From 186 students in 2006 to 3500 students enrolled in this year, Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) located at the hillocks in Awantipora in southern Kashmir is becoming the fastest growing academic institutions in Jammu and Kashmir.
From engineering degrees to social sciences, the university is offering job-oriented courses to students and expanding in research.
In an interview with Furqan-Ul-Haq, Prof Abdul Rashid Trag, Vice Chancellor of IUST, explains the growth of the varsity
Since IUST is 10-year-old university, how is the response among the students in Kashmir?
When the university started academic work in 2006, merely 400 students applied. But last year 4800 students have applied for different seats. We admitted those students who qualified the entrance tests as per the intake capacity. We have kept a provision of lateral entry in third semester in engineering courses.
We are providing wide exposure to the students by sending them outside and within the state for project work. Some students are sent to multi-national companies during their studies to gain exposure before they finish their studies. Students are participating in extra-curricular like debates, conferences and cultural activities to expose them to different fields. And the students are brining laurels to the university. We try to ensure that despite their busy academic schedule, students get opportunities in other non-academic activities to show their talent. We organised and host international seminars that benefit our students and the university as a whole.
Is the university getting enough funds to run?
We have tremendous improvement in funding. In 2006, the university was started with a funding of Rs 116 lakhs, but this year our budget is more than Rs 40 crore. Our internal resource generation though students fee is also increasing.
The UGC has recognized the university and became eligible for their funding. The ministry of Food Processing and Indian Council of Agriculture Research have funded research projects for the university.
The state government generously is supporting the university in terms of infrastructure development and salary of the employees. Wakf Board is supposed to give Rs 2 crore annually, but they are not releasing the funds. But we are vigorously pursuing with them.
Wakf Board has done a noble service by establishing this university, and its credit should go to late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed sahib as chief minister in 2006 in setting up this institute.
Since the university is still in infancy, Wakf should provide sufficient funding for its infrastructure. Once the infrastructure is built, the university can generate its money from its own sources. I request Wakf to support us more and more so that we can build this university as much as we can.
What is the growth of infrastructure in these years?
The university is improving in terms of infrastructure side. In the last four years, 35 prefab classrooms and labs have been raised. Importantly, four massive buildings have been constructed to accommodate students in different departments. Nine smart-classes will be ready within a month. Whatever infrastructure is needed for the students will be raised.
The university will expand its premises as more land is being purchased from farmers. 1000 kanals of land has been purchased in the vicinity of the varsity, and its possession will be taken very soon.
Our aim is to make IUST a residential university. We have dearth of staff quarters here. As per Master plan that has been drafted already, we are purchasing 500 kanals of land for residential quarters. The land has been notified and about 100 kanals have been purchased thus far.
At present, the university possesses 300 kanals of land. But normally a university should have not less than 3000 kanals. That much land is not available here. We will be getting around 2000 kanals of land to expand the institution.
We have constructed hostel for girls with a capacity of 210 boarders. We have got funding for another girls hostel. And subsequently, we will be raising staff quarters and a boys hostel I nearby area. The university is yet to be fenced because we are expanding its campus by adding more land to it. Once the demarcation is fixed, then we can fence it.
Does the university have the required manpower for the increasing number of students and other non-academic activities?
The university has the manpower upto the extent it is required. We are trying to make the manpower available upto the optimum level because we don’t have abundant funds. Whatever manpower is required for running the university, we have provided that. So far the university is running as per discipline and a proper academic schedule. Our faculty members have published a large number of research papers and they have participated in international conferences across the world.
The university has made lot of efforts to make the employees eligible for salary and other perks and benefits as par with other universities. Under career advancement scheme which is implemented in other universities, around 26 faculty members have been given the benefit this year.
Why does IUST teach more undergraduate courses than post graduate courses?
We have tried to add those courses which get more response from the students. And the degrees make them eligible to the new more job opportunities in the modern world. A large number of students apply for the engineering course that are taught here than the academic courses. Seats in academic courses remain vacant than in engineering courses. It is because the students and the parents do realize now that because of the technological advancement, engineering courses fetch more jobs than academic courses which have limited job opportunities.
The university is teaching more professional courses. What is placement rate of the students in MNCs etc?
Around 1300 students with professional courses had passed from here and out of them 400 got placements. A number of companies hired our students but most of them did not join later. That created a bad impression among the companies about the students. And the next time when we invited the companies for placement they showed reluctance. Those students who don’t wanted to join any company should not have appeared at the time of placement drive.
Moreover, no university can provide 100 per cent placement to its students. Universities are for learning and acquiring knowledge, then employment is achieved by the students as per their efforts for jobs. An educated person can become good public servant or he can become a business man as per what one aims at. But wherever we find chances of placement for our students, we provide that opportunity to the students. And make our efforts in inviting companies for placement drives.
Is the recruitment of faculty and other staff as per the University Grants Commission guidelines?
We are completely following UGC guidelines in recruiting faculty here. But sometimes if we find an extra-ordinary teacher in terms of academics, and other experience and we feel that his appointment will help the students, then the university does not mind in giving small relaxation to such an applicant. Our sincere effort is to provide best teacher to the students for their career and future. And IUST has done that so far.
Does the university provide its students opportunities in non-academic activities?
Our students participate in extra-circular activities. Recently there was a cultural programme in Shri Mata Vishno Devi University, our students got first and third positions three. Being a growing and new university, mere participation would have been enough but winning awards is extra-ordinary. Our teams regularly participate in sports activities under Association of Universities in India. Our students took part in robotics in IIT Chennai, where we go fifth position at all India level and first postion in North India.
IUST was the first to launch community radio in the state. How successful has that initiative been?
The initiative could not be converted into an established in an authorized independent unit because there were some security concerns raised by the central government. But the journalism students are utilizing it for taking up community related issues. So far 300 episodes have been broadcast on the FM radio. Many things that we want here do not materialize and then we don’t press for them.
Students union is banned in University of Kashmir. Does IUST allow the students to form unions?
We allow students unions. Two years ago, we allowed the students to hold elections for their union. The elections were conducted in a very disciplined manner as it was an election being held in USA. The students, despite having different political inclinations, formed a union and elected a body for the union to put forward their issues effectively before the administration of the university. The space of the university is open for students union for academic purposes. I feel the students must focus on academics than the politics. And learn politics to the extent it is helpful to their academics. Once they reach such a level, they can learn politics and contribute effectively.
What are the further improvements that the university needs?
More infrastructure needs to be raised. We have made facilities available for the students. But a lot more needs to be done. We want to add post graduate and research classes in all engineering courses. We have made some preparations for that, and such programmes will be started within three years. We want to start courses in Nanotechnology, Tunnel engineering, processing of agricultural products, and many more departments. We have a very good Food Technology department and we are going to have mega-processing unit on a commercial scale that will provide consultancy to all the processing units which are located in Jammu and Kashmir. The building for the unit is under construction and we hope to run it near future.
Where will you rate it in the scale of 1-10?
While rating any university, we have to consider its age first. This university is 10 years old only. But I feel IUST has been the fastest growing university in the state-academically, infrastructure-wise and in other fields also. We are inviting experts from the country and from other parts of the world to provide exposure to our students.
I will request the government to support as regards the salary so that it is at par with other universities. The state should provide us funding for the next ten years so that the infrastructure is completed. We have a fleet of 40 buses to ferry students from the valley.