The concept of Cluster University has come from the fact that resources must be clubbed for optimum utilization. This concept is basically flourished by University Grants Commission (UGC) across India. The cluster university will mean one major institute will lead 3-5 institutes in its vicinity. The two cluster universities that have come up in J&K i.e. Cluster University Jammu and Cluster University Srinagar are culmination of that concept. The idea behind the formation of these universities is that already built-in institutions will be merged and developed as state universities. This will help in pooling of resources of existing government colleges under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) programme. As per the RUSA guidelines, each university will receive Rs. 55 crores in the first instance and Rs. 65 crores in the next phase. This is in tune with Ministry of Human Resource Development's target of achieving 30% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by 2020.
Cluster University Srinagar has the distinction of having most prominent city colleges like S. P. College, Amar Singh College, Government College for Women, Institute of Advanced Studies of Education and Abdul Ahad Azad Memorial College, among these Amar Singh College will act as a lead College. These colleges are prestigious and have a long history at their back. Take the case of S. P. College, it has the distinction of having more than a hundred years of history and has produced many intellectuals who had made a mark not only at national level but even at international level. Same is true for almost all the constituent colleges of this university.
Having a built-in infrastructure and already available human resource, we believe that Cluster University Srinagar can make a mark and has the required potential to develop into a world class university subject to the conditions that government is willing to take few extra measures apart from routine exercises. The first thing government can do is to make some structural changes within the university and at the same time try to break the physical boundaries existing between these constituent colleges. In the first instance, the post of the Principals in these constituent colleges should be re-designated either as Deans or Director campus's. This will pave the way for this institution to get evolved from colleges to one single university. It might also save the institution from diarchy of decisions because in presence of principal of the college, it will be difficult for dean of a particular faculty to work. The other thing that government needs to do is to separate these cluster universities i.e. Cluster University Jammu and Cluster University Srinagar from administrative control and let them give a proper space to flourish as an independent institution.
These universities should be made as affiliating university where in all degree colleges of the state may be affiliated to cluster universities relieving the extra burden of University of Kashmir and University of Jammu for affiliating and examining these degree colleges and paying the way for these universities to become full-fledged research universities and allowing them to work for quality improvement by improving student specific services. Contribution of Cluster University will also fulfil the demands of those college teachers who for long were feeling discriminated and always demanded equal status if not more than university teachers. Now is the time for these teachers to work hard, seize the opportunity and prove their metal. Moreover, the government should search for the most bright and dedicated teachers at their disposal in degree colleges through proper and standardized mechanism and transfer them to cluster universities to make this institution an institution of excellence. Moreover, the degree colleges of the state have the distinction of having the most brilliant minds as teachers especially after newly appointed Assistant Professors who have worked for off places and have gained tremendous experience across different fields. So, there lies an opportunity for government to use their expertise to help this institution to become a world class. It is an accepted fact that any institution in the world which dreams to be the world class must have the quality faculty at the disposal of the institution. One thing which must not be done is that not to use these two cluster universities as rehabilitation centres for some dead wood people who stand retire from their parent institution, although those people can be taken who had made some outstanding contribution in their respective fields.
The physical boundaries between different constituent colleges of cluster universities should be broken; I mean there is no need of keeping a boundary wall between Government College for women and S. P. College having two principals when these two institutions are part of a cluster university. With the appointment of deans of different faculties, we wish that this might not be another routine administrative exercise rather we are optimistic that all these newly appointed deans will use their expertise and experience to make this university an institution with a difference and will try to infuse quality, innovation and research. Different campus's (college's in the present sense) should be accorded different courses, as S. P. Collage is well versed with Science subjects and Abdul Ahad Azad Memorial College is well versed with Commerce and Arts. This will in turn make the particular campus to flourish in short span of time. The courses should not be restricted, but we should start with the courses already existing, and with the passage of time new course should be started after the proper development of the infrastructure needed for the same.
To conclude, one would expect that these two newly institutions will help the genius of the state to bloom fully and will definitely not be another place for mediocrity.
Manzoor Ahmad Parey is Assistant Professor, Department of Higher Education,, Government Degree College Ganderbal, Kashmir.