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Vision 2020 (Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah-Retd.)

Our Mission & Identity

Aligarh Muslim University was initially founded as Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in 1877 and blossomed into a full-fledged university in 1920. The university, as it was promulgated by the University Act XL of 1920, had incorporated the college and its supporting organizations. The Act reads:

‘whereas it is expedient to incorporate a teaching and residential Muslim University at Aligarh, and to dissolve the Societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860), which are respectively known as the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh and the Muslim University Association, and to transfer and to vest in the said University all properties and rights of the said Societies and of the Muslim University Foundation Committee.’ (p-1)

It further clarifies:

“here the 'university means the educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India, which originated as the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh and which was subsequently incorporated as the Aligarh Muslim University.(p.3)”

And while dissolving the founding institutions it also states:

“from the commencement of this Act-(i) the Societies known as the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, and the Muslim University Association shall be dissolved, and all properties, movable and immovable, and all rights, powers and privileges of the said Societies and all properties, movable and immovable and all rights, powers and privileges of the Muslim University Foundation Committee shall be transferred to and vest in the University and shall be applied to the objects and purposes for which the University is incorporated”.

And the Act also makes it clear that the university thus established:

“has a very special obligation to cater to the intellectual, cultural and religious aspirations of Muslims of India” and that "the University shall have the powers, namely-
(1) to provide for instruction in such branches of learning as the University may think fit, and to make provision for research and for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge;
(2) (a) to promote Oriental and Islamic studies and give instruction in Muslim theology and religion and to impart moral and physical training; (b) to promote the study of the religions, civilization and culture of India; (c) to promote, especially the educational and cultural, advancement of the Muslims of India.’ (p.4) (1) to provide for instruction in such branches of learning as the University may think fit, and to make provision for research and for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge; (2) (a) to promote Oriental and Islamic studies and give instruction in Muslim theology and religion and to impart moral and physical training; (b) to promote the study of the religions, civilization and culture of India; (c) to promote, especially the educational and cultural, advancement of the Muslims of India.’ (p.4)

Why this document?

The Aligarh Muslim University is at a cross-road today. In the history of every institution there comes some defining moments when it is faced with a choice of either reinventing itself or be thrown into the dustbin of history. Today, our crisis is acute, almost existential in nature. And what is most worrisome is the sickening realization that most of us are not even aware of this excruciating reality that beneath the shadow of a well-populated, rather crowded campus of some 30,000 souls, we have lost what is called the unique 'university experience'. A university without a real university experience is like an unopened, unread book. It is a critical situation and needs elaboration.

When Aligarh started as MAO College we were looked upon as a great seat of learning that turned young souls into cultured individuals with a scientific bent of mind; students who knew how to turn every crisis into an opportunity. From day one, we aspired to be the best. Our beloved founder -may Allah shower His blessings on him, had personally visited Oxford and Cambridge and envisioned Aligarh as Oxford of the Muslim world. A group of distinguished British teachers and some of the best minds of the Eastern world worked together to produce the Aligarh Man or the 'Alig'; a highly cultured and captivating individual about whom many decades later Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui, a legendry Urdu writer would say:

[tr. “When I chance to see a stranger whose manners gratify me, I mostly ask him if he has ever been a student at Aligarh. If he say ‘yes’, I am least amazed about his sharp wit and refined aspect. Otherwise, I just feel sorry why he wasn’t blessed with this virtue as well”.]

Today this great seat of learning is in danger because of weakening of the Aligarh spirit which, as we know, is a unique blend of Aligarh tahzeeb and modern education. Imagine, if Aligarh stops producing Aligs and churns out only graduates what would be its raison d'etre?

This crisis has further been compounded by the new challenges that the Age of internet has thrown upon us. Despite our roots embedded in the ground, we are forced today to live in cyberspace where the rules of the game are entirely different. With the online streaming of class-room videos emanating from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) our class room lectures will soon be considered medieval and out dated. During the last few years Harvard has spent some 60 million dollars on edX programmes that intend to provide e-lectures to off-campus students. It is expected that in the coming years the number of off-campus Harvard students will grow in millions. It poses a great challenge to low-budget universities like ours. The edX is not only the future of higher education, it also holds immense potential for spread of education amongst Muslims on a grand national scale. Linked with our Distance Learning Programme, I am sure, it can engineer a renaissance of Muslim education in India. Our university, as per AMU Amendment Act 1981 sec.5(2)(c) has been empowered by the Parliament "to promote specially the educational and cultural advancement of Muslims of India", This legal provision has remained unutilised, so far, mainly for two reasons; lack of a clear vision and dearth of available resources.

