Higher education offers possible solutions to reflect on the decisive health, socio-economic and professional issues currently humanity is facing. It potentially induces national development through creation of knowledge and expertise. Being at the zenith of the pyramid, it has a key role to play in responding to the new challenges through research and innovations.
The progress of higher education in India has taken a quantum jump. Since independence, the Indian higher education system has developed extraordinarily. It has made a journey from 20 universities in 1947 to 993; from 500 colleges to more than 39931 colleges besides 10725 stand-alone institutions. Now, our higher education system is globally the 2nd largest in terms of institutions and 3rd largest in terms of student enrolment. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has significantly increased and reached 27 where 3.75 crore students are enrolled. The gender parity index has also reached to 01 with more than 11% institutions are exclusively meant for women. Presently, in Indian higher education system 14.16 lakh teachers are working hard to make the system one of the better systems of the world.
In Jammu & Kashmir, though a good number of universities were already in place but their mandate (vision & mission) was somehow not distinctive to each other. To fill the void one more institution in the form of Central University of Kashmir (CUK) was established in 2009 as a Pace Setting University.
CUK was established by the Act of Parliament and started its journey from Hyderpora Srinagar. The University started its academic activities in 2010 when 75 students were admitted in 03 programmes (MBA, M.Sc. IT & M.A. English). For teaching learning process, the university hired rented accommodations first in Sonwar, Magarmal Bagh, Zainakote to Nowgam and in 2018 the university was shifted to Ganderbal in phased manner. Despite mammoth challenges, it is laudable that the enrolment of CUK has touched 2500 including almost 200 research scholars and the number of programmes has also gone up from 03 in 2010 to 43 in 2019. The best brains of the country in the form of faculty on substantive basis started to join the university since 2012. Faculty of CUK is intellectually elevated and their main focus is always on incremental progression of their disciples eliminating placebo effects. The university has its own Design and Innovation Centre (DIC) and its main focus is to promote local crafts on scientific lines. CUK was able to get accredited in 2017 though at rented campuses and was accredited with B++ grade. In 2018, the university was in a position to hold its first convocation.
Central University of Kashmir has taken a number of initiatives for quality improvement during the short period of time. The students are admitted through entrance test conducted at national level through Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET). Despite the challenging circumstances the university is able to maintain its academic calendar with timely degrees to their students by providing relevant study material, online classes and through personal guidance. The university is following regress Curriculum Transaction Strategy (CTS), an innovative mechanism of teaching learning process. Through CTS academic activities of the session are notified before the commencement of the session. Though MHRD has now recommended LOCF for higher education, the CUK is implementing it through CTS since 2015. The university is continuously organising Post End Semester Examination (ESE) Workshops twice a year. 08 of such workshops were organised in which the latest trends in examination and evaluation were discussed and the problems faced by the examinees and examiners were redressed. The university is following a robust Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) mechanism with 40% weightage and takes care of both scholastic and co-scholastic areas of student development. Besides, class tests, presentations & assignments, comprehensive viva (co-scholastic) is a novel feature of CIA in which community & social work, creativity, critical thinking, value orientation, and aesthetics are being evaluated. The component has been given 15% weightage. Various other smart initiatives have been the constant feature of the university.
Keeping in view the developing campus of the university and current situations especially in the Valley where hardly any academic session is completed without any disturbance, what are the possibilities available for CUK which smartly can be adopted so that a mark on the academic front can be made? The way out can be shifting from Brick Model to Brick-Click Model. This is a hybrid model with integrating ways of engaging students in traditional classrooms with virtual mode of teaching and learning. To be successful on this front, Information Communication Technology has a major role to play.
The fundamental philosophy of using technology in education is impartiality in access and quality besides providing students accessibility of resources virtually without being available physically. The University has developed a good number of applications in the form of e-governance in administration & academics. It also offers a good number of online information services and facilities in its library system, but applications for teaching & learning need to be enhanced and there should be technology integration for 24/7 with learning experiences. Technology enhancing online learning efforts for that faculty of the university requires support in using technology in the form of instructional design support for more online learning. Faculty should also be trained to integrate web based learning components into management of course materials. To have effective impression on academia, e-portfolios need to be opened and supplemented with e-delivery of teaching besides providing tools for learning.
For global recognition, the university has a good number of MOUs with foreign universities and to establish global classroom, virtual classrooms can be developed in collaboration with international partner institutions. Expanding learning with technology allows for greater efficiency as web and software teaching resources become available for institutional effectiveness. To be successful on this front, campus digital culture needs to be augmented as its advantages are advanced.
It is also required that the university may develop its own Web-Based Individual-Pace Courses (WBIPC) and integrate these with modular classroom experiences. The university can make effective use of technology to improve success rates in examinations. The university may also reduce barriers to intra-campus and inter-university mobility of credit or course transfer through student friendly technology.
It is high time to integrate education with MOOCs at a larger scale. For CUK, it can prove a national sustainable model to massify our model of education. We can also localise courses on MOOCs keeping in view different peculiarities of our society.
The university can also create a possibility for Life Skill Online Courses (LSOCs). In this direction, on-campus enrolled students may be given opportunity to opt for these courses in addition to their own programme in the form of blended course so that more attraction is generated among students because blended courses have higher potential as compared to other conventional or online courses keeping in view the flawless integration of physical and virtual learning spaces through blended learning which provides access to alternative resources.
The Central University of Kashmir, a lead university, has a firm conviction to guide the existing higher education institutions of the region. Keeping in view the past circumstances and the current pandemic situation, it becomes imperative to take a lead and without losing its originality come up with alternative and innovative ways not only in teaching & learning but also in examination and evaluation mechanism even if the university may have to amend its act or ordinances.
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor, Central University of Kashmir