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|From the desk of the Vice-Chancellor|
I extend my warm greetings to the students, faculty, and staff of Aliah University for the just-concluded festive season.
The demand for Higher Education in West Bengal has increased exponentially during the last decade. This year the number of students sitting for the forthcoming Secondary Examinations (Madhyamik) is more than 10 lakh. Most of them will progress to the threshold of higher education after qualifying this examination. In the last decade about ten universities have been established in this state to meet this growing demand for education. Students from the remote areas of this state which were basically backward economically and socially can now avail of modern branches of knowledge and higher studies from these newly established universities in different corners of the state. So it can be claimed that West Bengal’s higher education structure based on a centre-periphery binary model is being dismantled and replaced by a multiple-centre structure.
History of Aliah University
In 1780, at the behest of Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, and some eminent Muslim citizens of Kolkata an educational institute was established. Different government documents cite the name of this educational institute varyingly, such as Government Mohamedan College, Mohamedan College of Calcutta, or Calcutta Madrasah. Afterwards it popularly came to be called Aliah Madrasah. It is definitely worth mentioning that in British ruled India, Aliah Madrasah was the first government-established educational Institution.
The main intention for establishing this institution was to educate the children of the higher classes of Muslim families in Arabic, Persian, and Islamic Law so that they may be eligible to get jobs in different Government Departments like Administration, Taxation, and Judiciary. However, within a decade the curricula of Aliah Madrasah had also encompassed modern subjects like Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Natural Philosophy along with the more traditional branches of learning like Law, Theology, Grammar, Philosophy, Logic, Rhetoric, and Oratory. In 1821, in the presence of eminent government officials the first annual examination of Aliah Madrasah was conducted and in 1826, courses on medicine were taught in this institution till 1836 when this faculty was transferred to and housed in Calcutta Medical College following its establishment that year. In 1826, English was first introduced at Aliah Madrasah, though the number of students was quite low due to Persian still being the state language of British India. After the British Government instituted English as the state language and the medium of communication for all official purposes in 1837, a Department of English was established at Aliah Madrasah.
After the Revolt of 1857, seeds of suspicions were sown in the minds of the British rulers about the loyalty of the Muslims. So the government wanted to stop the aid allocated for the running of Aliah Madrasah. However, these dark clouds rolled away very soon. Between 1869 and 1947, a number of committees and commissions suggested various reform measures for the improvement of Madrasah education in Bengal, particularly Aliah Madrasah. After the partition of India in 1947, this institution again faced severe problems. According to the decision of the Separation Council, all books and manuscripts, assets and estates of Aliah Madrasah were transferred to the Dacca Madrasah. It was only by dint of hard work and initiative of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India, that the institutional framework of Calcutta Madrasah was again set up and teaching restarted. During the early years of its existence, Aliah Madrasah was ahead of its times in the field of education; however, its success in enabling Muslim youths to obtain government jobs while also imparting knowledge on the various streams of traditional and modern education, needs to be re-evaluated now. Only by putting the legacies of the past into a proper perspective can a logical and effective framework be constituted for successful running of this Institution and its further development.
From Madrasah to University
In 2001, the Government of West Bengal, under the direction of the eminent educationist and His Excellency the Governor of West Bengal and Bihar, Dr. A. R. Kidwai formed a Madrasah Education Committee. The Committee included other eminent persons were Justice K. M. Yusuf and Dr. Abdus Sattar, the then President of West Bengal Madrasah Education Board and Hon’ble Minister of State of the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, Government of West Bengal. In 2002, this Committee presented its recommendations for the continued development and future excellence of Aliah Madrasah. In 2007, the over-two hundred-year old institution was elevated to the status of a University.
Higher education in our country is being restructured today and is undergoing modernization to keep pace with globalization. The four major aspects of the newly proposed reforms are: semesteriztion, choice-based credit system, continuous assessment, and letter grading. Aliah University has adopted all the ingredients of modern higher education so that its students can be fit for competition in this globalized village.
