By cutting funds for research, government is failing education sector

JNU, India's top research university, has seen a massive cut in MPhil and PhD seats by 80 per cent.

 |  3-minute read |   12-04-2017
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Demonetisation has impacted the university sector. The noteban drive's impact on education is seen in the effort to reduce public funds to the sector in view of reduced growth, one consequence of which is the drastic reduction in research.

In JNU, where a decade ago seats including research seats were increased by the central government by 54 per cent, the clock has been turned back by the University Grants Commission and ministry of human resource development.

JNU, India's top research university, has seen a massive cut in MPhil and PhD seats by 80 per cent, with a new formula for workload based on the seniority of faculty.

While there may be need for such readjustment, such a massive cut in research is contrary to the Modi government's slogan of "Make in India".

When research in sciences, social sciences and humanities is vigorously cut, it will impact industrialisation, expertise in policymaking in India and international relations, along with impact on the quality of higher education in high schools, and the social sector among other sectors.

This is a high price to pay for what is essentially a budget cut in universities and the upper echelons of the school sector. It appears that the government has not taken all these factors into consideration.

edubd_041217095007.jpg Such a massive cut in research is contrary to the Modi government's slogan of "Make in India". (Photo: Amir Malik/Facebook.)

The opposite of the UPA's 54 per cent increase in central universities is the huge cut in research seats, withdrawal of deprivation points for backward classes and women, and a viva-voce-based entrance test which will favour elites who are fluent in English. A very high cost of notebandi.

The JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) met HRD minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday, April 6, and pointed out that the student-teacher ratio figures given by the university administration on M.Phil and Ph.D seats was exaggerated. They provided detailed information, including figures, which Javadekar has assured his ministry would consider.

Interestingly, the minister was under the illusion that the bulk of research was done by the science schools, which was shown to be false. The JNU administration led by the vice-chancellor also gave Javadekar the impression that there would be general admissions in December, which is also untrue.

The HRD minister, however, promised that 300 faculty positions would be filled up, leading to more avenues for research.

If the JNUTA figures on the faculty-student research ratio are found to be valid, which is very likely, then V-C Jagadesh Kumar, who has violated more rules and statutes than any previous JNU VC, will be exposed further.

However, the Union government is determined to control universities and reduce research. It seems the JNU V-C is just trying to earn brownie points from the UGC and HRD ministry.

The Indian Express on April 11 published data and arguments of the UGC and JNU teachers on the 82.81 per cent cut in MPhil and PhD seats, from 1,408 seats for 2017-18 approved by the Academic Council to only 242 this academic year.

JNU teacher representatives have often challenged the V-C's rewriting of academic and executive council minutes, including violating the statutes and rules for selection of faculty. In this case, 34 faculty members of the Academic Council protested against the gross misrepresentation of the JNU Act of 1966 & 1969 statutes and rules on faculty selection.

With some 300 faculty posts vacant, the V-C's move could lead to subjective recruitment on political lines. JNU is under attack by the JNU administration led by the V-C, as well as by the UGC and HRD ministry. Other universities will be next.

Also read: Chetan Bhagat's pitting 'chaotic' DU against 'efficient IITs' is absurd and ignorant

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Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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