Aligarh is a great educational legacy with potential for renaissance. But the ground realities on the campus bear little resemblance with the great ideals; from heritage buildings to rare books and from hostel life to class rooms, things demand an immediate rectification. Hostels are still overcrowded. Accommodation originally meant for 6000 students has been overstretched to accommodate some 15000 students. The overcrowding has taken its toll and it has badly affected our overall performance. The enormity of the situation make it imperative to find solutions. The great Sir Syed, visited some of the best universities of England so as to figure out what made them so alluring and so distinct. We need to learn now from the universities of the West and sign Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with a number of notable universities and also strike deals for exchange programmes. We need to reclaim the legacy of scientific knowledge. We have not yet achieved what we initially aspired for. For the last 150 years or so we were caught in a "catch-up syndrome". Catching up with the West or any other civilization, for that matter, cannot give us a lead. This is the rule of the game. It is about time we shun this outdated approach. And it is here that the new Aligarh can play a leading role.

Ever since the MAO College was founded, this mitti ka diya or the homemade original device of light had been catalytic in spreading the awareness that there was nothing un-lslamic about modern science. It were in fact, we, who pioneered the modern scientific world view. Today, our new generation knows it well that when de Gama and Columbus were beginning their sea voyages as pioneers in the western hemisphere, Ibn Majid was a world authority on oceanography whose encyclopaedic manuals and books were widely in use. For almost 600 years, from 12th to 17th century, universities in the West looked towards the Muslim East for guidance and inspiration. For 600 years, Ibn Sina's Al-Qanoon (The Canon) served as a basic medical text book in western universities. The very idea of a modern university is, in fact, Islamic in origin. The hood and the gown that so magnificently add colour to our convocations, have an Arab origin as so irrefutably established by George Makdisi. Today, we also know that not long back, until the term 'scientist' was invented in 1832, scientists were called 'natural philosophers' and the term for scientific knowledge was uloom-e-arabiyyah or knowledge of the Arab masters.

Aligarh was established to reclaim this rich legacy of scientific research and exploration. An ideal Alig, as envisioned by the great Sir Syed, was the one who had Quran in one hand and science in the other. This ideal Alig is difficult to produce, nevertheless, we have come a long way. Science as a method is no more alien to us. When MAO College was founded, we were the only one calling for a rational and scientific thinking; today there are some 400 modern universities in the Muslim world capable of undertaking any scientific venture. As a pioneer modern university, Aligarh has a duty to serve as a beacon not only for the Muslim East, but also for the Western world, where universities are losing their sheen and becoming unaffordable for the middle class and deprived sections of society.

This, then, is the background of this strategic plan: Vision 2020. To turn Aligarh into an 'intellectual power house' and restore its primacy in the academic world, it is a must that we pause for a moment, look back and take stock of the situation before we get started.

Who we are?

To look at Aligarh as just another great seat of learning is no true compliment. Aligarh is not an institution, it is a movement, and an unstoppable movement at that. We are the culmination and continuation of a great initiative of Muslim empowerment led by the great Sir Syed in 19th century beginnings when all hopes were lost. Ever since our inception we have been a hope-giving phenomenon. It was our strategic optimism and unshakable trust in God that helped us survive as MAO college and later blossom into a full-fledged university. We were the first to realise that there was something terribly wrong in our traditional thinking, the way we conceived divine mission of Islam. To quote a great luminary Muhammad Iqbal, “our founder was the first modern Muslim to catch a glimpse of the positive character of the age which was coming. The remedy for the ills of Islam proposed by him... was modern education”. But the real greatness of the man, as Iqbal points out, 'consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it.' Having been rightfully proud of its Indo-Islamic identity and a deep sense of belonging to the Ummah, Aligarh has come to be seen by many as the intellectual "Mecca of Muslim India." In post-independence India where the Muslims are deprived a lot, lagging behind in education, Aligarh, by virtue of being an institution mandated by the Parliament in 1981 to promote especially the education and cultural advancement of the Muslim of India is also probably the last hope of 200 million Muslims of this country.

Who are our competitors?

Ranked as the 5th among India's top ten universities by Times Higher Education, recently we slipped to the 9th. It is always good to be on the top but this is not all that we aspire for. Further, as the grading parameters cater to a very different world view where sometimes mere quantity of research and infrastructure matter, it would rather be misleading to judge our performance by such rankings. Like it or not, today, in the Age of internet, our competitors are global giants like MIT and Harvard which through their online video streaming and edX programmes have thrown upon us an open challenge. Make no mistakes, we are living in an unprecedented era where Wikipedia has emerged as the largest encyclopedia ever written in human history. If we have to survive as a meaningful institution, it is a must that we wake up to this new reality of the virtual world. With an impressive record of noble laureates among its staff and associates – some 63 in number; 12 in Chemistry, 13 in Economics, 9 in Medicine/ Physiology, 2 in Peace and 27 in Physics - MIT can serve as a mirror to refashion ourselves. But here again, we don't want to end up as yet another MIT on Indian soil. As a pioneering institution of the 19th century Islamic world and as the last and probably the only hope of 200 million educationally backward Muslim community, we carry a great responsibility to our shoulders. It is an unparalleled challenge that leaves us to compete with none else but our own stated mission.

