Dr. Khurshid Ahmad Tariq
Colleges in India are tertiary degree awarding affiliated institutions and are generally considered the agency granting academic degrees with no jurisdiction on research. Autonomous colleges have been empowered to establish their own syllabus, conduct and assess their own examinations, enroll students for research and award research degrees. Despite the continuous monitoring and assessment of the colleges by independent organizations like NAAC, they fail to achieve standards and top rankings. It is always being emphasized that lack of sufficient funds from the Government and diminished research aptitude among the faculty are the proximate factors responsible for dismal performance of colleges. There is no denying the fact that majority of these institutions are deficient in multiple ways especially in imparting quality research.
Few weeks ago, the Department of Higher Education of J & K State came out with an order (order no. 77-HE of 2018 dated 08-02-2018) emphasizing on university administration in J&K to authorize the college teaching faculty with Ph.D. degrees to act as supervisors or co-supervisors for research scholars registered with any university within or outside the state. This order will not enable the colleges to award degrees of their own. It will only facilitate the college teachers for acting as co-guides/co-supervisors and will not snatch the power from university faculty from acting as guides.
There is pressure on colleges from multiple avenues like NAAC, AICTE, HRD, UGC and the State Government to improve on all fronts. Colleges at par with universities are expected to focus on all-round development including quality research projects, register research students and award research degrees, undertake research and consultancy projects and securing government grants for conducting research projects. But, this will be only possible when college faculties are recognized as guides and allowed to take students for multiple research programmes. Therefore, the present order from J&K Higher Education Department is a welcome gesture in this direction. Research is not a monster tamed by universities only, Teachers in colleges are too competent to handle it.
This order was received jubilantly by the majority of college fraternity as well as by the student community. Students are an integral part of an academic and research system. They are the next generation of scientists, technocrats, business tycoons, and entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers, engineers and so on. There are certain questions to be asked. Will it motivate the college faculty to get involved in research? Will it create opportunities for undergraduate students in colleges to develop zeal and interest in research? Most probably, it will be quite helpful in creating research aptitude from a very beginning among the college students. It will pay a way forward to convert some top and premier colleges of the state into PG colleges. Many of the city colleges in J&K have already assumed PG status under the Cluster University concept.
It was not unnatural for executive committees of J&K Universities (Jammu and Kashmir University) teachers associations who took no time to assemble and calling for immediate withdrawal of the order by the government. They seem to be very afraid and were in hurry to oppose the move, tooth and nail. Do they believe they have monopoly over research? ( If they do so it is hegemony then). However, they should have certainly reacted to the order in a positive way by suggesting measures to enhance the spectrum of supervisor(ship) from universities to college fraternity with healthy collaboration. Pertinently, university administration later came with the circular asking college faculty to register themselves as co-guides in the University. However, there is nothing new as this practice is in vogue already.
Research programmes are strictly conducted in accordance with the UGC norms and regulations; both colleges and universities are governed by these same regulations. These UGC guidelines, at no place, bar college teachers from acting as research supervisors and co-supervisors. How often KUTA has supported the recognition of people from colleges as co-guides and co-supervisors for research programmes in the university? They are demonstrating the feeling of a jealous envy towards the college fraternity which are governed by same rules and regulations that govern them. If they are in a position to take the load of research students on their shoulders, why can’t people in the colleges. As researcher, one must possess appropriate academic qualifications, as well as the necessary background and research expertise; this is not lacking in colleges.
Undoubtedly, colleges provide best opportunities for career paths in academics. Colleges have enough of capability in terms of qualified and competent teaching faculty to encourage research. The qualified faculty in colleges has obtained their research degrees from best of the universities within India as well as outside. KUTA should have received this order with enough kindness and gratitude to work shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues from the colleges. College faculty is in no way incompetent or less qualified not to act as the guides and mentors.
This particular Government order is not something a sweet breathe but it is quite challenging for the Government as well as colleges and particularly for the science faculty. We all know what the status of existing infrastructure in our colleges is. It is not in a position to sustain research when it sometimes fails to impart healthy academic degrees to students. It is ailing from multiple fronts. No doubt, some of the colleges particularly the city colleges enjoy good infrastructure, but not of that level to sustain research and accommodate research students. There is ample scope for improvement and strengthening of infrastructure in the colleges to enable them to become research centric. The Government has to do a lot of investment and funding for creating the necessary infrastructure for research in colleges. Secondarily, the colleges enrolling research students for M Phil and PhD programmes will be in a position to receive research grants from various agencies
To see this order become successful will require creation of research councils and boards in the colleges, formulation of statutes and research guidelines, eligibility criteria of the faculty, research student strength intake, and collaboration between institutions and so on. There is full scope of creating and developing proper infrastructure in the colleges. At least, every department shall own a research laboratory catering to multiple research specializations to enable quality research. There is additional responsibility of providing enough of the literature facilities in the form of books and journals. The continuous electricity supply is a must. The increased bench space and state of art research laboratories is indispensable for undertaking research in the colleges. The requirements for space and general research resources will be specific to the subject of research. The institution/department/faculty shall be responsible for providing the basic requirements to the subject area and agreed research topic.
To conclude, protection and promotion of the interests of students is a must and in the light of Government order under discussion, it is important to ascertain whether there is appropriate faculty or department that has the necessary expertise and resources to conduct research. It is also very important to have a robust and transparent process in place to ensure that these privileges of supervisor(ship) are granted only to people and colleges who really merit them.
—The author is an Assistant Professor of Zoology at Islamia College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org