Alumni contribution in institution development

Due to a variety of factors alumni have a definite role in the growth and development of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Thus, it is very crucial for an academic organisation to develop and strengthen a continuous rapport with alumni.

Alumni are expected to perform many roles effectively such as promoting institutional brand; providing mentoring to on-going students; facilitating internships, career opportunities, job placement for outgoing students and so on.

National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) deserves kudos for familiarising the idea of alumni association in Higher Education Institutions. Prior to this former pass outs used to meet in these institutions under the banner “old Boys”.

There was an exception for “old girls”. With the passage of time college alumni learnt about their role towards institution development.

Alumni are looked-for to assist institutions by offering donations from their earnings to pay back to their alma mater. They may come forward to offer financial help to the institutions when the state exchequer faces financial crunch.

They may also organise sports events with active participation of well-known players in different segments of sports activities. They can also assist and motivate students to develop proper skills of a particular game.

Colleges, in effect need to consider students as lifelong learners. The process does not come to an end once a student completes his/her programme in the institution. The canvas of alumni may be widened by including the faculty and staff as they are also engaged in learning process during their stay in the organisation.

Alumni are asset that can provide mutually beneficial relationships over time. After different cycles of accreditation of HEIs, the alumni may realise their responsibility and work in systematic order. They may prepare five year plans spread over year-wise activities.

The alumni may also plan to perform their activities in a way so that they are able to render intellectual, physical and financial support to their alma maters. Some activities have been conducted in the past by the alumni of some institutions but in the envisaged plan such activities may be carried on from the perspective of intellectual, physical and financial support.

Intellectual activities are to be conducted periodically and will include memorial, extension and guest lectures on contemporary academic matters. The occasional papers may be written by eminent alumni and distributed among faculty and students for discussion.

Alumni can also facilitate workshops for students to develop their writing skills, presentation skills and other soft/behavioural skills to promote opportunities for their employability.

It is also envisaged that alumni will develop, in a modest way, infrastructure capacities like mini library (physical/digital), smart class rooms, mini parks and small ponds, etc. They should also plan to develop children recreation parks so that kids from the vicinity enjoy some moments in the campus on Sundays and other holidays.

Adoption of some rooms in the hostels should also be their priority. It is learnt from annual reports published by IITs and IIMs that the alumni contribute to their institutions heavy sums every year. The HEIs in J&K also should strengthen alumni base to motivate them to pay back their institutions in whatever way possible.

In some colleges the alumni have been making efforts to support meritorious but financially weak students. The students from the marginalised sections of the society may be provided financial support to meet their recurring expenditure.

Certificates, medals and trophies to be given to the students who perform in a distinctive way in sports events in particular and other academic activities in general at regional, national and international levels. Funds required for the purpose may be contributed by the Alumni.

It is pertinent to mention that National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 is being implemented in J&K during current academic session with common academic calendar, all inclusive multidisciplinary and so on. In this regard government constituted a committee under the leadership of Director Colleges for framing common academic calendar in sync with the national academic calendar.

The common academic calendar for J&K has now been issued by the department of higher education with the commencement of first semester transaction from August first every year.

After adoption of NEP 2020 UGC has also done a great job for its implementation by issuing various draft regulations by putting them in public domain from time to time.

It was with the introduction of accreditation process by the NAAC in J&K in the year 2004 in pursuance of National Policy of Education (NPE) 1986 that HEIs started preparation of vision document. The vision document is to be revisited including vision, mission, objectives, goals and core values in pursuance of NEP 2020.

This document should now be prepared by HEIs in consultation with industry and alumni as demanded by NEP 2020. The focus is on strengthening academic-industry-alumni linkages in a collaborative and cooperative manner.

The alumni may also consider it proper that the vision document should be rewritten in the light of NEP 2020. The dual concept of ‘academic-industry’ linkage is envisaged under NPE 1986.

However, the NEP 2020 promotes trio-linkage taking the shape of academic-alumni-industry linkage. Thus, it can be inferred that similar to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) there is scope for Alumni Social Responsibility (ASR) as well.

