Even after the passage of around 14 years, the Central University of Kashmir (CUK) is yet to establish its permanent base in the Valley. From administrative crises to dwindling admissions, the varsity has grappled with various issues since its establishment in Kashmir. These issues have only aggravated in the last few years.
The CUK has since 2009 been operating from rented accommodations in different parts of Srinagar City and, at present, different locations in Ganderbal.
Its administrative office was set up at Hyderpora Srinagar in May 2009 while the Transit Campus was set up at Sonwar in August 2010.
A boys’ hostel was set up at Sonwar to facilitate the students coming from different parts of the J&K UT/country, even as an Academic block of the University along with a boys and a girls’ hostel was established at Magarmal Bagh Srinagar.
Over the years, the Varsity has enhanced the number of courses and currently it is offering admission for students in 35 different programmes.
The University, while it has been able to increase the number of courses being offered to the students, is yet to overcome the accommodation crunch for various reasons.
Lately, the CUK is no longer a favourite destination for aspirants of higher education which is evident from dwindling figures of admissions to various PG courses offered there.
One of the potential reasons for the decline in the admission can be attributed to the lack of infrastructure in terms of buildings while the other reason is the non-availability of the hostel facilities in the University.
In view of this, the students either prefer admission in other J&K Universities or they shift to outside J&K to pursue their higher studies.
With the result the varsity has witnessed a lukewarm response of students in admissions.
Over the years, the CUK authorities time and again blamed ‘poor land and soil quality’ at Tulmulla for delay in constructions. But the Ministry of Education, Government of India earlier constituted a high-level committee—popularly known as the Rao Committee after Professor Rao of the IIT Delhi—which heavily criticized the university administrators for holding this ‘flawed view’.
Prof Rao once remarked in the presence of a former VC that such views must not be allowed to propagate because ‘there is no place on earth where buildings cannot come up’ and that it is ‘just a matter of making use of the right technology’ to make it happen in today's world.
The fact of the matter is that the CUK continues to grapple with creating its own infrastructure more than a decade since its inception. Presently, around 80 percent of the varsity's infrastructure is operating on a 'rental basis'.
The CUK recently shifted the School of Education to its permanent campus in Tulmulla which comprises three departments including B.Ed, M.Ed and MA Education department.
Given the lack of infrastructure, the University does not provide the facilities to the students which are supposed to be available in a University.
In addition to the available land, the government last year provided additional land of 90 to 94 Kanals to the University where the varsity is planning to establish a township which will consist of faculty quarters and hostels for the students and research scholars.
However, all such major projects are yet to see the light of the day.
Presently, the varsity is functioning from the structures which were almost left abandoned or were not usable for the government departments, which were shifted to their new buildings.
The varsity was shifted to these worn-out buildings after the successive heads of the University failed to set up the permanent campus.
So the move to shift the varsity to these buildings was aimed at creating an impression that the varsity is being shifted to its actual location.
Besides the permanent campus, the varsity has failed to provide the hostel facilities to the students.
Post August 2019, the CUK faced hostel issues as the buildings provided by the J&K government to CUK were taken over by the district administration Ganderbal to accommodate protected persons in these structures.
A Building which earlier accommodated the CMO office was converted into a hostel by the CUK management but was taken over by district administration Ganderbal to accommodate protected persons after DDC elections. After this a private building hired by the University for hostel purposes was also taken over by the district administration.
Now coming to the decline in admissions, the Varsity does not see admissions to various programmes taking place in full strength any longer.
In absence of the permanent campus and permanent facilities for the students, hundreds of aspirants seem no longer interested to get admitted to this university.
Much to the shock and surprise of many academicians, the Central University of Kashmir this year allegedly compromised merit as well as sanctity of the University by inviting “Open Admissions” to fill the vacant seats in various PG programmes. The University’s own website is replete with notifications inviting applications from non-applicants of CUET through Open Admissions to fill the remaining vacant seats.
“The University authorities, just to fill seats by hook or by crook, compromised merit and its reputation,” said a teacher at CUK, wishing anonymity. He said that such an “Open Admission” process is nowhere in practice in other Central Universities where merit through entrance tests is the sole criteria to admit the students.
The dwindling admissions in the CUK reflects poorly on the functioning, which has taken a huge hit especially in the last one year when the varsity is functioning without a permanent Vice Chancellor.
The interviews for the shortlisted candidates for CUK VC were held somewhere in December 2021 by the Search Committee which submitted a panel of five candidates to the Union Ministry of Education for selecting the final candidate. The final appointment is made by the President, in the capacity of being Visitor of the Central Universities.
Some teachers in the University want Members of Parliament from Kashmir to raise the issue of delay in appointment of CUK VC during the ongoing session of the Parliament because the University is suffering on several counts.
Over the years, the University’s successive VCs have failed to create a dedicated campus for the University which is why the University is presently functioning from makeshift accommodations in Ganderbal district, other than one or two buildings in Tulmulla Campus where the University was supposed to come up in the last more than a decade.
“Nobody has seriously bothered about the University’s growth and development,” lamented one official, who wished anonymity.
Presently, the University is facing a dearth of faculty, accommodation and other facilities for students.
Besides the accommodation crunch and the decline in the admission, the University is facing an administrative crisis of sorts for the last one year since it is without a permanent VC.
More than a year ago, the VC CUK demitted his office after he attained the age of 70 years.
Following this, Prof Farooq Ahmad Shah was appointed as in-charge VC by the outgoing VC Prof Mehrajuddin which has already landed in controversy over violation of seniority in the said appointment process, with the Education Ministry seeking a report in the matter.
More than a year ago, a search committee was constituted to draw a panel of candidates for the post of permanent VC of the University. The committee shortlisted 14 candidates including three professors from Kashmir for their interaction with the search committee.
The Search Committee submitted a panel of candidates to the Government of India around a year ago, but the final decision is still awaited which continues to create administrative crises in the CUK.
The Union Ministry of Education should immediately appoint a permanent VC for the Central University of Kashmir so that all issues related to students are addressed on priority.
It is a fact that the University is suffering without a permanent VC. There are issues which require immediate redressal.
Leaving a Central University headless will only worsen its problems whose sufferers eventually will be the student community. Further the authorities must establish the permanent campus for the University so that makeshift arrangement is put to an end.
A University must function like a University so that students get a real feel of the University education.
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.