Need CUET revamp as seats go vacant, sessions get delayed: CUHP VC

VC of Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, talks about CUET, NEP 2020, graded autonomy and more during an interview.

Sat Prakash Bansal, Vice-chancellor of CUHP, Dharamshala. (Image: Special Arrangement)Sat Prakash Bansal, Vice-chancellor of CUHP, Dharamshala. (Image: Special Arrangement)

Sanjay | March 26, 2024 | 03:52 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In February, just 14 years after establishment, the Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP), Dharamshala, became one of eight central universities to be granted graded autonomy by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Vice-chancellor Sat Prakash Bansal spoke to Careers360 about the new status, the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, and CUHP’s campuses.

Q. What factors helped CUHP earn category-II autonomy?

A. I was founder-VC of Maharaja Agrasen University (MAU), Solan; VC of Indira Gandhi University, Rewari, with additional charge of Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya, Sonipat; and VC of Himachal Pradesh Technical University, Hamirpur. I joined CUHP as vice-chancellor in July 2021 with additional charge of Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, with nearly 500 affiliated colleges.

Using my expertise and experiences from past stints, I vowed to provide CUHP its own identity. I believe that it must be different from others. I worked on three things – management, re-orientation and quality of higher education.

We provided CUHP its own identity by improving infrastructure and heavily focusing on research to establish the university’s identity at a global level. Since I joined, our faculties have got research projects worth Rs 9 crore.

CUHP received an A+ grade with CGPA of 3.42 from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). This means we were very close to the CGPA range of 3.51-4 and A++. These factors helped us in achieving UGC’s graded autonomy.

Q. How will CUHP’s functioning improve with the new status?

A. The UGC provides graded autonomy in category I to A++ institutes and category II to A+ institutes. As we have been granted graded autonomy within category II, we will now have a free hand in collaborations with foreign universities and colleges as part of NEP’s provision of internationalisation of education.

We can also hire foreign faculties, run online courses in collaboration with institutions of the country as well as outside of the country. Through online courses, we can help students who can’t afford physical classes and those who are doing jobs.

Also read UGC Category-1 Autonomy: State universities plan new courses but struggle with funds

Q. How is CUHP implementing NEP 2020 provisions?

A. From the academic year 2021-22, we implemented multiple entry and exit systems in bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes and all our students are registered on the academic bank of credit (ABC) portal.

We have given a basket of 123 multidisciplinary courses to students, including 25 skill-related programmes. I want every student of our university to have skills and we are providing them. We are following the Indian Knowledge System (IKS) for holistic development of students. We are adhering to all UGC guidelines on NEP 2020.

Q. What has been CUHP’s experience with CUET?

A. Even though we have benefitted from CUET in increasing the diversity of students, we are also facing some problems. As students have filled the same course in different universities, they shift to other universities after taking admission at CUHP.

Due to the continuous change of universities by students, our seats go vacant. We have had a bitter experience in filling the seats even in our prestigious and high-demand courses. We had to conduct our own test to fill seats of some courses which caused a delay in the starting of the academic session. I think there is a need to revamp the CUET.

Recently, higher education secretary K Sanjay Murthy held a meeting with VCs of all universities in which we raised such issues and senior education ministry officials are taking care of them.

Q. How is CUET helping CUHP with diversity?

A. We have students from all over the country through CUET. The total student strength in CUHP is 2,392, including 1,829 UG and PG students and 563 research scholars.

Out of the total students strength, there are 1,155 female students (48.28%). Out of 190 teachers in CUHP, 78% teachers are from Himachal Pradesh.

Because of our quality education, we received lakhs of applications for our courses. The quality is visible in national-level exams like National Entrance Test (NET) which 47 students from our university cleared; 12 even secured the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).

Q. Why does CUHP not have its own campus yet?

A. The union government has allowed two campuses – at Jadrangal at 13km and Dehra at 50km from Dharamshala. The ministry of education has sanctioned Rs 512 crore for construction.

When I joined the university in July 2021, there was a demand for having our own campus. We started from Shahpur campus (24km away) and have campuses in Dharamshala and Dehra too. We have three hostels. We do not have a shortage of infrastructure.

For the permanent campus in Dehra, we were allotted 81 hectares of forest land and 34 hectares of non-forest land which has already been transferred to the university. I conducted a series of meetings with the state government officials to remove encroachment on the university's allocated land. After getting clearances, Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has commenced construction at the Dehra campus. I hope it will be completed by the end of this year and we will be in a position to shift our academic activities by January 2025.

As far as the Jadrangal campus is concerned, when I joined, I got a report from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) that it is a sensitive zone where construction is not possible. I approached ZSI headquarters in Kolkata and they sent a team here. Ultimately, they gave a very positive report. We have got forest clearances too. Now, the state government has to deposit about Rs 30 crore as compensatory afforestation.

Also read IIMC Delhi transforming with new courses, more seats; aims for NAAC grade, NIRF rank

Q. Is CUHP starting new courses?

A. From this academic session, we will start four new courses: disaster management, hotel management, geology and law. We will also start a few need-based courses related to artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing.

Q. In February 2024, CUHP signed an MoU with the Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, for research on tribal groups of Jharkhand. Please tell us about it.

A. Nearly 70 research projects are being carried out by our faculty members and students. Malkit Singh of the Centre for Kashmir Studies is heading the project. I have asked him to do a comparative study on similarities between adivasi people of Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh. I have also asked him to focus on the difficulties faced by them and suggest solutions. The recommendations will be implemented by government agencies.

Q. Why does CUHP fail to secure a spot in the National Institutional Ranking Framework’s (NIRF) ranking of universities?

A. Public perception is a parameter in NIRF ranking which plays a big role in universities and colleges securing top ranks. We are working towards it and as soon as we improve it, we will be among the top 100.

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