Mission Statement for 2020

National rankings may fluctuate and it is not ruled out that our concerted efforts for academic excellence place us among top 100 universities of the world. Nevertheless, our distinction will lie in reinventing ourselves as a guiding light for the entire academic world. A global hub where we can setup ethical barometers that command, control and guide any intellectual, economic and political discourse. A place where nations of the world, irrespective of colour and creed, find guidance. A partial outcome of this prophetic approach may be reflected in our ‘Vision’ and ‘Mission Statement’ for 2020:

Vision Statement

AMU to be ranked as India's No.1 University by 2017 and be amongst the top 200 Universities of the world by 2020.

Mission Statement

-Implement Sir Syed's mission of imparting modern, scientific education, particularly for the "Millat" and in doing so uphold the "Tehzeeb", traditions and culture for AMU.
-AMU must emerge as the hub of original research and innovative thinking. Our research must be productive and driven by passion.
-AMU must be recognized for the breadth of quality research and as the largest provider of quality education in India. The revised syllabi must cater for the needs of industry and requirement of competitive exams for Government Service/ Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)/ Private Sector.
-Our overriding priority will be restoration of the minority character of AMU as envisaged in AMU (Amendment) Act 1981 Section 5(2)(C).
-Our feeder institutions, AMU Schools, must be progressively elevated and revitalized to Kendriye Vidyalaya (KV) norms.
-AMU Centres must be at par with facilities, as available in the mother university, so as to ultimately be elevated to full-fledged universities.
-AMU must be known for the diversity of its teachers and students from across the globe, and the quality and employability of its graduates, in diverse fields.
-We must produce top leaders, scholars and international level sports persons.
-We must transform into a university of global standard, which makes a significant contribution to nation building.
-AMU must be an intellectual and cultural power house. It must provide comfortable housing, proper meals, adequate games facilities, modern class rooms, labs, and requisite where with-all further teaching/ learning experience.
-Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC) must be modernized and upgraded to an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) without dilution of its control under AMU.
-Zakir Husain College of Engineering & Technology must achieve the standards comparable to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
-AMU must become the first green university in the country.
-We must harness the devotion of our Alumni towards their alma mater and seek their “Time”, “Talent” and “Treasure”.

Preserving/reinterpreting our great traditions and restoring the AMU minority character:

Aligarh Tahzeeb which is a unique blend of Indo-lslamic culture and is known for its all-encompassing God-oriented secularism, freedom of thought and a commitment for the millat as well as for rest of humanity. This has to serve as a guiding light in all our efforts to give Aligarh a new look. In the past, many an attempt was made to deprive Aligarh of its heritage and ideological moorings. We believe that restoring minority character to AMU is the right path to preserve Aligarh original spirit. Hence, restoration of the university’s minority status has always been and will remain on our agenda. Aligarh Tahzeeb is not limited to Sherwani, Biriyani or Sher-o-Shayari. In a changing world where English has attained primacy, the idea of an Ideal Alig needs to be revisited.

Our founder was a great thinker and a prolific writer. It is unfortunate that Aligarh has yet to produce a compendium of his writings. With very little resources at its command, Sir Syed Academy probably cannot do much unless it gets generous support from the spiritual sons and daughters of Sir Syed. We have a plan to collect and edit each and every piece of his writings and publish them as a multi volume compendium. And it has to be done before the year 2020 when the university will be celebrating its centenary.

Our founder was also a great Islamic reformer. His journal Tahzeebul Akhlaq was also subtitled as the Mohammedan Social Reformer. Although the journal resumed its publication in the 80s, soon it turned out to be an ordinary magazine. We are desperately looking for a new set of writers who can ignite young minds, instilling in them a true Islamic spirit and scientific thinking.

A major plan for Library revamp: Library is the nerve centre of any academic institution and it supports teaching, learning, research and other development activities. A university's prestige is judged by its library. As compared to other major universities of the world, our central library needs to be updated both as a service provider and house of knowledge. While the price of books has gone up, our annual get has not kept up with inflation. The result is that we can select only a few books from a long list of otherwise alluring titles. The same is true with its infrastructure and services which do not cater to the demands of the Digital Age.

We understand that it is overambitious to be another Library of Congress or another British Library, but at least we can try to be another SOAS at Aligarh where almost any book on Islam, in any important oriental and western languages, is available. Digitalization of old/ rare books is a tall order that requires an enormous amount of funds and a robust vision. A brand new futuristic-state-of-the-art library is a must for any future vision of the campus. We need an unparalleled library in AMU to stimulate learning, discovery, innovation and creative thinking.