The complete education ecosystem demands total over-haul of teaching-learning, evaluation and extension processes. Once there is a paradigm shift from centuries old memorisation based learning to inquiry based learning, the pedagogy is to be research based and outcome oriented.

The teaching-learning process is to be student centric with due focus on application employing all resources viz. physical as well as digital. Alumni can share their work experiences with students to cause a blending of theory and practice.

The new policy focuses on multi-disciplinary education. Basic lab infrastructure is to be augmented. The alumni are to be approached to contribute to their institutions in this regard.

For example, by creating round table facilities as innovative teaching-learning process demands eye-to-eye contact rather than neck-to-neck class room setting.

For effective research activities in colleges pooling of resources is essential and the clustering of colleges is an important initiative towards this direction.

The deprived segments of society are to be empowered by conducting utility based extension activities. The role of faculty is now multidimensional and the alumni are to be engaged to work in tandem in the whole ecosystem envisaged under NEP 2020.

NAAC accreditation is based on self/voluntary disclosure under different criteria. It is a matter of academic excellence that by now in Kashmir three colleges have been able to obtain rank A under new scheme adopted by NAAC (Baramulla 3.09, Pulwama 3.12 and Kupwara 3.15).

These colleges are now of the status of autonomous colleges. Since Baramulla College is now being recognised as autonomous college by the UGC, Pulwama and Kupwara should work for potential for excellence and autonomous status.

During the reference period of accreditation of these colleges alumni have also contributed in different ways to achieve this marvellous result. The other colleges should alsofollow these institutions and engage their alumni effectively in their activities to improve upon their score during the next cycle of accreditation.

The students have now an open choice for selection of courses of study. They are to be offered course baskets rather than traditional course combinations.

The system is flexible to this extent that they can obtain academic credits from different institutions/sources like face to face learning, distance learning mode, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and so on. NEP 2020 provides an opportunity for lifelong learning.

Accordingly, alumni have not ceased to learn new concepts, theories, methodologies, skills, etc. They can share their experiences with students and reskill/upskill themselves and the institutions may organise programmes for their alumni periodically.

Under new policy the colleges may now have different schools like school of science, school of social science, school of humanities, etc. It provides an integration of erstwhile departments under each faculty.

The teachers have an opportunity to learn from one another under intra/inter school. Alumni are expected to play an important role by organising special programmes with regard to character building of students. The society is confronted with a variety of social evils like drug addiction, intolerance, disobedience and waywardness. Human relations are at stake for pity benefits.

The alumni have a role to develop positive thinking, maintenance of harmonious relations and morals among students. Some alumni of different higher education institutions have been seriously concerned with inordinate delay in admissions of 1st semester students in colleges. According to an estimate around six hundred thousand student academic work days per month are lost.

The figure accumulates around fifteen hundred thousand student academic work days have been lost from first March to 15 May, 2022. It is surprising that this time should have been utilised to familiarise fresh entrants in colleges in lab work, skill orientation and different areas of ecosystem of the academic culture in HEIs.

Now every student being admitted in a college under NEP 2020 has to take up a course of study in science, social science, humanities, etc. whatsoever academic background he or she had at +2 level. It is time that the HED and doyens of academy may not compromise with academic interests of students and society.

To conclude, afore said discussion clearly brings out the engagement of alumni as an important stake holder in education system. They, therefore, enjoy a greater space under NEP 2020 in contributing towards institutional growth and development.

Keeping in view the added significance attached to alumni in the NEP 2020 the present weightage from 10 points is required to be enhanced by the NAAC under criterion V. The need of the hour is to conduct a survey with regard to activities performed by alumni in higher education institutions preferably in colleges of J&K.

The institutions interested in contribution of alumni should create adequate space for pass-outs and build deep and meaningful relationships with them right from their enrolment. Then they must maintain those connections over time so that this asset is utilised properly for the development of the institutions.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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