Ever since Prof Talat Ahmad took over as KU Vice-Chancellor, many changes have taken place at the institute. In an interview with Junaid Nabi Bazaz, he says he was initially reluctant to take up vice chancellorship due to the political instability in Kashmir.
KL: What has been your chief contribution since you joined Kashmir University?
VC: I have done what other Vice-Chancellors (VC) could not deliver during their tenure. Immediately after I took over, I got all the vehicles back to central pool. I restricted allocation of vehicles only to VC, Controller, Register and Director, Distance Education. This saved us a lot of money. We once again got KU accredited as Grade A through NAAC. Research programs which were not going in a proper way have being made now more organic and institutionalised. We also got land allotted for three satellite campuses in Leh, Kargil and Kupwara. For them we got Rs 87 crore sanctioned from UGC. Five major censors for metrological studies will be installed to give accurate prediction for weather and help us understand climate changes comprehensively. We are going to start research on Geo-Physics which will help us understand earthquakes. Teams from outside are coming to assist us in this venture. We also started new courses on Tourism and Disaster Management. First time in the history of KU, we did annual meeting of Indian National Science Academy of Delhi where we had diverse discussions. For the very first time, top business tycoons of India visited campus. From now, we are going to have a long time relationship with them. We have also signed MoU’s with top universities of India like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. I am also a time ‘conscious’ person and I want things to happen on time. That culture is also picking up here. (laughs…)
KL: In its history, KU has never produced any study or research paper which could have been globally acclaimed? How are you filing this lacuna?
VC: See that time, there was no stress on research and scholars were just writing for local journals. They did not even know some basic things like H-index which is very necessary for producing any quality research. Only few of them knew it. To make research qualitatively better, we are now doing many things. We have made it mandatory for every teacher – both individually and collectively, to have research projects. For their promotions, we are giving points to their research projects. The teacher who will be having more research in his credit will get promotion.
KL: Why is KU not at par with any other good university of India? How can it be brought up to their level?
VC: Ask those who were at the helm of affairs before me on why they were not able to do it. Yes, in my capacity, I am doing what I could do to bring it to that level. I cannot bring the change overnight. I have given many opportunities to people. They can go and avail them from Delhi or Jawaharlal Nehru Universities as we have signed MoU’s with them.
KL: KU is working from many decades now. Why is it that students still have to avail facilities from outside universities?
VC: Ask this question to government why such facilities are not available here. For doing it, we need funds which we do not have. I can ask government for funds but cannot force them to give.
KL: Every year, KU receives 40,000 applications from students for admissions but you take only 3500. And this intake capacity has remained same for many years. How you are addressing this issue?
VC: Our purpose of starting satellite campuses is to address this ever increasing requirement. We are taking integrated courses into separate campuses which would create more space for students. The larger reality is that accommodating 40,000 at a time is also not possible because of lack of space, infrastructure, faculty and much more. We cannot take even evening classes like Delhi University. But expansion is there and we are trying our best to expand it as much as is possible for us.
KL: You have been appointed as VC of any university for the first time in your career. How has the experience been so far?
VC: Initially, I was reluctant to become VC of KU because of the political instabilities here. But now, I am not too uncomfortable to work here. I have no political interventions. I take independent decisions and can do what I have to do to improve academics. The students here are good and bright. They need to be exposed which I am doing.
KL: Is it true that a KU scholar has written a letter to you wherein he accuses Hurriyat (M) leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq of plagiarism?
VC: Nobody has written anything to me regarding it. Who told you about it? Your information is wrong.
KL: Why don’t students have their own autonomous students’ unions here like in any other university of India? Can this autonomy be ever given to them?
VC: The situation in other universities is not similar to that of Kashmir. You must know it. It is also not the right time to have autonomous unions here because the state is not ready to allow it. Yes, autonomy can be given to them but I cannot give you the timeline.