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 Indiahas taken a quantum jump. Since independence, the Indian higher educationsystem has developed extraordinarily. It has made a journey from 20universities in 1947 to 993; from 500 colleges to more than 39931 collegesbesides 10725 stand-alone institutions. Now, our higher education system isglobally the 2nd largest in terms of institutions and 3rd largest in terms ofstudent enrolment. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) has significantly increasedand reached 27 where 3.75 crore students are enrolled. The gender parity indexhas also reached to 01 with more than 11% institutions are exclusively meantfor women. Presently, in Indian higher education system 14.16 lakh teachers areworking hard to make the system one of the better systems of the world.
In Jammu & Kashmir, though a goodnumber of universities were already in place but their mandate (vision &mission) was somehow not distinctive to each other. To fill the void one moreinstitution in the form of Central University of Kashmir (CUK) was establishedin 2009 as a Pace Setting University.
CUK was established by the Act ofParliament and started its journey from Hyderpora Srinagar. The Universitystarted its academic activities in 2010 when 75 students were admitted in 03programmes (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 inphased manner. Despite mammoth challenges, it is laudable that the enrolment ofCUK has touched 2500 including almost 200 research scholars and the number ofprogrammes has also gone up from 03 in 2010 to 43 in 2019. The best brains ofthe country in the form of faculty on substantive basis started to join theuniversity since 2012. Faculty of CUK is intellectually elevated and their mainfocus is always on incremental progression of their disciples eliminatingplacebo 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 ableto 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 anumber of initiatives for quality improvement during the short period of time.The students are admitted through entrance test conducted at national levelthrough Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET). Despite the challenging circumstances the university is able tomaintain its academic calendar with timely degrees to their students byproviding relevant study material, online classes and through personalguidance. The university is following regress Curriculum Transaction Strategy(CTS), an innovative mechanism of teaching learning process. Through CTSacademic activities of the session are notified before the commencement of thesession. Though MHRD has now recommended LOCF for higher education, the CUK isimplementing it through CTS since 2015. The university is continuouslyorganising Post End Semester Examination (ESE) Workshops twice a year. 08 ofsuch workshops were organised in which the latest trends in examination andevaluation were discussed and the problems faced by the examinees and examinerswere redressed. The university is following a robust Continuous InternalAssessment (CIA) mechanism with 40% weightage and takes care of both scholasticand co-scholastic areas of student development. Besides, class tests,presentations & assignments, comprehensive viva (co-scholastic) is anovel feature of CIA in which community & social work, creativity, criticalthinking, value orientation, and aesthetics are being evaluated. The componenthas been given 15% weightage. Various other smart initiatives have been theconstant feature of the university.
Keeping in view the developing campus ofthe university and current situations especially in the Valley where hardly anyacademic session is completed without any disturbance, what are thepossibilities available for CUK which smartly can be adopted so that a mark onthe academic front can be made? The way out can be shifting from Brick Model toBrick-Click Model. This is a hybrid model with integrating ways of engagingstudents in traditional classrooms with virtual mode of teaching and learning.To be successful on this front, Information Communication Technology has amajor role to play.
The fundamental philosophy of usingtechnology in education is impartiality in access and quality besides providingstudents accessibility of resources virtually without being availablephysically. The University has developed a good number of applications in theform of e-governance in administration & academics. It also offers a goodnumber of online information services and facilities in its library system, butapplications for teaching & learning need to be enhanced and there shouldbe technology integration for 24/7 with learning experiences. Technologyenhancing online learning efforts for that faculty of the university requiressupport in using technology in the form of instructional design support formore online learning. Faculty should also be trained to integrate web basedlearning components into management of course materials. To have effectiveimpression on academia, e-portfolios need to be opened and supplemented withe-delivery of teaching besides providing tools for learning.
For global recognition, the university hasa good number of MOUs with foreign universities and to establish globalclassroom, virtual classrooms can be developed in collaboration withinternational partner institutions. Expanding learning with technology allowsfor greater efficiency as web and software teaching resources become availablefor institutional effectiveness. To be successful on this front, campus digitalculture needs to be augmented as its advantages are advanced.
It is also required that the university maydevelop its own Web-Based Individual-Pace Courses (WBIPC) and integrate thesewith modular classroom experiences. The university can make effective use oftechnology to improve success rates in examinations. The university may alsoreduce barriers to intra-campus and inter-university mobility of credit orcourse transfer through student friendly technology.
It is high time to integrate education withMOOCs at a larger scale. For CUK, it can prove a national sustainable model tomassify our model of education. We can also localise courses on MOOCs keepingin view different peculiarities of our society.
The university can also create apossibility for Life Skill Online Courses (LSOCs). In this direction, on-campusenrolled students may be given opportunity to opt for these courses in additionto their own programme in the form of blended course so that more attraction isgenerated among students because blended courses have higher potential ascompared to other conventional or online courses keeping in view the flawlessintegration of physical and virtual learning spaces through blended learningwhich provides access to alternative resources.
The Central University of Kashmir, a leaduniversity, has a firm conviction to guide the existing higher educationinstitutions of the region. Keeping in view the past circumstances and thecurrent pandemic situation, it becomes imperative to take a lead and withoutlosing its originality come up with alternative and innovative ways not only inteaching & learning but also in examination and evaluation mechanism evenif the university may have to amend its act or ordinances.
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor, Central University of Kashmir