Exploring extra sources of funding:

There is a common misconception that AMU is a government funded institution hence it does not require any outside financial support. The fact is that the government funding is inadequate and is mainly exhausted in catering to energy bills, staff salaries and other logistics. Very little is left for maintenance and development. If AMU has to emerge as a leading world-class institution it must find other avenues for extra funding. From day one "chanda" (public & private donations) has been our hallmark and a constant source of funding. Never mind! "Chanda" is our lifeline, it is very much in the blood of this institution. Without petty donations and emotional involvement, this institution cannot thrive. In the past we had princely states in India and they wholeheartedly supported construction projects. Govt. funding is generous but inadequate because it has to be spread over a thousand universities, on the anvil. But today we are in the process of reinventing ourselves where our competitors are Harvard and MIT. We are left with no other choice. Either we reinvent ourselves or perish. Behold! this is a defining moment. We cannot afford empty coffers. Today we do not have princely states but we have our alumni, big foundations and endowments and a large number of philanthropists ever willing to support a noble cause. The issue is who should approach them and how? To our advantage, we have a global community of alumni who are visionaries and planners and we need to work in unison with them. The Aligarh based Alumni Affairs Committee will serve as a liaison office. It is high time for the worldwide AMU community to globally converge.

Some Pressing Issues and Recent Initiatives:

  • For the first time in AMU history, a comprehensive plan is being laid out for the renovation of our heritage buildings. We are in touch with the Agha Khan Foundation persuading them to sponsor this grand project. We cannot wait much longer because if we do not restore Strachey Hall its roof will collapse. We need 5 Cr for this restoration. These historical buildings emanating from the Jama Masjid will serve as the convention center of AMU.
  • We have to immediately de-congest our hostels. We are in the process of constructing two new hostels for 1500 girls and 1000 boys. We need funds to build a hostel for international and NRI students (10 Cr). Our policy is "games at your doorstep". We have constructed a large number of basketball courts and an equal number of volley ball courts, i.e. one for each hostel. To discourage "Dhaba Culture" we have made a cafe in each hall.
  • We are in the process of revitalizing our schools. These are our feeder institutions. The govt. has agreed to upgrade all our schools up to KV standards. We start with the Union School this year.
  • We need to upgrade our class rooms. We should have one smart class room for each of our 100 departments. (10 lacs per class room).
  • We need to upgrade our syllabi and have constituted a committee of young energetic teachers who have had an exposure abroad to make recommendations which will be implemented with next academic session.
  • Our research must be productive and driven by passion. We have constituted an Innovation Council to encourage research and facilitate procurement of patents.
  • AMU is the only university with a riding club. We urgently need new stables (5 Cr). We are one of the two universities with an astro truf hockey ground. We need an Olympic size swimming pool (5 Cr).
  • We intend making AMU the first green university and will be investing Rs. 20 Cr to harness solar power for electricity generation.
  • An entirely new “Faculty of International Studies” is in the offing that will bring together foreign language experts and area specialists. It will also serve as our window to the world.
  • JNMC needs to be modernized. We are considering a proposal for up gradation of JNMC into AIIMS under MOH.
  • This year we have also started a Bridge Course for madarasa graduates. The idea is to bridge the knowledge gap. The course will prepare madarasa students for undergraduate studies in Humanities, Social Sciences, Management and Law. Depending on the success of this initiative, in the future we can also think of providing them with intense coaching for admission to other professional courses. Madarasa is a vast educational network, an intellectual shelter for the poor, less privileged lot. Synchronizing it with the university system will have revolutionary implications. We wish that like other students the madarasa people too think big and dream even bigger.
  • Our alumni are our ambassadors in different parts of the world. We need their 3Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure). We have constituted an Alumni Affairs Committee for an effective global networking of our old boys and for utilizing their support in our development schemes. They are spread in 90 countries and we can gauge the immense love and attachment they have for their alma mater. It is no exaggeration to say that the Alig communities worldwide are just like an extended campus of the AMU.
  • We are taking all possible measures to bring back the lost glory of this great institution. We are working hard to fix potholes in our geographical campus as well as in the minds of our people. An eco-friendly, noise-free campus with wider roads and new pavements, clean, comfortable guest houses will soon be a reality, inshaAllah. The idea is to turn the entire campus into a buzzing intellectual hub. New hostels, new departments, new buildings, new roads and above all we are working hard to create a new, vibrant Muslim mind to take Aligarh to new heights in the 21st century. In short, here in Aligarh, a revolution is underway. I invite you to be an active partner in this great Aligarh Renaissance.
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