In conversation with Niranjan Hiranandani, provost of the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate (HSNC) cluster university comprising KC College, HR College and Bombay Teachers' Training College (BTTC), Churchgate.
1. Is HSNC cluster University a state or private university?
HSNC cluster University is a state-public university. The cluster university is an experimental model which works on the private as well as the government side. The entire management is given to the private sector but, it is actually a state university working through private sources.
2. What is the objective?
Today, 90 per cent of students do not have the adequate qualification, experience or skillsets which help to get a job or retain the job so employers do not find students good enough for the job. Our main objective is to create an academic syllabus good for students for the next generation in terms of finding a job where the employer should feel that the student not only has the qualification but the required skillsets for the job.
Our second objective is to make the syllabi dynamic. For example, we will create flexibility in courses and allow students to shift to new upgraded courses. We are working with professional industry experts to understand their expectations.
3. What are the new unaided courses?
We will run certificate courses for specialisations. Students will get university credits for these unaided courses. We will also change the methodology and pedagogy of learning. 20 to 25 per cent of courses will be based on online teaching irrespective of the Covid-19 situation in the future. Students can drop off after the first year and get a certificate. If they drop off after a second year they will get a diploma and will get a degree after the third year.
For example, we have started a school of yoga, a three-year programme for performing arts including music and arts, school of applied sciences, Master in IT and computer science. Our existing PhD programmes will continue. We will start research centres for Sociology and Liberal Arts soon.
4. What is the roadmap for academic courses?
The courses which are under the aided section will continue to be aided while the newer courses will come under the unaided section.
5. Will there be any scholarship opportunities for students?
We will be giving scholarships to deserving students who cannot afford the fees. We already have around 45,000 students in 14 colleges. We are targeting to reach 90,000 students in the next two years.
6. What about international exchange programmes?
We have signed an LOI with Deakin University, Australia. We are in the process of signing LOIs with other foreign universities.
7. Has the university received the University Grants Commission (UGC) recognition?
We have got everything that is needed for us to become a university and all the clearances are there. All the processes have been done which are required for the purpose of creating, running and operating the university.
8. Is the cluster university affiliated with the University of Mumbai (MU)?
All new courses starting in KC, HR and BTTC, Churchgate will fall under the HSNC board. The new first-year admissions to these courses are under the HSNC cluster University. But, the second year (SY) and third-year (TY) students who are already admitted under MU will continue to be under MU. So at the moment, we are under both HSNC and MU. The new courses which we start from 2021 will fall under HSNC cluster University.
9. Will government-aided teaching and non-teaching staff be privatised?
The salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff under aided section will be protected as per the government rules and they will continue to enjoy the privileges. The professors who teach students of the first year will follow syllabi and academic direction given by HSNC cluster University. While those teachers who cater to second-year and third-year students will follow the MU direction. We will pay better salaries in the unaided section than the aided over the course of time.
10. What about professors who teach both First Year and, Second and Third Year students?
We do have professors who teach FY, SY and TY students. These professors will follow HSNC direction for FY courses while they will follow MU direction for SY and TY students.
11. Has the university received any grants from the Maharashtra state government or under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)?
No, not yet. The cluster university is currently entirely funded by the HSNC board.
12. Will the university be funded by the state or the private sector?
The university will be funded by both state and private players. It is a jointly funded university wherein there are contributions from the state and the HSNC board.
13. Will the university be owned by the state government?
The ownership is with the HSNC board which is a charitable trust. All the properties are contributed by the trust.
14. Is it an autonomous university?
No, it is not an autonomous university but it is a cluster university.
15. Do you have the liberty and power to form your curriculum?
Yes, we do have the liberty and authority to form our own curriculum for HSNC cluster University. We can start new courses, take up new subjects and change the syllabi provided we follow the required academic process. This is the whole objective of creating a cluster university. Otherwise, I would rather go back to MU instead of taking the effort and spending money to create a separate university.
16. Will there be a fee hike for unaided courses?
We have increased the fees for some courses but at the same time, we have reduced the fees for certain courses. Fees have been moderated based on what we offer in terms of campus placements, mentors for internships, training, projects, industry collaborations and industry speakers.
17. Has the university not received grants from RUSA because of a lack of recognition from UGC?
No, it is not that. RUSA has not given anybody money.
18. Will there be new recruitments?
There will be new recruitments in terms of teachers, industry speakers and professionals because we will be introducing new courses.
19. What about appointments and filling leading posts of the university?
We are in the process of appointments. We have an in-charge Vice-Chancellor who is appointed for the office term of one year. Because it is the first year of HSNC University, we have appointed the VC without completing the entire process as per the regulation. The governor who is the Chancellor of HSNC University has appointed both the VC and Provost for the term of one year.
20. Is there a Fee Fixation Committee?
We will have a committee next year. This year was adhoc because of the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
21. Any expansion plans?
We are planning to buy another plot of land of about 15 to 25 acres for the expansion of the university. The cluster university will be headquartered at Worli.