Holding its maiden convocation in its decade long history, Central University of Kashmir (CUK), rose to prominence in short span of time across India, believes Prof Mehraj-ud-Din, the varsity Vice Chancellor. In a candid conversation with the Kashmir Observer special correspondent, Auqib Javeed, Prof Mehraj stresses that quality education and accessibility rate CUK at top in J&Ks higher education
KO: Congratulations, Mr VC for holding CUK’s maiden convocation.
VC: Thank you very much! As you rightly said it is for the first time that CUK is holding its convocation, we were preparing for it for a long time but due to some issues and situation in Kashmir it was deferred. This time, thanks to Almighty Allah, we did it successfully. We choose SKICC (Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre) for the event as we dont have any space for this kind of event.
KO: CUK is a decade old varsity now but lacks a proper campus of its own despite huge and liberal funding from the government of India (GoI). What have you to say about it?
VC: I have repeatedly said that the quality of land offered to CUK in Ganderbal is very poor, and the pile work is extensively required. Now, the state government has given us a few readymade buildings and we shifted our administrative offices there. We are renovating some of the old rooms in our old physical education building. The entire school of education will be moved to that building which comprises of four departments: MEd, BEd, MA Education and MA Physical Education and some skill-based courses.
KO: The land acquired for CUK in Ganderbal is marshy thus not fit for construction and still, you are there?
VC: Actually, the alternative land is unavailable. Vertical constructions are possible, but it will cost us a lot along with time. We need a huge a budget for that. Thus, we have adopted horizontal structures, whose construction will start very shortly.
KO: There were reports that CUK is intending to exchange the land under construction site? Any truth in those reports?
VC: There was a letter from the Ministry of Human Resources Development, GoI to the CM that alternative land be provided to CUK. Perhaps the state government gave it a thought but couldnt make it. They had given us a commitment of giving 1000 kanals of land where we can raise vertical structures. At Ganderbal construction site, which is nearly 480 acres, we have decided to make horizontal structures. We have already prepared one block, and plan to make a chain of such blocks, and all most all the departments will be shifted to such G+ 1 building. The entire science block which is currently in Sonwar, will be shifted to Ganderbal, where we will have the best possible labs.
KO: Could you give us a brief report card of CUK activities?
VC: So far as my brief report card activities is concerned, nine schools are in place which comprise of 18 departments with 35 programs in progress. Out of 14 universities which were established originally in Kashmir, ours is at top. So far as CUK faculty is concerned, it is the best faculty. We have engaged experienced as well as a youthful faculty. They provide quality education to our students, and you are more than invited to get feedback from them.
At present, we have more than 2700 students which will cross 3000 soon.
One of the features of CUK is that the academic calendar has appeared well in advance. Admissions, courses and exams are all completed well in time. Results are declared on schedule. This is why most students in the valley prefer CUK. All degrees are completed on time, which is a massive achievement. You know we are in a flood prone area. Weve faced calamities in 2014 but that didnt disturb us as far as our examination and academic schedule is concerned. We didnt have a winter vacation for three years in a row. We tried to approach our students through electronic media, during unrest.
KO: How many students will be receiving their degrees during the maiden convocation?
VC: More than 700. For this ceremony we encountered a problem: the space available at SKICC has a limit of 670 persons occupying the main hall at a time, and 150 in the galleries, so we may not be able to accommodate all students together.
KO: Does CUK has non-local students as well?
VC: Yes, CUK does have non-local students in a number of subjects as well as those who are currently PhD scholars. Our faculty is also diverse whom we call as our own mini-India.
KO: How do you see CUK different from University of Kashmir (KU)?
VC: It isnt fair to distinguish universities. CUK is a very young university, isnt it? But in such a short period of time, we have been able to make our presence felt nationwide. I may not be in a position to respond directly to this question, but if you speak to any of the stakeholders, or any education minister in Kashmir, they will tell you that CUK has been able to carve its own space, not only in the state but in the country as well.
KO: It is generally believed that the priority of fresh pass-outs from colleges always remains KU. Does that mean CUK receives the second lot, “not-so-good” students?
VC: No, that isnt true. I dont believe CUK receives second preference. CUK is the first preference (of the students) because of the quality of education offered here. We involve students in our academic mechanism. Our students are certain that within two years they will complete their degrees.
KO: What are your plans to make CUK the first choice for Kashmiri students?
VC: We have a very rich faculty, and we believe we want to make CUK the best place to learn and to do research for which we are striving very hard and are receiving certain levels of success as well.
KO: What do you expect from this convocation?
VC: It is our duty that the degrees should be by some well-known personalities to the students, so that students feel elevated and gain inspiration. We want to have an inspiring convocation speech from our chief guest. Convocation has to be an annual affair in every university. You get a degree from the table, assuring you that you have received top class academics.
KO: Two Central Universities were allotted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, one each for summer and winter capitals. What makes CUK different from its Jammu counterpart?
VC: Its all about quality of teaching and education. There is tremendous faith among our students that our school is different from other institutions in the valley. I am proud to say this. Exams are transparent and are not disturbed. These are just some of the facts that make our students believe in us. Here they can approach any member of the faculty, including HoDs and me which makes our university very accessible.
KO: What is your message for the students?
VC: My message would be that the students need to work hard. They need to fight for their cause, with their pens and education. They can be the best leaders and fight for their cause, if their pen is stronger. They need to work hard with commitment and education.
KO: People around you say that Prof Mehraj-ud-Din is very active VC. What drives you? Where do you get this energy from?
VC: Laughing I am an old man right now but I have worked very hard from the day first. Ive been faithful to my parents, and I submit myself to Almighty Allah. These three components Id like to convey to my students as well. Work hard with dedication, never lie to your parents and be submissive to Almighty Allah
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