Established in 2009, the Central University of Kashmir started with three post-graduation courses in satellite campuses and today the university offers around 45 programs. The university has the distinction of starting five years integrated science programs as no other north Indian university was offering such a course then.
This innovation was applauded and reciprocated by other top universities throughout the country. Prof. Farooq Ahmad Shah, in-charge Vice-Chancellor said, “We gave the concept of integrated courses and it was adopted by many universities across the country. We try to come up with innovative ideas which suit the needs and requirements of the market and society.”
Some of the new courses offered by the University under this type of scheme are Integrated BSc/ MSc. Physics, Zoology, Biotechnology and Mathematics.
Prioritizing the native language, the university has recently introduced Kashmiri and a diploma course in Urdu journalism. Apart from this, some vocational courses have also been started.
The university has set specific targets to achieve in line with the new initiatives taken by the government of India and for the implementation of that in letter and spirit, the university fraternity is doing their best. Prof. Mohammad Afzal Zargar, Registrar Central University of Kashmir said, “According to the New Education Policy 2020, gross enrolment ratio in the universities has to be increased in line with the targets set by the GoI in achieving the 50% targets in the next 15 years. Currently, it is 27% and we shall adopt different options to increase it. We are activating innovation, incubation and skill centres so that the students learn new skill sets and contribute to society.”
Given the unemployment scenario around and the need of getting skilled, the university is focused to impart skill-based education to the students. “After students complete their studies, they should be able to create their ways to earn a livelihood and also become employers” he added.
Currently, there are two vocational programs- Tourism and Hospitality Management and Retail Logistics Management. “Our students can get a lot of opportunities with these and similar courses and even other traditional subjects have a skill component,” he said.
One of the projects of the university is The Design and Innovation Center established in 2018 under the National Initiative of Design Innovation of MHRD. Under the project, 10 diploma courses are offered in 15 colleges of Kashmir. Diploma in Khatamband and woodwork, Diploma in Designing and Dress Making, Diploma in Ladakhi Crafts are some of the courses. Apart from these eleven research projects have also been done.
“Under this project, hardcore skill programs are taught. Entrepreneur skills are to be imparted to students which are an important thing today,” he said.
Emphasizing practical learning, Prof. Afzal said that it shall now be made mandatory for students of every department to do internships and apprenticeships. “The practical experiential learning gives more confidence to the students. They gain experience when they come in contact with professional people and industrial institutions. The University has already placed experts from the industry to guide the university in shaping the curricula to make it industry-ready. We try to do out-of-the-box things for our students,” he said.
Talking about the academic calendar he said, the university strictly follows the calendar. He said, “Despite tough situations, we uphold the academic calendar and provide degrees in time and this has become one of the USPs of this budding University. Our university has never delayed the results despite facing setbacks in 2014, 2016 and 2019 or during Covid times. We never stop even when the whole place becomes out of function and this is our USP.”
Also, the students have to get 75% attendance in the class to make themselves eligible for the examination and most of them make it indicating their dedication to learning.
Maintaining the academic calendar is one of the priorities of the University, said Prof. Shah. “We don’t make any compromise on the academics and things are going good despite all the constraints. Our teaching process is good. Teachers don’t waste a day. During winter vacations, teachers are teaching online to make up for the loss of students that has happened because of Covid. If we compare with other institutions, we have a smaller team but the efficiency is doing equal work to their counterparts in other institutions of higher learning in the UT of J&K. Manpower is less but multitasking is being done.”
Talking about the research programs, Prof. Afzal said that research done by the faculty and students have been published in high-rank journals. “We have started focusing on research and we have developed major infrastructure in the labs as well. We aspire to be a research centre that will be contributing and dedicating itself to the problems of the people of Kashmir and the country at large. In research, we have collaborations with other institutions and we will alleviate the health and other problems of society,” he said.
Prof. Afzal believes there is always scope for improvement in research, development and extension services to the society. He said that the university is working its ways to improve the research and job placement of students and has a dedicated directorate for the same. “We get good placements in some departments whereas some departments need further push. Students are accommodated at good places. Some students are going for higher education and are competing at highly ranked institutions for further education but there is a scope of improvement in the sector,” he said.
The admission of the student to the university is done through a common entrance test which is held at all Indian levels. Admissions barring this year are taking place through the consortium of Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET) and reservations policies of the Government are followed in all the admission processes.
Benefitting the locals, there is a special provision for the students of the Ganderbal district, a supernumerary seat has been provided for them at CU Kashmir to contribute back to the region where the university is functioning. Apart from this wherever there are no provisions, a supernumerary seat for specially-abled students is also provided. The university is also streamlining the student aid funds through guidelines to help those students who are unable to pay their fees.
Prof. Afzal said, “Through fellowship programs by the Government of India and UT, financial help is processed for our students. Because of some issues, it used to get delayed but now things are streamlined with the ICT interventions and Direct benefit transfer has also reduced all the hassles,”
The students are engaged in various events and fests to provide a platform to showcase their talent. The Tech festival under the Department of Information Technology is one of the kinds. The officials said the fest was organized by the students for the students. “The positive thing was that it was organized by students. Why would students be confined to the classroom only when they have ideas to make society better. In future more festivals will be organized by other departments also,” Prof. Afzal said.
Due to the outbreak of Covid 19 which led to the closure of the institution and a virtual environment for learning was started, the officials said the students were going through several challenges which were tried to be alleviated by conducting a host lot of live interactions with the psychologists and psychotherapist to provide counselling sessions through the ambit of the Dean students welfare.
To help the students in Covid times, several events were organized online. The mentoring sessions were done where teachers played an active role in counselling the students. Prof. Afzal said, “The students started discussing problems related to studies and other things with their teachers. We started engaging them in the events and seminars so that they will productively channelize their energy and time. The students came up with creative ideas. Skills like leadership qualities and communication were targeted for improvements. The understanding about different aspects of a subject is something that students can learn with these events.”
While talking about the common issues faced by students, Prof Shah said that because of the infrastructural deficits on account of delay in campus development due to a variety of valid reasons, students have to go through a lot of teething problems. The university is not fully functioning from the Tulmula campus because of technical reasons. The soil quality of the land where the university is being constructed is very poor.
“Our campuses are scattered and we are functioning from four places which have made students suffer. One of their genuine demands is hostel facility but currently, we are not able to provide them. We are trying to sort out the issue. In 2022 we will have a developed campus. Within a few years, we will bring many developments in the university academically and infrastructurally. That’s my hope because of the government, agencies, faculty, students and community we can have a different view of the university,” he said.
Another piece of land adjacent to the mainland will be used to raise buildings for residential purposes of students, faculty and non-teaching staff.
Another problem faced by the students is transportation. He said, “Transportation has been extended to more routes. We have procured more buses and with this, we are going to augment the facilities and these will be operational from March.”
The university has been accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). Prof. Shah said, “Since we are functioning from various campuses. It’s not easy to provide good facilities at all the campuses. A permanent campus is a thing that we don’t have. There are some weaknesses and we are trying our best to work for it,” he said.