”UGC is trampling the autonomy of Universities”

"Methodical killing of Higher Education underway"

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Autonomy of Indian Universities is under attack

Here is what I wrote to colleagues of the Madras University Teachers’ Association on the UGC’s unworthy game of sourcing the precious human resource (teachers and researchers) through a clerical level examination (aka NET/SLET) for the land that discovered the idea of University in disparate places like Taxila, Kanchi and Nalanda nearly two millennia ago.

“Dear MUTA Colleagues,

UGC has sought feedback/comments on its new regulations and guidelines for Universities, for matters including MPhil and PhD from stakeholders on or before 15 June 2017.

Please visit the link below and get your feedback to MUTA as we need to intervene at this important juncture.
One retrograde step is the complete disbandment of autonomy of Universities in India this document entails, which must be resisted and opposed. The underlying logic appears to be the curtailing of state governments’ autonomy and role in higher education.

Ours is the only country in the world where we are forced to source the precious human resource (teachers/researchers) for higher education sectors through clerical level exams administered by school board examination regulator (i.e central board of secondary education).

We did not resist NET/SLET when it was introduced. Hence, another retrograde step, another one of the kind in the world, is around the corner. Amendment 1 A to the UGC regulations governing PhD/MPhil insists on NET/SLET for admission to MPhil and PhD as eligibility criterion (read the last page of the document). UGC would have done well if only it cared to check how the top world universities in the 50/100/200 ranking lists manage their recruitment and Phd admission affairs.

If one goes through the fractured history of NET/SLET at the hands of UGC during the last decade, its seemingly endless confusion with regard to the location of this eligibility criteria with that of the research degrees like PhD, we are clear that the lead regulator of higher education in India is not aware of the difference between the two.

If this is allowed, we will be reducing a coveted research programme like PhD to the fate of an examination system that is no different from the recruitment exams (objective type) conducted by railways, banks and other sectors. If this is allowed, the last vestiges of the autonomy of the universities to be distinct entities will also be snatched away. Universities can be Universities if only they are allowed to be distinct entities, if one understands the idea of Universities. A straight jacket approach is the least Universities in India require to justify their location.
Moreover, how can there be one exam which can double up as the eligibility criterion for the job (Assistant Professor) and the qualifying degree (PhD)?

On the other hand, UGC has not removed the glaring ambivalence in wording with regard to the criteria for the appointment of Vice Chancellor. In the previous versions and the present document, we find the terms, “eminent” academician and “distinguished” academician with ten years experience as University professor, without providing the modus operandi or the list of credentials to judge the aspirants’ claim as “eminent”/”distinguished” academicians.

I read somewhere that the Govt of Gujarat has come out with a list of PhD topics to be pursued by doctoral candidates. The present regulations appear to be a site of linkage with such retrograde policies.

I am afraid Higher education in India is going the way of public health sector in India which has been killed methodically since 1980s by both state and central governments, to compel us to be the stakeholders of private health sector, unwillingly/unknowingly!

These are my thoughts for your introspection. Please give your comments and feedback as stakeholders before June 10 2017 for consolidating and forwarding MUTA’s feedback to UGC.

Here is the first link to the UGC’s Public Notice

Here is the link to the UGC document

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