It has been observed that right from the establishment of Aliah Madrasah, education was imparted in both the traditional fields of theology and religion and in the modern sciences, social sciences, and humanities. To keep this glorious tradition of teaching alive, right from the start, Aliah University has also continued the teaching of traditional Islamic Theology, Islamic Studies, and Arabic along with subjects like English, Bengali, History, Geography, Economics and many other branches of Science (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science) as well as Engineering (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics and Electronic Communications, Computer Engineering), Management (Financial, Hospital, Marketing, and Human Resource Management), Computer Applications, Journalism and Mass Communication. Keeping in mind the requirements of the employment sector in the 21st century, from the beginning, great emphasis has been given to courses in the areas of Science, Engineering, Technology, and Management so that students from the minority communities become eligible and can compete for jobs in various sectors. Five-year Integrated MA / MSc / MTech / MBA / MCA courses have been started in many of the subjects with a special purpose in mind. It is often seen that due to financial constraints, a large section of the students from the minority communities cannot carry forward their studies after the graduation level into the post-graduate stage. Even distance education in any branch is expensive and opportunities for doing so in the fields of science and technology are especially limited. However, for students admitted in the Five-year Integrated Course, the guarantee remains for them to continue their studies at the post-graduate level making them quite eligible for employment in varied sectors or for research, if they so desire. There will be scope of carrying out research in all concerned academic fields at Aliah University and the rules and regulations concerning this will be published soon. In keeping with the great stress laid by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on the modern system of education with semesterization, continuous assessment, and Letter Grading, Aliah University has incorporated all these elements into its academic structure from its inception. For the various departments of this University, the State Government has sanctioned 297 teaching posts and 30 administrative and non-teaching posts. The process of appointment of personnel to these posts has been going on.
The value of English education in today’s globalised world is too important to emphasize. English is the lingua franca of today’s global village. Fluency of speech and writing capabilities in the English language enable a person to seek employment in media and communication, internet content writing, marketing and publishing fields, apart from the traditional sectors of administration, industry, teaching and research. Keeping the above in mind, special steps are being taken at Aliah University to promote the correct use of English among the students in both conversation and writing and they are constantly encouraged to improve themselves in this regard. Thus, it goes without saying, that the medium of instruction and administration at this University is English.
Campus, Laboratory, and Library
The process of acquisition of land for the Main Campus of Aliah University is on; very soon, the University is to get 65 acres of land at Bhangar, a place close to Salt Lake and New Town. Meanwhile, a few departments of the University are housed at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Bhavan (G+8) in Sector-I of Salt Lake, where teaching and research are being conducted. The other departments, at present, are housed in a few rented buildings in Sector-V, Salt Lake. Apart from this, 148 cothas (more than two and half acres) of land at Park Circus, behind Lady Brabourne College, has been purchased from the Kolkata Improvement Trust (KIT) of the Government of West Bengal at a cost of Rs.18 crore. On 24th December, 2010, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal laid the foundation stone of the City Campus and a Girls’ Hostel of Aliah University at the premises. The construction work is about to start. Workshops and laboratories for the Science and Engineering departments are being developed here, too. One sate-of- the-art Language Laboratory for each of English and Arabic departments is in the process of development. A Seminar Library for each Department and a Central Library of the University have been established. The process of upgrading these workshops and libraries is being strengthened continuously.
Talent-Nurturing, Scholarships, and other Schemes
Since this University has been upgraded to its present status from a Madrasah and it is under the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education of the Government of West Bengal, Talent Search cum Scholarship Schemes have been established for the bright students of the Madrasahs of West Bengal. Two competitive schemes – the Madrasah Mathematics Olympiad (MMO) and the Madrasah Science Talent Search (MSTS) have been prepared exclusively for the Madrasah students. In both the schemes, students of two groups, (i) Standard V – VIII and (ii) Standard IX – X, can participate. A hundred successful students from each of the four categories (total of four hundred students) thus will be given awards, certificates, and scholarships. In this manner, imparting education from the Primary level right up to Research (Ph.D.) level is being conceived at Aliah University.
For its own students, the University has two benevolent schemes, (i) the Merit cum Means scholarship scheme for meritorious but financially weaker students and (ii) Brotherhood Fund with a view to helping financially very weak students in case of any exigency.
Work has started at the Publishing Section of Aliah University. Initiatives have been taken for reprinting and restoring current as well as old, rare, valuable books and manuscripts and also for publishing new books and journals. Last year, the first volume of the Collected Works of the great humanist, liberalist, and nationalist writer, S. Wajed Ali and the great work of the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta and Speaker of the Legislative Council of Undivided Bengal, Sir M. Azijul Haque, “The Man Behind The Plough” were reprinted. This year, a volume of selected writings of Rokaya Sakhawat Hossain and another one of the great scientist Dr. Muhammad Qudrat-e-Khuda, an alumnus of Aliah Madrasah, and the second volume of the collected works of S. Wazed Ali have also been brought out. Steps are being taken for the publication of various other important books, manuscripts, and documents.
