most prestigious institution of Pakistan which has produced luminaries such as Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Dr Abdus Salam among many others.

The laurels of the past seem to be their only asset. They consider it a great honour to study or teach in such a university with a golden past. This hardly holds water any longer.

GCU has lost top space to other private institutions which emerged on the academic landscape of Pakistan. But this fact is lost upon the GCU administration. GCU’s major source of strength used to be intermediate students — especially in the pre-Engineering and pre-Medical groups. But now that O- and A-levels have largely replaced the intermediate system, the bulk of good students do not come to GCU for the intermediate level. After A-levels, they get straight to such institutions as LUMS, FAST, NUST, UET and AKU for professional degrees. So even though GCU students have continued to secure top positions in the intermediate exams, its significance has largely been diluted.

Good academics cannot be lured simply on the basis of prestige; they have to be offered a competitive salary package and reasonable working hours. At the moment, a lecturer/assistant professor at GCU has to teach three to four classes in a single day.

In addition, they have to do petty administrative stuff such as invigilation duties for examination. This cumbersome routine is exhausting and frustrating as it leaves hardly any time or energy for the academics to pursue their research interests.

The current administration takes a lot of pride for having doubled the number of students enrolled at GCU over the past four years. Other than the fact that there is nothing really remarkable about this ‘achievement’, it also ignores the workload for teachers and the student-teacher ratio which has increased substantially.

Apart from lack of monetary incentive, the attitude of current administration towards hiring of qualified academics is questionable. I am personally aware of the cases of some brilliant young academics who rejoined GCU after finishing their PhDs from abroad. Even though they had PhDs, they continued to work as lecturers and were not promoted to the rank of assistant professorship. Also, they were not even provided with adequate work space where they could do their research activities.

Such attitude is in stark contrast to other private or autonomous public sector universities which are eagerly hunting for foreign qualified academics. At the expense of being repetitive, I would again cite the example of FC College which has shown considerable initiative in attracting academics from abroad and within Pakistan as well.

The best way to illustrate the difference in approach between GCU and FC College in present times is through the official histories sponsored by these two institutions on the occasion of their 150th anniversary. FC College commissioned Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash — a bright, young historian from Oxford University and one of its faculty members — for this task. Although he was required to produce more of a coffee table book on the history of FC College accessible to general readership, Dr Bangash added an academic flavour to it by exploring various local and international archives.

GCU, on the other hand, hired a retired professor from the Persian department. Dr Zaheer Ahmad Siddiqi is a national distinguished professor and an excellent scholar of Persian but not a trained historian. His published account of GCU history relies exclusively on published secondary sources. This is despite the fact that he has, in his own book, given a description of old record of GCU which has been retrieved from college building and comprises of more than 4000 files.

This book, officially sponsored and published by GCU, has got pictures of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif. Not a single academic luminary figures in that book which, of course, is a sad reflection on that endeavour having gone awry.

There cannot be perhaps a better way to describe the mindset and priorities of the current administration of GCU and the current political scenario of Pakistan.

Note: The writer is a former Ravian.

Ali Usman Qasmi

ali usman qasmi
The writer teaches history at LUMS. He has recently co-edited a volume titled Muslims Against the Muslim League: Critiques of the Idea of Pakistan (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2017). He tweets @AU_Qasmi


  • Reading this felt like I was reading a piece about Kinnaird College.
    What a tragedy for both GC and KC.

  • This is what I’ve noticed over the last few years too.
    A Ravian myself, I encouraged my daughter to study at FC College. You can not live always by remembering a golden era that has passed now.

  • rabia A. qadoos

    What a true depiction. Being a current ravian myself I could second it ..

    • haha rabia hope this comment wont land you in trouble with the administration. we dont air our dirty laundry in public afterall

      • Once I was mujahid like you.

  • FC has changed their perception in just a few years. there is no reason why GC cant do the same for itself. but for that the OLD thinkers need to be let go and we need fresh blood with fresh ideas.
    otherwise GC will one day become like Queen Mary school… a vague memory of brilliance in mind of senior citizens

  • I am a recent formanite (2009-2013). I am working in UAE. What FCC has given me, its hard to say that i could have ever got that from any other institution in Pakistan. The current scenario has turned the tables upon GCU. my brother is on student work program(SWP) at FCC Admissions office and this is the truth that intermediate students after being rejected by FCC due to merit etc got to GCU which is now their second priority.
    I want to extend not only my moral but also my financial support to FCC for future Endeavours
    God bless Forman Christian College (a chartered University)

    • you must need to keep in mind that the merit of GCU is “much higher” than FCC. Don’t spread the misconceptions.

      • That merit is futile. GCU has no research expertise.

