The Cluster University concept, first of its kind in India introduced by the Jammu and Kashmir Government in the year 2016. It is expected to give an impetus to academics and research in the state. The Minister of Education has shown keen interest by reviewing the preparedness and progress for the establishment of the Cluster Universities in Kashmir and Jammu. Introducing and developing of Cluster Universities in Srinagar and Jammu will not only boost the existing higher education facilities in J&K, but help diversification of the academics with introduction of latest job-intensive courses at the graduate and post-graduate levels. The two Cluster Universities are being established in the state under centrally-sponsored Rashtriya Ucchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) to run series of additional and novel courses in the existing city colleges, with one of the colleges each in Srinagar and Jammu acting as the lead college. The Minister has announced that an amount of Rs 55 crore each has been provided under RUSA for development of additional infrastructure for these Cluster Universities. The Cluster University in Srinagar will comprise of Amar Singh College, SP College, Women’s College MA Road, GDC Bemina and the College of Education, Srinagar. In Jammu GGM Science College will be the Lead College for the new University while in Srinagar Amar Singh College will be the Lead College.
The process for building requisite infrastructure has been set into motion in the concerned colleges at both the cities and the admissions would start from the current academic session. The Cluster University will offer post-graduate and diploma courses in social sciences, liberal arts, humanities, engineering, science, teacher education, languages, entrepreneurship development, management and other job-intensive courses. Initially, the two universities will be granted one hundred and twenty four posts to meet the exigency of the working/ starting.
These universities will be independent entities with their own Acts and each will be headed by a Vice Chancellor. The five colleges each of Jammu and Srinagar will break away from Jammu University and Kashmir University. Other colleges will continue to be a part of Jammu University or Kashmir University. The Islamia College, Srinagar and Government College for Women, Parade, Jammu, are already working as independent colleges and will not be a part of cluster universities. These Cluster independent Universities will be administered by an establishment comprising the Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Financial Adviser, Educational Adviser, Registrar and Controller of Examinations.
The concept of Cluster Universities will provide an opportunity to students to join higher education within the state instead of getting trapped in the hands of unrecognised institutes outside, which becomes problematic for them. The government is committed to making education a round-the-clock affair and starting evening classes, which will help in expanding access to higher education by increasing the gross enrolment ratio. As stated by the Minister of Education, ‘Life comes to a halt after evening, especially in Srinagar, and colleges have not given back to society in the way they should have. The cluster university concept is a step towards giving motion to education’.
The concept of cluster universities is expected to improve the quality of state universities and colleges and enhance capacity to become dynamic and demand drive. It aims to promote cutting-edge research and to create outstanding conditions for young scholars at universities, to deepen cooperation between disciplines and institutions, to strengthen national/ international cooperation of research. It shall serve as a platform for communication, collaboration and co-operation that will optimize scarce resources as well as free students from the autocracy of boundaries and the constraints of location using emergent IT tools. The concept combines the best in traditional systems with the new opportunities for knowledge enhancement. The plan will bring benefits to all stakeholders with its expected outcomes.
A mushroom growth of institutions in the shape of colleges and Universities emerged in the past in the State of J and K. If we steal a look at the past, 18 new colleges were established in 2005 and 18 in 2008 in the state to make higher education accessible to the remotest areas. Another more than 20 colleges have been realized as well as established. The colleges established already and the new ones are offering traditional courses to pursue, which have lost relevance in the emerging economic scenario of the world. Moreover, the majority of the already established colleges are still under-staffed, without buildings, infrastructure and other necessary facilities and it is vexing to believe the condition of these institutions. The two Central Universities and particularly, the Central University of Srinagar (which is shifted yearly from one rented accommodation to another) established before five years, are yet to be realized into reality.
Innovative steps to higher education is the need of the hour and the University Grants Commission has come with new suggestions to cluster colleges in groups to share their resources for better prosperity of the students and teaching community. The University Grants Commission of India is of the opinion that higher education is not a luxury affair for academia as well as for the policy makers and it has to be pursued earnestly with a lot of application oriented research and development.