Funding from Waqf has been an issue: VC IUST Mushtaq Siddiqi
Funding from Waqf has been an issue: VC IUST Mushtaq Siddiqi
Islamic University of Science and Technology Vice Chancellor Mushtaq A Siddiqi in an interview with Rising Kashmir’s Education Reporter Yawar Hussain talks about the developing infrastructure, research work and the difficulties varsity is facing due to the lack of funding. Excerpts:
Why the university is still marred by barracks?
Barracks are becoming a thing of the past in the varsity now. When I joined we required a huge infrastructural push and for that, I reached out to the state government and University Grants Commission. Together, they gave us around Rs 103 crore. At present we have a plan of building eight buildings, five of which have been tendered out. These include civil-mechanical department; library block; polytechnic block; 16 apartment residential block; girl’s hostel block; nursing college; and Mantaqi school along with food technology block which will be handed over this month and will house physics and chemistry departments also.
How much land have you acquired apart from the 36.17 acres land?
The acquiring of land was stuck due to lack of funds but now the Chief Minister has promised Rs 25 crore. This year we have acquired 100 kanals and 150 kanals more will be acquired by end of 2018. Also, the government has given us 180 kanals of ‘Ghaas Cahrai’ land on which we are building sports infrastructure.
Is there any plan of starting campuses in other areas of the Valley as well?
We have already moved out with two nursing colleges and there is a proposal of starting a nursing college in district Kupwara. Also, the academic council, which will meet this month, will take up proposal of staring an engineering college either in Baramulla or in Sopore.
What about the state government and Waqf board funding?
The state government’s funding has been liberal. Our non-plan budget which includes salaries of the staff was Rs 6 crore. It has been raised to Rs 15 crore by the state government now. It has given me the liberty to recruit more faculty members. From the Waqf, the funding hasn’t been good because the board went into a financial crisis due to turmoil last year. They told us that they don’t have revenue to share with the university. The funding from the Waqf has been an issue lately.
How much money has been spent from 15 crores of MHRD?
We were lucky enough to become part of the Human Resource Ministry’s flagship scheme which aims to upgrade the engineering programmes. Over a period of three years, we will be able to start the M-Tech courses in the varsity with these 15 crore rupees.
In terms of accreditation where do you see the university?
IUST went through a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) very early on when we didn’t even had hotels and sports facilities. Currently, we have B grade rating but we are planning to go early for a NAAC visit before the scheduled date of 2020. I am confident of securing an ‘A ’ for the university this time around.
As per UGC you need to have 17 professors, 33 associate professors; 145 assistant professors. How many do you currently have? Why is there a ration of 70:30 of contractual to permanent?
It is only due to lack of funding and because of it recruiting the faculty members has been an issue. However, we are planning to increase the number of permanent faculty to around 150 by April 2018. We have advertised 34 positions of assistant professors and 50 more will be advertised soon.
What about the number of professors, associate professors and assistant professors which you presently have?
At present, we have seven professors and three more are slated to join us in a month or two. As far as associate professors are concerned, we have currently none. In terms of assistant professors, we have 60 permanent while 210 are on contractual basis.
In backdrop of this contractual staff, how do you assess the academics of university?
We have brought in many academic reforms. Like, we have set a platform in IUST whose accesses is limited to me and few others. After every lecture, the teacher has to upload the same lecture and the respective class representative has to corroborate that claim. After every three months, the teachers are evaluated by the students through this platform. If any contract faculty gets a poor score from students then we discharge him/her from the duties and if a permanent faculty gets a poor score then we link it with his/her growth.
What different things do you provide to a student from KU and CUK?
We have a mandate of science and technology as the name suggests. Students nowadays seek admission in technology and management based courses which we provide in various domains. Soon we will have incubators where aspiring entrepreneurial skills and instincts of aspiring students will be honed. This is being done in the backdrop of a trend that only five percent students are opting for higher education after their graduation. Rest 95 percent want to finish their bachelors and go out and work. We want to increase the livelihood chances of those young students.
Is IUST second option for students after KU?
I cannot say this with absolute certainty, but yes this year the students have opted out of KU in technology courses and joined IUST even though the tuition fee in KU was less. This indicates that our academics has grown to a level where students are opting for IUST.
Research has been a matter of concern. How do you rate your research work? How many research scholars do you currently have?
I agree that research has been an issue and there is a very less footprint of research in IUST. Currently, we only have 25 scholars with us. But to promote research this year we have given a grant to our faculty members from the university funds. We asked them to get their research idea project cleared through the committee and take the grant. As a result, 10 such projects have already been assigned to faculty members and 05 more will soon be granted. In Food Technology, we have a good research lab which will soon be accredited by National Accreditation Bureau of Laboratories and will be the first food testing lab in the state. In three months time, the state will have first such lab here in IUST.
How often is the curriculum of the university reviewed and upgraded?
The curriculum is reviewed after every six months. The board of studies of the varsity also has two members from industry so that the needs of the industry are part of the curriculum. Our courses are the only ones which are recognized by the AICTE in the state and that is why we were made part of the flagship scheme of MHRD under which 15 crores were sanctioned for us.
Does the university take feedback on the curriculum from national and international faculty?
We have visits of Kashmiri diaspora almost every day. Their feedback helps us rejuvenate curriculum and there advises are found valuable. We then incorporate them in the curriculum as well.
How good is the library of IUST?
Presently we have a librarian who shifted from the KU to CUK and now IUST. He tells me that the number of students visiting and reading the journals and books is much higher than the number of students in KU and CUK. But what is happening now with the rise of the digital revolution that physical libraries are becoming meaningless. However, I believe that nothing can replace reading a hardcover book. By next year when we shift to the new library building, we will definitely come up to the expectations of the students both in terms of the infrastructure of a library as well as the digital library facilities.
Would you allow student politics and unions in the university?
Yes, I would allow it because universities have to be breeding grounds for politics so that we get good politicians who can provide good governance. Throughout the world student politics has been the hallmark of university education also. That is how the USA got its former president Barack Obama because he was a student politician at Harvard. In my opinion, the government should allow student politics in every varsity of the state because it will allow students to take politics as a full-time profession. What this will do is that we might have good PhD scholars who are interested in politics as ministers in future. Student politics should be part of every university culture. But as VC right now, I am not allowed to introduce student politics at IUST.
The issues of favouritism are still vocal here. Have they been addressed?
Such issues have gone down largely. Only last week we disengaged a faculty member for favouritism. Even though the impression was that he was the best teacher in that department.
What about the distance mode programmes? Any proposals?
At this point of time there is none. Although, the government has asked us if we can grant affiliation to government degree colleges of south Kashmir currently affiliated with the KU. The state government has to issue an order for that. If that matures then we can have these degree colleges as our distance mode centres.
What are your immediate and long-term goals and challenges?
For any VC, the first and foremost thing in the university is good academics along with a robust infrastructure. In 18 months’ time, the eight new buildings coming up will completely change the university. Also as a short-term measure, I am focussing on inducting good human resource. As a long-term measure, before I complete my three-year tenure as VC, I would like at least 150 permanent faculty members in the university so that the ratio shifts to 70:30 (permanent: contractual). Also, as a long-term measure, I would like IUST to become the hub of research in technology and other basic sciences.
Where do you see the university five years down the line?
I assure you that in five years the IUST would be the first choice of students for the courses offered because the infrastructure is coming up and the faculty is good. These are two main things a student looks for. Even students from the north India would come for admissions to IUST not just for courses offered but also for the research programmes.