On the Degree College Mess

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Recently, the Principal Secretary Finance, Navin Kumar Choudhary, gave a nod for the operationalization of 28 new Degree Colleges (in phase-1). Pertinently, the State Administrative Council (SAC) met on 5th September 2018 headed by Governor SP Malik had approved 40 new Degree Colleges in the state, including operationalizing 26 already sanctioned Degree Colleges. The High-powered committee headed by Principal Secretary Finance , Navin Kumar Choudhary , had decided that the Finance Department would release one crore for kick starting the construction work of these new Degree Colleges.
While giving a nod for more degree colleges, does this phenomenon will change the pathetic state of our Higher education? Does this political stunt will change our academic standards, as still in some colleges, which are operational from 90’s, the commerce and Bio-Technology and Bio-Chemistry Subjects have not been yet introduced?
The case studies I ill delineate will hopefully illustrate the larger point.

Case study 1(Government Degree College Pampore):
The former NC-Congress coalition Government had approved some degree colleges in the state including Degree College Pampore. The state government, that time, had directed the authorities for starting academic activities, without taking any cognizance for infrastructure development (including teaching staff.) Setup in 2012, the college was functioning at Government Boys Higher Secondary School Pampore till June 2015 and subsequently it was shifted to its newly constructed building at Tulbagh, Pampore. Despite repeated requests to higher authorities by the Auqaf Committee and students, after three years of its functioning, the government has started the construction work. But, the irony is that the concerned authorities could only manage to construct a couple of buildings.
Initially, the college had offered only Bachelors in Arts stream with ten subjects. But, later the college had been allotted Science and Commerce streams. The students who had been admitted in Science and Commerce streams had to face a tough time, as the college has lack of infrastructure. After the allocation science and commerce streams, the requisite staff has still not been allotted. The college has less number of class rooms, by virtue of which the college authorities too face a tough time to accommodate the students of two newly approved streams. The college does not have sufficient laboratories and workshops for conducting the practical classes, on account of which, students enrolled in the science stream are facing a lot of inconvenience.
As per print media reports, Director colleges, Professor Zahoor Ahmad Chat had said that the Up-gradation of Degree College, Pampore was allotted only on the basis of requisition sent by the College principal. If there are some issues on infrastructure development, the concerned principal must initially consider the situation before forwarding the requisition for up-gradation to concerned authorities, he said.

Case Study 2 (Government Degree College, Awantipora):
Recently, the (SAC) had allotted the Degree College to the denizens of Awantipora. The area has a vast catchment area and at about there are 200 Higher Secondary Schools. For establishing the Government Degree College at Awantipora, the Government had to setup it on State land and crores of rupees had to be spent while establishing the proper campus with digitalized infrastructure development. Why did not the Government officials took this fact on board, that the Awantipora had initially a University Campus which was established in the 2005 academic session?
The Islamic University of Science and Technology is offering number of Bachelors of Courses in various Disciplines, like Engineering, Medicine, and Humanities. If the Government had allotted another Degree College to Awantipora, why can’t they increase the intake capacity at the Bachelors level and give a nod for allotting more disciplines at the same level at IUST , Awantipora?
If this positive step will be taken, it will make the academic standards to a better level.
By playing such political stunts, our academic reforms have been paralyzed since the past couple of years. The student community has been caught in this antiquated maze of an exclusivist administrative mind-set. For gaining more public feedback the state legislatures pass the statutory la but when the academics criticize it, they said that it is a criticism for the sake of criticism. Opening more and more degree colleges is nothing, but a pointless act. Now something needs to be conveyed to the government also. What is the logic of making such quick announcements? The Honorable Governor along with whole administrative machinery must again take this issue very seriously and make academic reforms more vibrant and student centric.
The state government must hold deliberations with academicians to chalk out a policy for upgrading or allotting new degree colleges. The pathetic state of our degree colleges had leads to stress among students. The government should work on a proper mechanism while taking such a decision on higher education level. The state legislatures must stop this policy to establishing the degree colleges for every Mohalla like Anganwadi centers. The authorities must think again, and make academic arrangements on faculty level, as well as to infuse the proper laboratory equipment’s, so that our higher education is saved from becoming defunct.
There is a dire need to take such issues with higher degree of urgency, so that our degree colleges will not let paucity of infrastructure to affect academic reforms. The frequent announcement of degree colleges has shown the systemic failure of which speaks about the volumes about the strategy adopted by our academic counsellors. The question that must be asked and answered is: are we making the careers or breaking the careers?

The author can be reached at: peerzadakhalid1454@gmail.com