Prof. Mehraj Uddin Mir, Vice Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir, in conversation with Pritha Roy Choudhury discusses the role of heads of institutions in gaining autonomy, among
other issues. He said, “The basic reason why we are not able to compete with the top universities in the world is that our research component is not strong, not as strong as it should be.”
Q. Do you think that autonomy is very important for an institution to flourish?
A. It is a perception which varies from institution to institution. And so far as the chief executive of any institution, principal of a college or Vice Chancellor of a university, it greatly depends upon his or her dynamics. Dynamics in the sense, autonomy is not given, it is taken and you have set rules and regulations. What is required is that you have to operate within those rules and regulations and they are formulated by academic bodies and even you are at liberty to amend them from time to time, depending upon the need. And thereby I feel that the autonomy is visible within and in case a Vice Chancellor can ward off any external interference, obviously, he will enjoy autonomy. In the case of central universities, VC is the chief executive of almost every decision making body and there is no difficulty.
Q. One of the Vice Chancellors pointed out at the conference of the Association of Indian Universities on sharing of workspace with state universities. Is this feasible?
A. Today we are in the virtual world, we need to share each other’s resources. It is all based on public funding and for the maximum use of the facility which has been created in any institution, it can be used by any other institution at an appropriate time and what is required is that there should be a proper coordination between the two institutions. It is a good idea and should be implemented in most of the universities.
Q. How would 10 percent reservation for the economically weaker sections affect your university? Will it not put undue pressure on the institutions?
A. We have adopted it and it is not going to affect much because if we have 100 seats we can easily have 10 seats more. The actual implementation will take place in various phases because wherever the infrastructure is there it will start off, but wherever we need to add to the infrastructure it will start in another phase.
Q. What is your take on pedagogy? Are we able to keep up with the aspiration of students?
A. We are all in the virtual world but at the same time, the traditional method of teaching has its own advantage. I believe that there must be a blend of both the methods and to the extent to which interactive mode of teaching is adopted will depend on the individual teacher. But our endeavour is that we want students’ participation and, in fact, with technological intervention, we now find that the students are active participants as compared to the past where the students were passive. Today the student has smart phone in his hand and he has access to any information he wants.
Q. Finally, do you think that research in higher educational institutions is important?
A. The basic reason why we are not able to compete with the top universities in the world is that our research component is not strong, it is not as strong as it should be. That is, our country is not in a position to compete with the research done by other countries and as far as quality is concerned, most of our universities are yet to realise this goal as of now.
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