In NIRF, since 2016, we have been ranked in the top three in pharmacy, and in 2019 and 2020 we continue to be at number one
Jamia Hamdard, the higher educational institution based in Delhi, is often confused with Jamia Millia Islamia, the central university. “However, over the last few years, we have been able to create a distinct identity for ourselves,” says Seyed Ehtesham Hasnain, vice-chancellor, Jamia Hamdard. This, he adds, is due to the intensive research taking place at Jamia Hamdard, and also because it has been rising up the ranks in national and international rankings. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he says that while research activities slowed down in April and May (due to the lockdown), it is now picking up. Excerpts:
What kind of research has happened at Jamia Hamdard on pandemics in general and on Covid-19 in particular?
We lay a lot of emphasis on research at all levels of human enquiry, including in pharmaceutical sciences, Unani medicine, biological sciences, molecular medicine, food technology, rehab medicine, engineering sciences, etc. We also have a major programme on tuberculosis (TB), which has affected humans for centuries—studies have been conducted on possible treatment of TB including drug repurposing and its pathophysiology and mechanism.
We have adequate wherewithal to undertake research on Covid-19, including trained faculty who have joined us from institutions across the world. Four studies explored the genetics and epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection explaining the plausible ways of pandemic spread, rapid genetic mutations in the virus and transmission dynamics in India. Another study identified geography-specific mutations in SARS-CoV-2 genome.
During the lockdown, was research at Jamia Hamdard hampered in some way?
Yes, it was hampered, and across the globe as well. In April and May, the functioning of our laboratories was affected due to lockdown. A lot of research is dependent on wet lab and facilities like that of animal house, cell culture (both plants and animals), drosophila facility. Also, supply of reagents/equipment was affected.
But now we have a mechanism in place for post-doctoral fellows and scholars to work in laboratories, and research work is picking up. Although vacation has been declared up to July 31, some faculty members have been visiting their departments, especially to supervise research.
How do you plans to restart classrooms?
I have to consider several factors—safety of our students, concerns of parents, adequate social distancing norms, relocation of outstation students to hostels or their rented accommodation outside the campus, safety of our teaching and non-teaching staff. Additionally, specific regulations of MHRD, state government, UGC, different regulatory bodies have also to be catered to for taking this decision. We keep a tab on guidelines of MHRD in a way that keep students and staff safe, and social distancing strategies used in other countries that have successfully reopened campuses. We have students from most states and over 25 nationalities. We hope classes for the ongoing session will start from August 1, and for newly admitted students these will start from September 1, subject, of course, to government guidelines.
Can social distancing be maintained at a university located in the centre of a city?
It is difficult, but doable. SOPs will have to be made and implementation ensured. Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical strategy for infection prevention. Thankfully, we do not have space crunch on our campus. By adopting rotational and shift teaching, it will be possible for us to conduct classes using ‘social/physical distance’. We have installed auto-sanitisers on all building entrances and record temperature of all entrants.
Jamia Hamdard is rising in national and international rankings. Is it due to a planned process, or do rankings simply reflect the ongoing excellence?
It is a combination of both. We are putting emphasis on the quality of faculty and students, and also the programmes and infrastructure we are developing. All of this is now reflecting in our visibility and rankings.
All rankings have well-structured and vetted parameters of measurement of excellence. In almost all rankings, the ranking data on publications, citations and patents are sourced from independent resources and an institute has not role in it. The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is fairly objective and transparent. In NIRF ranking since its inception in 2016, Jamia Hamdard has been ranked among top three positions in pharmacy and for the last two years (2019 and 2020) we continue to be at number one. It has long been recognised by peers, parents and industry that Jamia Hamdard is the best in pharmacy; NIRF has scored and underlined it. Also, we have been recommended by the Empowered Committee of the MHRD as an ‘Institution of Eminence’, ranked at the fifth place among the established privately funded institutions, and the ‘only’ minority institution to figure in top 10.
What is your faculty profile like?
Our faculty strength today is about 425, and most of them are trained abroad. We have a mix of young and experienced senior faculty members. The average age of our faculty will be under 40 years, but with more than 120 young faculty recruitment during the last three years, this will come down further.