Ziraat Times Team
Srinagar, July 27:
The ranking of agricultural universities for 2017 in India is out. The news is that Jammu & Kashmir’s two universities are not among the top ten. They are not among the top twenty either.
Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences (SKUAST), Jammu has made it to spot 24. In contrast, Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences (SKUAST), Kashmir has made it to rank 27.
This ranking of 73 agricultural universities started in 2016, when the union Agriculture Ministry took a cue from the Human Resource Development Ministry’s move of ranking India’s universities and engineering colleges.
Some academic experts are expressing satisfaction over this ranking, arguing that the state’s two universities have made it to the top-middle raking, which they see as reassuring.
But then there are others who feel that SKUAST-K and SKUAST-J could do much better, considering their wide canvass of academic, research and outreach activities.
Vice Chancellor SKUAST-K, Nazir Ahmad, remains sanguine about the university’s performance.
“Although we could do better yet we have been ranked among some of the finest universities in the country. So in that sense it is not entirely disappointing”, Mr Nazeer told Ziraat Times, adding that the disturbed situation in Kashmir does inhibit the university’s ambitions of better performance.
“It is no consolation that the two universities have made it to spots 27 and 24. Considering the depth of and the economic contribution of the agriculture sector in J&K, the two universities should actually be among the top 10 universities in the country”, a senior academic at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) told Ziraat Times.
But what are the parameters that the universities are assessed on for this ranking?
Senior officials at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), the agency that is responsible for developing evaluation methodology for this ranking, told Ziraat Times that the parameters are robust and comprehensive.
Technology transfer to farmers
Technology transfer to farmers is deemed an important parameter in the ranking.
“When we analyse the qualitative and the quantitative parameters of SKUAST-Kashmir and also SKUAST-Jammu on technology transfer to farmers, we see a big scope for improvement”, a senior scientist at the Indian Council Agricultural Research (ICAR) told Ziraat Times.
It is parameters like these that Kashmir and Jammu agricultural universities do not do very well, he added.
Increase in agricultural growth in the area of jurisdiction of the universities
Over the years, the contribution of agriculture in Jammu & Kashmir’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is constantly declining. The bigger worry is that the per hectare productivity of most of the cereal and cash crops is not making a good increase.
“Let us take rice, wheat and corn, for instance. What is J&K’s growth in productivity in these areas? Although decrease in the availability of land is one important factor, the yield and productivity are big challenges in J&K state”, Dr Balakirshnan, an agricultural economist told Ziraat Times.
Quality inputs (seed, semen and planting materials) supplied by the universities
One of the biggest challenges confronting Jammu & Kashmir’s agriculture sector at present is the unsatisfactory quality of agricultural inputs, particularly the seeds.
“There is a lot of research happening in both Kashmir and Jammu agricultural universities on improved seed varieties. But the problem is that there is a structural missing link between the universities and the delivery systems, including government departments and KVKs, in making those seeds available to farmers at a commercial scale”, says a retired professor of agronomy based in Jammu city.
This weak area is naturally going to reflect on the universities’ overall performance ranking, he added.
Teaching and research impact
One of the areas that seems to have reflected positively for both SKUAST-K and SKUAST-J is the quality of its teaching resources. While some academics at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) told Ziraat Times that teaching methodologies at the two universities had yet to be aligned with the global best practices, students’ and other anonymous participants’ feedback is known to have positively reflected on the two universities’ overall performance.
Similarly, research excellence is another area where the two universities are said to have garnered good points.
Opinion of award winning and progressive farmers
Sources at the Indian Council Agricultural Research (ICAR) told Ziraat Times that this 2017 ranking of SKUAST-K and SKUAST-J has also considered the views of award winning and progressive farmers in Jammu & Kashmir.
While some views are said to have reflected positively on the state of the two universities, some progressive farmers that Ziraat Times spoke to complained about only a select group of farmers being involved in the feedback process.
Students at the two universities are of the opinion that the stakeholders’ perception, having weightage of seven out of 100 marks, should be more than the current weightage.
In the final ranking, sources at ICAR told Ziraat Times, that it was decided to assign 35 marks to ‘teaching outcome and facility’, followed by 33 marks to ‘research’, 20 to technologies transferred to farmers, the lab to land activity), 7 to stakeholders’ perception and 5 to linkages (inter-institutional collaborative projects and partnership with private sector R&D institutions and impact).
SKUAST-K is particularly known to have not fared well under the ‘teaching outcome and facility’, which fared below expectation marks for digital connectivity.
In the final analysis, both the universities in J&K, particularly SKUAST-K, have a lot of work to do in improving their overall ranking and attracting some of the finest aspiring students in agriculture studies, says Sabreena Tabasum, a research scholar, pursuing her agriculture studies abroad.