USAID to establish centre for advanced studies at UET

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USAID has allocated $14.4 million to the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Peshawar to establish Centres for Advanced Studies in Energy (CAS-E).

UET Vice Chancellor (VC) Syed Imtiaz Hussain Gilani told The Express Tribune the project is focused on three main sectors – water and food security, agriculture and energy. “USAID conducted a detailed survey in all universities of the country for almost one and a half year and then selected four universities.”

Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro was selected for the water and food security sector, Agricultural University Faisalabad for the agriculture sector, while two universities were selected for the energy sector – National University of Science and Technology, Islamabad and UET, Peshawar.

Gilani said Pakistan is facing an alarming shortfall of energy. “Power is directly linked to the socioeconomic development of a country and is the utmost need of every citizen,” he stressed.

“A stable power supply is indispensable for industries, scientific research and agricultural growth. Therefore, it is vital to envisage long-term research-based projects on energy in academia to find sustainable solutions to our energy problems,” he added.

According to Gilani, the core objectives of the CAS-E project are to raise the level of graduate training programmes to international standards, to encourage research and development, groom effective managers and future leaders, and formulate a national economic development strategy.

“The CAS-E’s vision is to generate knowledge in energy that will contribute to cost-effective and sustainable solutions to problems facing Pakistan. It aims to educate and train the next generation of scientists, engineers and policy makers through innovative academic programmes that are focused on applied research,” said Gilani, adding the project also aims to encourage and empower women scientists and researchers to actively participate with equal opportunity.

“It will be a five-year project during which engineers will carry out practical research work to present solutions to the energy crisis,” said the vice chancellor. He informed funds for the centre have not been released by USAID yet, but was hopeful the amount would be released by September.

“If USAID does not provide us funds by then, we will start the CAS-E on our own and work on the rehabilitation of our outdated power distribution system,” claimed Gilani.

UET CAS-E Director Dr Najeeb Khan said each centre would award 250 degrees, while 200 faculty members and students would participate in academic exchange programmes with the US.

Khan informed around half the graduates from each centre would be employed in the private sector to train economically disadvantaged students from urban, semi-urban and rural areas. “At least 50 applied research projects would be conducted by each centre,” he added.

“The technical focus of research for the UET CAS-E would be power engineering, smart grids, renewable energy, solar energy, photocatalysis, energy storage, coal-based energy, energy efficient building designs and environmental aspects of energy policy,” said Khan.

UET Media and Publications Director Shumaila Farooq said it was a great initiative of USAID to hand over this project to universities. “The centres would not only overcome the energy crisis in the country but will also provide great learning opportunities for engineering students,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013