Delayed Degrees

A two year PG course takes more than three years to complete in Kashmir University, leaving students in a fix. Saima Bhat talks to students who regret enrolling at Kashmir’s once prestigious institution

In 2014, Sana, 24, was jubilant when she got selected for a two years course in journalism at Media Education Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir (KU).

A fresh pass out from the college Sana wanted to work for non-local media outlets and report Kashmir. Sana’s selection made her happy as the goal was just in sight.

However three years later Sana regrets her decision of joining a journalism programme at KU. Reason: her endless visits to the university for degree since she completed the course.

When Sana joined in 2014, she had an impression that she will complete her course by March 2016. But that didn’t happen.

“It is March 2017 and I am yet to receive my degree,” said Sana.

Without degree she is not able to apply for a job outside Kashmir.

Sana believes her tryst with KU was marred by tragedies since day one.

“First floods delayed the class work and then ‘threat of floods’ postponed our three papers, if I remember correctly,” said Sana. “In winters, even a few inches of snow would delay our exams.”

Sana feels, “KU grows you old”.

After the September 2014 floods Sana’s first semester exams got postponed by five month at least. This threw entire academic calendar out of the gear.

“The only exam on time was our third semester in September 2015,” said Sana.

In January 2016, after Sana appeared in her  fourth semester exam, she wanted to submit her dissertation and research paper too, but it was not accepted by the authorities.

After she took her exam her viva was scheduled to be held in July, 2016. But it was held in October instead, once again a delay of three months. Finally the result was declared in February 2017.

That day onwards, Sana and her batch-mates started visiting the university regularly to get their provisional and character certificates.

“They (university administration) literally play with our careers. They are the laziest lot,” said Sana. “When you press them to speed up they get agitated and start creating more problems.”

But Sana’s case is not an isolated one; her story is just an example of what around 3600 students enrolled in the KU face every year. The most suffering lot is those students who have backlogs. “Their post-graduation gets  stretched up to four years,” said Sana.

However, Abdul Salam Bhat, controller examination, KU, said, “All post graduation courses for regular students are centralised. It is the concerned director or HoD who decides when to conduct exams.”

The exams scheduled for June-July 2016 are now being conducted in February 2017, because of the situation.

Being first choice of students in Kashmir for higher studies, KU has taken a laid approach towards their careers.

Interestingly, students enrolled in Central University of Kashmir (CUK), Islamic University of Science & Technology (IUST), Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU), for same course, received their degrees on time.

“Even when exams were delayed, first because of 2014 floods and then summer unrest 2016, our university managed to conduct examinations,” said Irfan, an MBA student from IUST.  “Though there was irregularity in number of months we got for each semester.”

Faiq Adil qualified for the Management course at KU in 2010. Otherwise a two year course, it took AdilFaiq three years to get his degree from KU. By the time AdilFaiq got his degree, his counterparts in other state universities, were already working.

“We end our courses in December-January. Instead of starting admission process soon after, it gets delayed by five months,” said FaiqAdil. “Then there are internal delays because of incomplete syllabus, summer internship, project trainings, presentations etc.”

This delay ultimately trickled down to college level as examinations for graduation courses are conducted by KU.

In November 2016, a group of students protested in Srinagar’s Press Enclave, alleging KU authorities of playing with their future. They were stuck in first semester since March 2015.

“It takes a student six years to complete a three years course in KU,” said Muhammad Zaid, a student.

Another student, Altaf applied for an undergraduate course in September 2014, however floods delayed the process. “Our classes started in July 2015,” said Altaf.

Once classes started their first semester exams were conducted on time, but second semester exam got delayed by a year. “Authorities blamed the situation on ground in 2016,” said Altaf.  As they appeared in the said exams in December-January 2017, but now the students have been asked to prepare for next semester exams, scheduled in April. “They have relaxed the syllabus so that our degree doesn’t get further delayed.”

Nazia, a contractual lecturer at Boys Degree College, Khanabal, Islamabad, feels its ‘injustice’ with the students.

“How can a student complete curriculum in just two months instead of six,” said Nazia. “Teachers are equally helpless as authorities take it forgranted.”

But teachers like Nazia fear they will be singled out if they raise questions with authorities.

“We have orders from higher authorities to follow the orders without asking questions,” said Nazia.

The dealay has taken both psychological as well as economical tool on a number of students.

Gulzar, a student of Baramulla Degree College, sold his camera, to pay his tuition fees. “My father is a labourer who was out of work for six months post Burhan’s killing,” said Gulzar. “University charged us fee despite not taking a single class. They said the fee is for e-tutorials.”

As shutdown continued for months university started e-tutorials for students. “It was as good as reading from the internet. But still we were charged huge amount,” said Gulzar.

However KU examination controller said, “We cannot control either floods or what happened in 2016.”

He suggests that students should understand that delay in exams means delay in degree. “I wish we could turn back the time but it is not possible. So it is better to prepare for exams,” he added.

Zaheer, who studies in Baramulla Degree College, said their college administration have told them that their third semester would be held in April 2017, with ‘relaxed syllabus’.

“We were asked to deposit Rs 17,000 against 11,000 we deposited in the first year of graduation,” said Zaheer.

A KU professor, who wishes not to be named, said the delay hurts students as it frustrates them. “They cannot compete with students from other states as they are forced to visit KU every day for degrees.”

But the problems were not limited to KU only, the students enrolled for diploma under technical board also complain of delay in their degrees.

The first semester students, who were supposed to sit in their exams in May-June 2016 have no clue even in March 2017 that when they have to appear in exams.

All examinations were held in December 2016, post summer unrest 2016, but the second, fourth and sixth semester exams, that was scheduled to take place happen in December 2016 under technical board were not conducted has not happened so far.

“Now they have changed examination patterns as well. I had a backlog in second semester so instead of next session, I have to wait for a year to appear in exam with regular students,” says Moin, a second semester student at Kashmir Government Polytechnical (KGP) college.

(All names of students and teachers have been changed on request.)


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