‘We plan to increase intake of women’:Jamia’s vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar

Updated on Apr 19, 2019 06:23 AM IST

Jamia’s newly appointed vice-chancellor says her focus will be on gender equality and introducing job-oriented courses

Najma Akhtar, who was appointed vice-chancellor (V-C) of the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), scored a historic double — not only was she the first woman to hold the post, but she was also the first woman to head any central varsity in the national capital.(HT Photo)
Najma Akhtar, who was appointed vice-chancellor (V-C) of the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), scored a historic double — not only was she the first woman to hold the post, but she was also the first woman to head any central varsity in the national capital.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByFareeha Iftikhar and Kainat Sarfaraz, New Delhi

Last week, Najma Akhtar, who was appointed vice-chancellor (V-C) of the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), scored a historic double — not only was she the first woman to hold the post, but she was also the first woman to head any central varsity in the national capital. In an interview to Hindustan Times, Akhtar, 65, spoke about her priorities for the university, which will turn 100 next year.

What is the first thing you would like to change in Jamia?

We plan to focus on increasing the number of women students in the university, which stands at around 38% at present. It should ideally be 50% or more. There should also be some courses, which are exclusively for women, and set up necessary hostels. I will also consult teachers and other stakeholders to find out what prevents girls from pursuing higher education here and try to fix that. I will try to get women representatives on all important administrative posts in the university so that female students feel comfortable in reaching out to them.

You met the HRD minister recently to discuss plans of introducing new course. What sort of courses are these?

Many courses being offered at the university are outdated. It is my responsibility to see when the courses were last renewed and if they are in sync with today’s time. We need to provide courses that are more job-oriented. Students have to be made job-ready and only theoretical conversations do not work.
There has to be an interdisciplinary approach.

What about restoring the students’ union elections in the campus?

It is very important to have a students’ union in the campus. I have worked with such unions at other universities as well. I have to look into the reasons behind Jamia not having one in the last 12 years. I am not in a hurry. It will take time to fix things.

A section of the faculty has termed your appointment as the beginning of “saffronisation” of the campus. How do you react to these allegations?

I am only scared of one thing — that I should not be linked to any terrorists. The rest of us are all Indians. I will always be in contact with the ruling party, which can give us funds and take the university forward. I am not bothered about what others feel. This is the only government that has taken this bold step of appointing a woman to this position that any other political party could not do.

Any plans to increase global representation of Jamia?

We are thinking about increasing the intake of foreign students at the campus by collaborating with some foreign academic institutions of excellence. I have already started discussing these things with Jamia’s chancellor Najma Heptulla.

Apart from purely academic structures, are there some other plans in the pipeline?

I am also thinking of ways to introduce a setup similar to community colleges to sort of level up the expertise of skilled workers. This way, they can get associate degrees, which would have higher market value as well.

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