We have not let paucity of infrastructure affect our academic work: CUK vice chancellor

  • Suria Hamid
  • Publish Date: Apr 16 2018 2:02AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 16 2018 9:19PM
We have not let paucity of infrastructure affect our academic work: CUK vice chancellor

The Central University of Kashmir was meant to expand and enhance the avenues for higher education in Kashmir. But nine years after being established, it remains mired in procedural and bureaucratic vacillation. The university was planned to move to a sprawling new campus at Tulmulla, Ganderbal, but much of it is still functioning out of multiple temporary campuses in Srinagar. Clearly, this is far from an ideal situation, not least for the students.

But Vice chancellor Mehraj Ud Din Mir says he is determined to see the university functioning out of the Tulmulla campus before his tenure ends. A professor of law, Mehraj Ud Din taught at Kashmir University for 35 years – and also held administrative positions as head of examinations and registrar – before being appointed vice chancellor of the central university. His work has been cited in its judgements by the Supreme Court of India and used by the National Human Rights Commission to sensitise prison authorities. He speaks with Ink about the university’s problems and what is being done to address them. 

Excerpts:

 

How you managed to shift any departments to Ganderbal yet? 

We got space in a physical education college there last year and we are running some skill development courses. The government has now given us the CMO building there and we are hoping to get DIET building as well. We sent a team to Ganderbal recently to see if some proper private accommodation was available. They identified a few buildings and requested their owners to make the necessary repairs. The university cannot be shifted wholly. It is a continuous process.

 

Currently, much of the university operates from two campuses in Nowgam and another in Sonwar. Is the space sufficient?

Initially, we had a building at Sonwar and another at Magarmal Bagh. Both were small. But as the university has expanded – we now have over 2500 students, 150 scholars, around 300 faculty members and other staff – we have looked for appropriate space elsewhere. Currently, we pay more than Rs 6 crore a year in rent.

 

There are reports that the people whose land is being acquired for the permanent campus in Ganderbal have demanded to be employed in the university. Is it so?

It cannot be allowed by the rules of any university. But I did tell the local people that if we needed plumbers, gardeners, guards, electricians, I would ensure that 70% of them are locals who have given land for the campus. But I think they didn’t trust me. They said, ‘Give us employment first and only then start construction work.’ That was not possible; employment cannot be generated unless the university comes up first. 

As a goodwill gesture, though, we have reserved a seat in every department for them. So, 35 seats will be reserved for students from Ganderbal. 

 

But why is it taking so long to build the permanent campus?

The basic problem is the low load bearing capacity of the land allotted to us. As such, we’ve to do 20 metres of underground work, which means the cost of construction will go up by 40-45%. So, we had asked the National Building Construction Corporation for Pre Engineered Buildings. They were supposed to hand over the buildings within six months, but they have still not done so over two years later.

 Another problem is the hostile atmosphere created by some people at that location.

But as far as academics is concerned, we have not allowed it to be affected by the paucity of infrastructure. At the Central University of Kashmir, a two-year course means a two-year course. It doesn’t go on for longer. Our exams are always conducted on time.

 

How many courses are you offering at present. Is there any skill development course that can benefit the local youth as Kashmir ranks high in unemployment?

We are running three skill development courses at the Ganderbal campus and four tourism programmes at Nowgam. In all, we offer 35 programmes under 17 departments. Ours is the only university in Kashmir to offer five-year integrated degrees in maths, zoology, physics and biotechnology.

 

What are your plans for the university in the short term as well as the long term?

I want the CUK to compete nationally and internationally, that’s our mission. In the short term, I will see to it that at least some departments start operating out of the Tullmulla campus.

 

The conflict in Kashmir has affected all aspects of life, including education? Are there ways to mitigate its detrimental effects on education?

Our education system is damaged. Yet, many Kashmiri boys and girls studying outsides are doing commendable work. I have had the privilege of visiting many universities in India where our students are doing exceedingly well. I am always thrilled to know from their teachers how fast our students there are moving.

In our current situation, strengthening ties between teachers and students will help greatly. We have many platforms available now – mobile phone, social media – which students and teachers can use to stay in touch even when they can’t meet physically due to the prevailing situation. 

In fact, at the CUK we did just that when Kashmir was shut down for six months during the uprising of 2016. We kept in touch with students and our faculty prepared study material and made it available to them on the university’s portal. We also cancelled two winter vacations to make up for lost time.