  • It has been 6 years that I had been studying at GCU and i am saying this with immense sadness that it is very true what is written in the article. The government college is not same as it was, the education level, the manners and attitude are long gone. It was considered to be a holy place for students but now it has become a shame to be known as a Ravian due to many disgracing events that had occurred in the campus. The current VC may blindfold himself and depict progress in the form of constructing unimportant structures inside the campus. But the problem remains their and a complete disastrous regression is going on at every department of GCU. I fear in next few years nobody would take any admission as all the cream of students already go to other institutions.
    Being a student here, i felt that i have lost my life’s important years. Teachers had been political and work for their own means and use students to get green flag from VC to be in his good books. If few departments are viewed you can see either it would look like students bunking and smoking or nursery for babies.
    The pressure on students are so much that they cannot study and administration of the university had such nonsense policies that students regret taking admission here.
    I know fellow students who came in post graduation in charm of the tower and name of GCU having a brilliant legacy but now they regret big time.
    It pains a lot to a true ravian seeing GCU decaying like this.

  • Being an old Ravian, I quite agree. GCU needs to let go of its past and move forward to make its mark in the PRESENT…

  • While being a Ravian I felt ashamed while reading this.

  • TRUE DEPICTION….being a Ravian myself…i can relate…but it hurts….

  • Being a Formanite and having a host of Ravian friends, we had already predicted this scenario a long ago. From a personal experience, the affection and guidance, at FCU, of Dr. Bashir A. Khan and Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, both having PhD degrees from Oxford, and of other noted professors like Dr. Arfa Syeda and Dr. Wajid Ali Ranjha were more than a blessing for me. They not only encourage all their students to develop habit of research work but also emphasize the need to question and critically analyse existing beliefs and prevailing systems and ideologies. However, it would be unfair to ignore the fact that GCU’s students intake is sill better than FCU and that the tuition cost of the former is still lesser than the latter. GCU just needs good faculty members and restoration of its much-chanted liberal environment for academic activities. Shukriya

  • Sahibzada Hussain

    True depiction! Being a born ravian i preferred to go to FCC .

  • As a Formanite I really respect and value the services of GCU has been providing over the years BUT to be very honest, GCU really lacking modern means of education, Unfortunately, I had a very bitter experience at GCU, After completing my BA hons degree from FCCU I went to GCU for Mphil, Admission, I am sorry to say there was no such culture of providing assistance to new comers or guests. I talked to Administration, academic and accounts people, but sorry to say, none of these departments cooperated as expected. At the same time, I emailed more than 10 people belonging to different departments, none of them found worthy to reply my email. I am not trying to degrade GCU BUT sharing my experience. I had a desire to study there but the present scenario and my personal experience regarding admission at GCU not allowing me to do so, May GOD BLESS GCU , MAY GOD BLESS FCCU, May God bless Pakistan, Amen

  • Someone show all this to VC of GCU so he can wake up and instead of making a new campus, manage the old lahore campus well.

  • Awais ali haider

    I really feel proud to be a formanite. Really miss the golden time of life.
    God bless Fcc university..

  • Once a great Principal of FC College said that GC is a place for scholars but FC is a place for gentleman. this stands true to this day. FC college may have improved substantially its academics but the point of distinction still is its environment, diversity, exposure and the social grooming that it provides to its students.

    Long live FC College ! we truly do with love serve one another ! :)

  • all things that discussed above are voice of my heart ,but something is missing that must be mentioned that is “LEG PULLING”

  • I simply wanna say Fccu produces Executives and Gcu produces Clerks. :) proud to be a Formanit.

  • After reading this article i can testify that every single word regarding the current GCU plight is true. Increasing the amount of student just to generate enough revenue is a heartrending situation. And why should we always be proud of our golden past what about creating another history.

  • Being an old Ravian, I reaffirm this piece of writing, its heartrending…but true :( ( GCU administration should look into these issues

  • Muhammad Arshad

    GCU Lahore is a medium size university ranked by HEC as 2nd while FCC at 9th…
    There is a dearth of Senior ranking professors/foreign qualified… But only in some disciples… It doesn’t mean prestige of GCU is lost.

    Many foreign qualified senior ranked professors are working in various disciplines.

    Only the laurels of past are not the only asset…

    GCU granted a patent by US by invention of nano fertilizer… Invented by youg scientists.

    More than 50% of forensic scientists working for forensic research in Pakistan are Ravians.

    In sports… GCU has won the LUMS National Hockey Championship 2015.

    GCU is a prestigious institute.

  • Bitter reality, really true depiction…BTW, being a Ravian, we all have thought that only we as Ravian know the actual flaws of GC, which have been concealed by the glories of past.

  • I did my schooling from prestigious Aitchison College, intermediate from FCC and now I’m doing my B.A (Hons) from GCU. There’s huge difference between FCC and GCU.
    Both are indeed prestigious institutions but now since FCC was given back to its founders in 2004, it has left GCU in the dust. FCC is now far better institution than GCU. FCC and LUMS are much similar instutions in terms of teaching and environment (I guess that’s why Pervaiz Hoodbuoy went to FCC after leaving LUMS).
    As far as my present university GCU is concerned, so I want to tell you that since I came here in GCU after FCC my life is destroyed. GCU is like a Urdu medium government school.They are hiring young teachers for university students who are still doing their from MPhil GCU! Its ridiculous, whereas FCC and LUMS have the highest number of foreign qualified teachers in Pakistan.
    The second issue in GCU, which is making me a lot of upset,is that 90% of students in GCU are Pashtuns and Balochis who even can’t speak in proper Urdu, there are Pashtuns and Balochis in FCC too but they have strong command over Urdu and English, and they are much much more groomed than the one’s in GCU. GCU needs too groom its students a hell lot, like FCC and LUMS.
    Next since I’m studying in GCU from October 2014,the entire GCU is under perpathic construction which is becoming day to day even more miserable instead of improving. You should also visit Bangladesh portion of GCU and compare it with FCC. There’s absolutely no competition between them. Being an Aitchisonian and an Old Formanite, I can’t afford GCU, I simply can’t.
    I’m planning to go back to my home FCC after completing my first year at GCU. The only thing that I get by coming here in GCU is the visit to Anarkali Bazaar, where I visited historical Mohkam din Bakery, Pak Tea House, Lucknow Perfumers and visited Sufi Shrine of Shahabuddin Shah Bukhari, it was a good experience.

