Selection of Kashmir University Vice Chancellor: Some Experiences and Reflections

Selection of Kashmir University Vice Chancellor: Some Experiences and Reflections
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Dr. Zafar Ahmad

The University of Kashmir is recognized as a heritage institution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir which was established in the year 1948. Since its inception, the State Government considerably focused on the development of this institution and today we witness that University of Kashmir was recently ranked 47 by the NIRF. However, there are number of problems associated with the academic/research components of the university. Delays in conducting examinations, declaring results after a gap of 3-6 months, faulty execution of CBCS Scheme, introduction of the semester system at undergraduate level, poor research cultures and so on are some of the serious problems associated with the university at present.
Due to these serious and severe problems, we witness growing unrest among students of the university and its affiliated colleges. This has resulted in mass agitations by students which become the daily headlines of local dailies. As a result, gone are the days when people used to utter the word “University of Kashmir” with utmost regard and respect. It may be pointed out here that the university should not be assessed in terms of student enrolments and number of SET/NET qualified candidates and publications in second-rate journals. These are now monotonous things for almost all Indian Universities.
Universities are global seats for research, extension and innovation. Our contribution towards knowledge creation, skilling, patents and extension is very little and poor. We are lacking far behind in the global market of research and innovation. Under these circumstances, installing a non-local vice chancellor for the University of Kashmir will surely be at the cost of academic/research growth of this premier institution. This will lead to further jeopardizing the academic legacy of the university.
Rather, it will further lead to student unrest and violence because a non-local vice chancellor may take, at least, one academic session to understand the academic/research components of the university. The Vice Chancellor, being a top most academic head of the institution, plays a significant role in leading the university towards academic excellence and perfection. It is he, who provides space for young minds to germinate new ideas and progress further on the path of knowledge and extension. His role in creativity and innovation of new/relevant fields of knowledge is also significant.
Being responsive to the latest trends and issues, the Vice Chancellor is also supposed to be abreast of the new policies and programmes so that the human resource associated with the higher learning may get groomed and prepared as per the market’s requirements.
However, with the passage of time the selection of Vice Chancellor for the existing universities of the State of Jammu and Kashmir particularly the University of Kashmir is being hyped unnecessarily. At present there are around 375 state universities; I have closely observed the process of selection of V.C for all these universities. In almost all the State Universities, the State Government makes the appointment of the Vice Chancellor/s. In fact, the nominations are being invited locally none other than by the Commissioner Secretaries of Higher Education. But, unfortunately when it comes to the University of Kashmir, selection of Vice Chancellor means involvement of many things and many people. It involves involvement of Bureaucratic and Political interference from Central to State levels.
When the appointment for the Vice Chancellor (who is not only the top most academic leader of the institution but is regarded as the father of the institution) is made politically or bureaucratically, this is not only the death of the academia but this politically motivated appointment is at the cost of the academic health of the institution.
If we may analyze the academic vibrancy and visibility of other existing universities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, we witness that, at present, the Central University of Kashmir (CUK) is functioning smoothly where due priority is being laid on quality education, skilling and research. Timely conduct of examinations, timely declaration of results, organization of international/national conferences/seminars, skill based education, effective implementation of CBCS and so on are the hallmarks of CUK at present. Similarly for CUJ, IUST, there is also smooth functioning/execution of all the academic components. But, all these Universities like CUK, CUJ, IUST are being headed by local talent.
But, I fail to understand when it comes to the University of Kashmir (UoK), the State Government ignores the potential of the local talent. It is lamentable and very unfortunate that Kashmiris being highly efficient, talented, dedicated, well trained who can effectively and efficiently run best institutions are ignored here. Since, the University of Kashmir is currently facing number of serious academic problems whether in the form of examinations, results finances, teaching or research, so experimenting a non-local head might not be good for the university. Let me share an example.
In lieu of this my humble request to the concerned authorities particularly the Honorable Chancellor is that please do not experiment with non-local talent so far the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Kashmir is concerned. Our academic/research culture is already in shambles due to one or other reasons. Every day we witness the news items pertaining to the examinations, result, admissions of the university in the local dailies. So, please give a chance to the efficient, honest and experienced local talent, who being abreast with the existing challenges/problems of the university can play an increasingly active role in restoring the academic legacy of this premier institution.

—The author holds a PhD in Social Sciences from the Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: ali.zafar@gmail.com