Professional and Vocational Study Programmes
A University can neither remain isolated from the prevalent societal condition of the locale it exists in nor can it continue to be indifferent to the plight of the socially and economically backward people living around it. The upliftment of the downtrodden and ensuring the betterment of their living conditions is a responsibility that a University needs to shoulder and owes to society: this is the third mission of today’s universities. Guided by this conviction, Aliah Unviersity has established a Centre for Vocational Studies (CVS) to promote and expand skill-based vocational education among the masses. This Programme has been taken up as a project from the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, Government of West Bengal. Now 45 courses are being run at 88 centres across the state wherein school and college dropouts and persons outside the ambit of formal education are actively taking part in order that such specialized trainings enable them to get placements in the relevant sectors and attain financial stability and independence. Such training programmes are also being organized specially for the empowerment of underprivileged women. Already, in this short span of time, out of 4000 students who had enrolled in these courses in 2009-2010 session, about 3700 students have completed their coursework, among whom about 2300 have already got employment/jobs. It is our strong belief that the rest of the students will also secure jobs or be engaged in self-employment. In 2010-2011 session, nearly 8000 students are expected to undergo vocational training in 45 courses at 88 locations in West Bengal. Out of the total course fees for each student, only 10% is borne by the student while the rest 90% are borne by the Government of West Bengal. In this way Aliah University is fulfilling the third mission of a modern university, namely, the community service, in addition to the other two missions, namely, teaching and research.
The University regularly conducts seminars, workshops, and specialized short-term courses on various up-coming subjects for the industry and other organizations on a continuing basis. For instance, a two-day workshop on Project Management is being organized on 4th and 5th February, 2011, for professionals working in industries and other institutions at the University’s Salt Lake campus. The purpose of such programmes is to enhance the professional competence of participants by teaching them new skills and knowledge, as well as refreshing their already acquired knowledge. Such programmes help individual professionals working within business, industry and other organizations to keep up to date with the new advances of the field.
The Aliah University Act specifies that the main purpose of this University would be to spread the reach of higher education among the minority communities of this state, coupling Islamic Theology and Cultural Studies along with the mainstream modern branches of academics and various professional and management courses. Furthermore, its far-reaching aim is to encourage the students to actively take up these streams of study and provide facilities to conduct ground-breaking research in each branch of knowledge. Aliah University is expected to start its Ph.D. programme in several disciplines from this spring semester of the 2010-11 session itself.
It is well known that the country needs quality teachers at all levels of our tertiary system of education. And to fulfil this responsibility, this University has already applied to the NCTE for permission to start its Faculty of Education, which has already been approved by the Government of West Bengal. The building is ready at the University’s Haji Md. Mohsin Square campus; other infrastructural facilities are being developed for this purpose and the proposal is awaiting inspection and approval from NCTE.
The University has already got approval of the Government of West Bengal to set up its Faculty of Medical Sciences. The University contemplates to give this a shape as early as it shifts to its proposed new campus at Bhangar, a place close to Salt Lake and the New Town. This will fulfil the aspirations of the people of West Bengal in general and the Minorities of the state in particular in so important an area of higher education as health.
It is our firm belief that by making this attempt at spreading higher education and making it multi-faceted, diverse, and inclusive Aliah University will be able to benefit the common man immensely, promote societal welfare and cultural progress, national integration, secularism, and international understanding and, above all, help the development of peace and prosperity so desirable in today’s world.
And finally, but most importantly, it is our observation that as young people enter the workforce they encounter a variety of ethical problems that require taking delicate and tough decisions. Students, therefore, should be much more aware of the ethical aspects of a decision situation, and ethical concepts that will be helpful to them; there are a number of ethical principles that can help them take better decisions. Aliah University strongly supports elevating the teaching of ethics on campus, and invites others to think about how this might be done in both their curricula and extra-curricular programmes. Some experts feel that ethics cannot be taught. We need to reject such defeatist attitude and must endeavour to instil a sense of ethical values within the student community.