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Evening classes in KU: ‘If we fail, I will accept it’ says VC

The proposed supplementary shift of Kashmir University (KU) has raised eyebrows in and outside the campus. A faction of the University faculty is not happy with the idea as the varsity lacks infrastructure and staff to conduct the extra and extended classes. KU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Khurshid Andrabi talks about the idea and its implementation with special correspondent Moazum Mohammad.

Excerpts:
The supplementary shift proposal mooted by previous government was shelved by Jammu University despite having adequate facilities. Is it a political decision?
No government asked us to start the second shift. We did it on our own. We don’t have to compare Kashmir University with Jammu because the winter capital remained conflict-free for 30 years. Jammu has easy access to Delhi and Punjab. Ours is a different situation. We have lost the past 20-25-years in the troubles here and we have to start compensating for time lost.

When you know the situation is not conducive here, how can students go home late in the night sans transport facility?
I must clarify that the second shift will not last beyond 7 pm. Please do not make the mistake that a student has to spend the same amount of time he or she spends in the first shift. It is to be defined that a shift starts at 2 or 3 pm and logistics are taken care of by the departments. Only core courses are to be taken care of and the optional programs can be merged with regular shift. We are also in touch with local transporters and the State Road Transport Corporatiom (SRTC). We may face some hiccups in the beginning, but later on things will smoothen out.

Does KU want to generate revenue out of the second shift to raise infrastructure such as classrooms or laboratories?
Money has nothing to do with it. We have a surplus. Wherever there are logistic problems, we have withdrawn second shifts. For example, we are not offering evening shift in Botany and Clinical Biochemistry departments. But wherever we think we can logically manage this, we have gone ahead with this initiative. There are no compulsive situations where we are treating students like cattle. The second shift will be as comfortable as the regular one.The intent is vibrancy of the University. It will help research scholars spend more time here. It will give a level of confidence to girl research scholars and also to boys to contribute to research in a better way.
The hostel facility is another issue students raise in regard to the second shift…
You cannot have the cake and eat it too. Students will live jointly as tenants around the campus. That’s what student life is all about. Here, they don’t have an issue searching for a house like outside the state.

Instead of focusing on second shift, can’t the university focus more on its satellite campuses?Why do you say we aren’t focusing on them?
Engineering students in north Kashmir campus are without infrastructure…
Actually, the Btech program was part of the University’s engineering college. Due to political compulsions and local sensitivity, we could not shift the engineering program back. Now, they are hell-bent on having an engineering program there. I have no problem.
The other campuses such as Leh and Kargil are going to be started this year.

Are you adding to unemployment by increasing the intake capacity through the second shift?
Why are we creating (unemployment)? Wouldn’t these students anyhow go to, say, Bhopal or UP? We are not forcing people to study here.

Why doesn’t the University offer job-oriented courses such as agriculture or horticulture that have potential in the local market?
We are going to open Kaushal Kendriya for skill development here. But that’s only a support to basic education. We are running job-oriented courses. The suggestion of departments was not heeded and as such they were given marching orders to start the second shift…
This was discussed in the Academic Council and University Syndicate. Nobody has given marching orders to departments. It was a decision based on consensus.

Over 50 teaching posts are vacant in the University. Who will teach students in the second shift?
It is a strange notion that contractual engagement is a bad thing. In Western countries, there are only contractual appointments. But we used to hire stupid people. Now, it is different. A contractual lecturer has to have a Ph.d, NET or SLET and clear a screening test. We are also filling up regular vacancies.

Are you focused more on quality or quantity?
A University doesn’t work from 10am-4pm. Average time spent by research scholars is over 12-hours here. But a scholar spends only 3 hours here. So we must create an environment, it will improve quality through research.
We have been declared as a center with a potential for excellence. We have got a grant for setting up a skill development center and are among the few universities included in Global Initiative for Academic Network. We also have research projects.
KU has not conducted research on local issues such as conflict studies…
We don’t have credentials for conducting such research. It was a school and unless we don’t have international recognition, how can we do justice with that sort of research. First, credentials have to be such that your research is valued and accepted. If you say something about the Kashmir problem or Dal Lake, it has to be valued.

Do you mean research conducted so far is not up to the mark?
Absolutely. There are isolated cases. But the kind of the impact we need is not there. That’s what we are working on.
I am taking this second shift initiative. Let me try. If we fail, I will accept it.

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