Cluster University Srinagar (CUS) is endowed with ample resources in terms of large physical and intellectual infrastructure. A diffused university, comprising five main colleges of Srinagar city is spread over around 165 acres or 1000 kannal prime land in the heart of city. The regular faculty of the university is around 400, similarly the other required staff is also there in proportion to the faculty. The university has been operational for the last five years. However, the university has not yet been able to develop an ecosystem conducive to an institution of excellence. The first batch of academic administrators have completed their term in their respective offices. The second batch of the university governance is in place. The new vice chancellor has taken the charge recently. He made a policy statement which is highly encouraging. The statement reads (GK :15-4-2021) thus, "providing job oriented courses, promotion of quality education, creation of common research facilities, improvement in sports and cultural activities, implementation of new education policy and boosting of educational facilities in Kashmir. Besides asking all college heads of CUS administration to explore possibilities on providing Ph.D courses to the aspiring students. There is a need for collaborative efforts on part of the constituent colleges to strengthen the cluster university and improve academics and research base as a single entity rather than individual educational infrastructure." The VC has made his vision statement public. In this regard, it is suggested that the following steps may be initiated to effect synergy in its present diffuse condition.
The sister universities may be approached and requested to depute senior Professors for a fixed term to the university for the promotion of research culture. This temporary arrangement is to be made till the posts of professors are created in the university and duly filled in accordance with the UGC norms. The new Assistant Professors may be directly recruited by the university to develop an affiliation of faculty with the university. This will besides improving teaching learning process promote research culture in the university.
The colleges of the university are rich in infrastructure. Under RUSA the infrastructure was further strengthened. This requires pooling of resources like play fields, libraries, laboratories, auditoria and so on. All the committees of these resources in colleges may function in a cohesive way to be a part of the university. Senior faculty/ librarians/ physical directors etc. may lead the university teams.
All the colleges shall go for NAAC accreditation with a uniform reference period for next cycle. This will make possible accreditation of individual colleges and the university as a composite unit.
The university shall initiate preparations for first annual convocation. This needs substantial budgeting in terms of financial outlay and other academic arrangements. We have to keep this in mind that it may take more than a year to make all these preparations.
The university should make structural changes. The principals may be designated as directors. The efforts may be made to train and develop university officials in their respective fields by sending them outside J and K to the institutions of excellence for advanced training.
The university should initiate steps to be a member of association of Indian universities. This will enable the faculty and academic governance to participate in the periodic activities conducted by the AIU. Steps may also be taken to obtain membership of common wealth universities to gain global exposure.
It is suggested that the university be proactive in designing CUS Model for implementing NEP-2020. The expertise of the deans and the senior faculty may be availed of, for this purpose. The thrust areas of the model may include entry/exit mechanism, multi disciplinary approach, student centric pedagogy, 360 degree assessment and nurturing and promoting critical, creative thinking among students and so on. The university should take steps to create a bank of new courses of study enjoying marketability to make pass outs employable. These courses of study may be designed in consultation with industry practitioners and working entrepreneurs. To this effect MOUs may be executed.
The publication of research journals is a defining characteristic of a thriving university. The constituent colleges have been contributing to education journalism by regularly publishing five yearly magazines. In addition there have been attempts on the part of these colleges to publish research journals as well. In this regard college of education has been publishing the research journal 'Inquiry', without fail for the past many years. AAA Degree College Bemina started two research journals under the nomenclature (1) 'Search' and (2) Business Milieu. Amar Singh College also published a research journal called, 'The Journal of Social Sciences'. However, these journals could not withstand the harsh and hard times. There is an urgent need to explore the possibilities of reviving these journals and further space should be created so that each school publishes a research journal in its relevant field, the university may share the financial burden of the publication of these journals. The editorial boards for these journals may be constituted by engaging well known academics and experts in the fields concerned.
The university is a composite unit. All the sub-units need to merge to enable the society to be benefitted by a pool of physical and intellectual capital.
The university is an index of the epistemic evolution of the society and plays a significant role in its organization. It needs to have strong societal connections, so that the dream of a knowledge society is realized. Hence it is essential that universities should extend their resources physical or intellectual for the benefit of society at large. It is suggested that the CUS should also utilize its resources for the benefit of the society even after its usual working hours. The location of the university in the heart of the city makes it the best candidate for doing the same. In this regard there are two suggestions;
1. The university may offer short term skill oriented courses and coaching classes for different competitive examinations for the aspiring candidates, outside its usual academic schedule. This should be an addition to the normal academic calendar of the university.
2. Physical spaces available with the university maybe made available to interested parties for conducting various educational, cultural, social and literary programs as per the policy of the university.
The suggestions made herein are based on the academic, research and administrative experience of the authors and have been put forward in good faith with the hope that the concerned authorities may consider them on their merit
(The authors are former principals of colleges now comprising cluster university Srinagar)