    • Three things:
      1. The fees at GCU is MUCH less than FCU so people from lower economic class can afford it rather than the elitist institutions like LUMS and (now) FC. They are fully private universities who are charging their students enough money so they can afford to pay so many of their foreign qualified faculty.
      2. If the “prestigious” Aitchison and FC could not teach you proper English (as is evident from your horrible grammar), what are you expecting from others? Improve yourself first before casting a stone at others.
      3. The term is BALOCH, not Balochi. BALOCHI is the language, not the Baloch people. Your comment is evidence enough of your ignorance and ‘great’ schooling.

      Please go back to FC.

    • Famous Pseudonym

      You got a problem with Pashtuns and Balochis??? You, my dear, could have just mentioned that students have to be groomed. But you, my sweetie, I guess have a problem with Balochis and Pashtuns… People like you just limit themselves to the likes of Pak Tea House and Mokham Din Bakery. Are those the most remarkable things about Anarkali Bazaar for you?? You my sweetheart, need to grow up and have some exposure with the real world.

  • Don’t moderate my comment.Print it.

    • arent you the polite one.

  • Indeed FCCU is doing far better then GCU but still all the students with 80% + marks in their intermediate use to choose GC rather then FC. the reason is fees. so all the lower class ppl use to go their. my own friend who was formanite had choosen GC to study CS. this leads to more competition in the class room and eventually GC always become successful to produce more bright students compared to FC

    • I agree with the comment of zafar iqbal, in my opinion also one of the major reason of this situation is hiring of the faculty members is not fair, most of the time the people who are selected as a faculty member , have support either from some of the senior faculty member of the department or from some politicians. I know some of the current faculty members who were hired just because they were supported by some of the senior teachers or the politicians.

  • A really very true analysis about GCU.There is need to write in proper way about our institutes as our institutes has been ruined by the people specially after the era when the publication race starts.Recently GCU Chemistry Department published a patent and advertised it too much as they have win the Nobel Prize for it.Moreover,the overall behavior shown by the faculty is unethical.I have personal experience as i have been faculty candidate but they hire less educated and politically imposed candidate.

  • Hey guys I have secured an admission in fcc in bs bio technOlogy but now after reading u’r comments I got little bit confused plz tell me which is best……

  • 1#
    Being a Ravian I believe that the writer of this article is biased. There is no comparison between GCU and FCC. As FCC is a private chartered university having hefty dues and it can afford to hire as many PHD scholars asit want. Its financialy viable for them because they are getting 80,000 to 1,00,000 per semester as compare to GCU fee of 25000.
    I studied history from GCU and currently teaching at Aitchison College. I cant say about other social science departments but history department is having so many gems.
    Mr Tahir kamran ( Taught at Cambridge ) Head of history department
    Dr Farhat Abbas
    Dr Usman waheed usmani
    Dr Tahir Jamil
    Dr Hussain
    If we talk about the Alumni then there is no counting. There are numerous dignitaries, its difficult to name even the prominent ones.
    My observations is, that still most of the students choose GCU as their first choice .

  • Very well written article and timely too. The main reason for the rapid rise of FCC is their realistic approach towards education and life itself. Their baccalaureate program is excellent as their liberal arts policy. Over the years they have made significant gains in terms of premium business and humanities education. They are very much like LUMS, infact many of their faculty members used to teach in LUMS and Quaid-e-Azam university. I know many students from A levels background who come to FCC and I’m one of them. Another quality of FCC is the liberty and freedom it provides to the students. Students are encouraged to think critically which is another reason A levels students do better in FCC. While fee structure is high, unlike LUMS it do provide merit scholarships as well as need based scholarships. LUMS only provide need based scholarships which could be difficult to avail provided their never ending requirements. No doubt that FCC is way ahead of GCU.

  • This is very insight of GCU
    I wish u could re-do this and add on the dilemic and gross situation of GCU at present again .

    Not only that Former VC has taken a downwards leap fr GC but the present one Dr Hasan Shah proved to be worst
    He has badly failed in administrative ruling as well as at acedemic side while spreading woman sexually abuse and usage of sex and liquors on board and across the board has declined and faded the image of GC rather putting it in gutter.

    Re do this article and spread so any one might take notice towards improvising this historic institution.

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