Why are academic standards falling at BGSBU?

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Established some 18 years ago, the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) has lately failed to continue with its legacy of maintaining its academic standards. The University started the admission process soon after the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, but given the poor response of the students to various courses being offered there, the University not only extended the dates for admissions, but also did away with the otherwise mandatory entrance examination for many programmes to fill up the regular seats, not to talk of admissions against payment seats.

Even if the University today gets a response from students for admissions in certain courses, the academic standards in almost all its schools, including the much-hyped school of engineering has witnessed a significant downfall in the past few years despite its teachers trying their best to provide the best possible education amid meagre resources and facilities.

The school of engineering would receive not less than 3000 applications for admissions from students some five years ago, which has reduced to mere 200 this year for an intake capacity of 300 students. The number of admissions in many other departments has seen a steep decline, tarnishing the image of the University, which had, soon after its inception, made a significant mark on the academic landscape of the country.

Besides the deterioration in its academic standards, the financial condition of the University is also grim which is being attributed to the present maladministration at the University.

Recently, the J&K’s Finance Department had to cancel the Grant-in-Aid of the University after no official from there made it to annual budget meetings of the Finance Department. The move has caused financial losses to the varsity which is understood to make it very difficult for the University to sustain or even continue with salaries of its employees.

The University is facing such a grim situation at a time when the five-year term of the incumbent Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof Javaid Masarrat is expiring on 27th of this month.

A search committee has submitted a panel of academics to the Lieutenant Governor, who is the Chancellor of the University, to finalise the new VC. The committee headed by Prof Talat Ahmad, VC Kashmir University, also includes Prof Mehraj-ud-Din Mir, VC, Central University of Kashmir (CUK), while its two other members are from reputed institutions outside J&K. The panel interacted with 18 shortlisted candidates on October 20.

The BGSBU came into existence by an Act of the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly called the Jammu & Kashmir Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University Act No. XVI of 2002. The University is nurtured by the Jammu & Kashmir Wakf Council.

Over the past five years, the University has rarely ordered any promotion of its employees while hardly any non-teaching official was given a career progression. Also, the vacant positions at officers-level have created a financial and academic vacuum which led to the tarnishing of the image of the University.

While the process for appointment of the new VC is underway, the university has become a victim of a misinformation campaign launched by vested interest which, many in the varsity believe, is aimed at tarnishing the image of the institution to pursue their “personal agendas”.

Amid this chaotic situation, the university’s academics have sought personal intervention from the Lieutenant Governor (LG) to save the premier institution.

The misinformation campaign started from within the varsity after the search committee rejected the application of a re-employed dean-level officer for being over aged (68 years) against under-62.

The dean-level officer, according to University insiders, was earlier reemployed by the incumbent VC after he retired at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). After his reemployment in BGSBU, the officer was given powers of a DDO after retirement in violation of set norms.

An investigating agency is probing a complaint in which it is alleged that the officer in question was favoured with coordinatorship of a World Bank-funded TQUIP project worth Rs 13 Crores, but the quality of the project deteriorated badly and failed to meet its objectives.

After his application was rejected by the search committee, the re-employed officer, along with an associate-professor, who was earlier suspended, is allegedly leading the anti-search committee campaign to question the process of the selection for appointment of a new VC.

While the search committee members rejected the said dean’s application on ineligibility grounds, they however, invited another professor of University, facing suspension, for interaction. Only these two had applied for the post of VC.

In wake of this, a campaign against the search committee was started which, many believe, is solely aimed to sabotage the selection process. But before inviting the said suspended professor for interaction, the search committee sought the opinion of the J&K’s Law department as the High Court has stayed inquiry proceedings against the suspended professor citing non-adherence to due process. Also, the professor is widely believed to have been suspended on flimsy grounds, which hints at vendetta politics on the campus.

Amid the administrative and academic deteriorating scenario, the image of the institution and the search committee is being tarnished by some vested interests. One can imagine the future of any academic institutions where some self-centered officers resort to tarnishing its image for their own interests. The varsity is already facing a downfall in academic standards while its financial strength is crumbling as well. The J&K LG, who is also the Chancellor of the University, should prioritise the appointment of a new VC for the University which will end this vicious campaign of the vested interests. Let the institution not become victim of a misinformation campaign, but be allowed to become a centre of excellence, with the change in leadership, as is expected of any highest seat of learning.