‘Autonomy to Public Funded Universities Threat to Underprivileged Communities’

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Mass Hunger Strike by teachers of Delhi University on May 30 at Parliament Street, New Delhi against UGC Notification issued on March 5. — Photos: Caravan Daily

BY ‘LIBERALISING EDUCATION’ MODI GOVT OPENING THE DOOR TO RAMPANT COMMMERCIALISATION, SAYS PROF ABHA DEV HABIB OF DELHI UNIVERSITY

Ghazanfar Abbas | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — In March this year, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar hailed the University Grants Commission’s move granting full autonomy to 60 higher educational institutions as “historic”. Following its notification issued on 5th March, the UGC had granted autonomy to five central universities, 21 state universities, 26 private universities and 8 other colleges under the Autonomous Colleges Regulation.

Claiming that NDA Government is introducing a liberalised regime in the education sector and emphasis is on linking autonomy with quality, Javdekar had then explained that these universities will remain within the ambit of UGC but will have the freedom to start new courses, off campus centres, skill development courses, set their own syllabus, research parks, hire foreign faculty, enroll foreign students, give incentive based emoluments to the faculty, enter into academic collaborations, run open distance learning programmes and any other new academic programmes.

But does this autonomy ensure better and affordable quality higher education? Is the government really introducing a liberal approach in the higher education? Are universities and colleges in favour of this autonomy?

Answering all such crucial questions, in an exclusive interview with Caravan Daily, Prof Abha Dev Habib from Miranda House College of Delhi University (DU), also an active member of DU Teachers Association (DUTA) explained the decision of the HRD Ministry and UGC is not just contradicting its claims but also an attack on higher education system.

Prof Abha Dev Habib of Delhi University.

Threats of Financial Autonomy

“The financial autonomy, which is being pushed by the government through Scheme of Autonomous Colleges and Graded Autonomy for Universities, is basically to turn colleges and universities of repute into teaching shops. It is withdrawal of public funding. Government is saying that college can bring new courses, (open) centres, hire foreign faculty but it will not pay for it. College itself would need to generate fund. The Government wants to give loans through Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) to the college instead of grants for infrastructural needs,” Prof Habib said.

UGC’s new regulation has brought a new funding formula of 70:30 — whereby central universities are being asked by the Ministry to generate at least 30% of the funding — on account of the 7th Pay Revision.

The central universities which have been granted autonomy include–Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Banaras Hindu University (BHU), University of Hyderabad and the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad.

Asserting that the BJP led NDA government is aggressively pushing for commercialisation and privatisation of higher education she reacted, “There is a neoliberal-cum-manuwadi policy onslaught. Change in the roster scheme and commercialisation of public funded higher education is a way to deny the same section a chance of education and jobs in higher education.”

Courses’ Fee will Increase Drastically

“These schemes are an attack on affordable quality education. How loans will be re-paid? Obviously by the fees of students. How many students can pay fees in lakhs for undergraduate courses? This will marginalise further the right to education of Dalits, ST/SC, women and minorities. Even middle class will find it difficult to pay for fees for an undergraduate degree,” Prof Habib asked.

Teachers Strike against UGC notification near UGC office, New Delhi on March 23, 2018.

She further asked, “It will not be mandatory for autonomous colleges or Category I Universities to get approval for new courses from the UGC. So which authority will check the quality of the course?”

Pressure from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

Prof Habib said that Delhi University colleges do not want such autonomy despite government’s pressure since last year with even officials from the Prime Minister’s Office pressuring the colleges.

Since March, DUTA and several students’ bodies have conducted several protests and hunger strikes demanding immediate withdrawal of the UGC’s 5th March notification and restoration of status quo on the 200-point Roster. On Wednesday too, hundreds of teachers and students observed one day hunger strike at Parliament Street and wrote to MHRD and UGC urging them to resolve the issue.

“If the Notification is not withdrawn, it will undermine the affirmative policy of social justice. A whole generation of research scholars from SC, ST and OBC categories who are waiting for academic jobs will get excluded by this absurd anti-reservation decision as it undermines the proportionate method of ensuring that Constitutionally-mandated reservation percentages are met, for each category. More immediately, it will create chaos and mass-displacement among ad-hoc teachers in DU when they will be due for re-appointment in the month of July, 2018,” DUTA concerned.

Prof Habib said that as a result of implementing this autonomy universities and colleges will be opening self-financing courses to generate the fund due to which besides students it will adversely affect Ad-hoc teachers too, “Experience shows that in self finance courses teachers are not appointed on permanent basis. Autonomy will mean increased management control in day-today running of the college and in deciding fee structure, admission, examination and service conditions of teachers and karamcharis, especially those hired to run self-financing courses.  This is also an attack on the unions of teachers, karamcharis and students.”

5 March UGC Notification- Effect on Teachers Appointment and Reservation Policy

“Earlier the proportions of filling up SC/ST seats for faculty were met through a Roster which treated college/university as a unit. If the 5 March 2018 UGC notification is implemented the proportions will never be met as it asks institutions to use Department/subject as a unit,” she stressed.

Introducing a change in the Reservation Policy, 5th March letter of the UGC, directs universities to prepare rosters Department/Subject-wise. Consequently, there will not be adequate representation in teaching positions for SC/ST/OBC categories as per the Constitutional requirement of 15%, 7.5% and 27%, respectively.

Those universities which have advertised posts on the basis of this notification, the number of SC/ST seats have gone down drastically, she pointed out.

“Due to this ST candidates will be affected the most. It will also hit job prospects of researchers from Dalit-Adivasi backgrounds,” she said.

Delhi Unversity Teachers’ Association members in pretest march towards UGC office in New Delhi on May 24.

DUTA in its statement said, “All current ad-hoc teachers have been appointed as per the 200-point college/university-wise Roster which is to be discontinued, as per the March 5 Notification. Teachers are outraged by the UGC’s refusal to withdraw its 5.03.2018 Notification on the Reservation Roster, despite the current situation in which the Government and the UGC have filed SLPs in the Supreme Court against its order for a department-wise reformulation of the Roster. The MHRD and UGC are well aware that the Reservation Policy of the Government of India cannot be implemented without the 200-point Roster drawn on the basis of the University/College as Unit. Yet, it is allowing several universities to advertised new posts based on Department-wise rosters that make a mockery of reservation entitlements for SCs, STs and OBCs.”

DUTA has also been demanding for regular appointments of teachers in Delhi University, which is reeling with 60% ad-hoc faculty.

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