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Graded Autonomy to Univ, Colleges: Teachers' Body March Against 'Destruction' of Higher Education

The Delhi University administration has issued notifications regarding the loss of teaching due to teachers’ strike.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:March 28, 2018, 3:20 PM IST
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Graded Autonomy to Univ, Colleges: Teachers' Body March Against 'Destruction' of Higher Education
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New Delhi: The granting of ‘graded autonomy’ to 60 universities has led to an uproar within the academia, with the University Teachers’ Body saying that it will lead to ‘commercialisation’ and ‘blatant privatisation’ of public education.

“This will lead to commercialization and blatant privatization of public education with differential fee structures, compromising the questions of equity and access which are the founding principles of public higher education institutions like JNU,” said the body.

Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had earlier said that 52 of the 60 higher education institutes that have been granted autonomy are universities.

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 English and Foreign Languages University, Telangana.

The teachers in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University have voiced concerns over “the new educational reforms,” which include Graded Autonomy, replacement of grants by loans through Higher Education Funding Agency, Tripartite MOUs and 70:30 funding formula.

Taking their fight further Delhi University Teachers’ Association and Federation of Central Universities' Teachers' Associations (FEDCUTA) have organized “March to Education” to Mandi House on March 28th. They have come fight against the “agenda of Privatization of education and making education inaccessible for socially and economically marginalized Communities across Universities.”

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Association, “Lado Padhai Karne Ko, Pado Samaaj Badlne Ko.” The list of demands include: The students and teachers have come together in Defence of Public Funded Higher Education and demanding “Exterminate Sexual Harrasement from Campuses-Follow Vishakha Guidelines”, “Fulfill Constitutionally mandated Reservations”; “Stop selling education in the name of 'autonomy'”; “End Corruptions in Academic Institutions”; “Democratic Policy Making Process”; “No to categorization of Universities and Graded Autonomy” “No Fund Cuts”.

Calling for the fraternity of teachers the President of the organization Rajib Ray said in a note, “Systemic changes such as the replacement of grants by loans through HEFA, Tripartite MOUs, graded Autonomy to Universities and grant of financial autonomy to educational institutions of repute to turn them into teaching shops must be resisted. The Government should be forced to take back these ill-thought of schemes.”

Though the joint struggle has borne some fruits in their fight against the 70:30 funding formula, where the UGC has clarified that “for those centrally funded institutions whose salary commitments are being met by the UGC/MHRD, the increased liabilities due to revision of 7th CPC pay scales will be fully met by the Central Government,” the Teachers’ body has still called for “vigilance”, DUTA head said, “We have to be vigilant till the Draft UGC Regulations are gazetted so that none of the retrograde recommendations become a reality.”

However, this funding formula relief does not include the expenditure towards revised pay for karamcharis and for teachers in state universities salaries, “So we should not allow the government to get away with this,” said the statement from DUTA.

The University administration has issued notifications regarding the loss of teaching due to teachers’ strike, “This notification also points to the success of our movement. We as teachers remain committed to our students. As in the past, the DUTA appeals to members to take measures to ensure that students are not adversely affected because of our strike. This struggle is a joint struggle of all sections of the university community and the increasing participation of students is one of its strengths.”

Committed to make People’s March from Mandi House to Parliament Street a big success and show the government “We will not allow the destruction of our universities,” students and teachers from various universities will gather at Mandi House. Members of Parliament and leaders of various political parties are expected join our rally in solidarity.

Since the new schemes taking shape in the Human Resource Development, many universities have voiced their concern - The JNU Teachers Association noted that the MHRD grant of autonomy to 60 Higher Educational Institutions, which have maintained high academic standards’ is a “tacit acknowledgment of JNU’s excellence in achievement and maintenance of academic standards even in the face of constant attack and vilification in the last two years.”

The question that teachers put forward was “we ask as a community of teachers to address this ‘grant of autonomy’ is autonomy from what, autonomy for whom and autonomy for what purpose?” They noted that this announcement is in keeping with and follows from the MHRD gazette notification dated 12 February 2018 title University Grants Commission [Categorisation of Universities (Only) for Grant of Graded Autonomy] Regulations, 2018.

The note observed that this legislation is yet to be passed by Parliament and is open to contestation. “It must also be noted that the autonomy clause was part of the draft National Education Policy of the current government in power. The government had to withdraw the draft in face of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. So it has now pushed those provisions by the back door using the UGC as a pliant body,” said JNUTA statement.

The gazette notification suggests an effective 20% reservation for foreign nationals in both studentships and faculty positions over and above the total sanctioned strength, which they fear “Will then reduce the proportion of the potential job pool for Indian academics in India and also will reduce the proportion of seats available for Indian students. This is a discriminatory clause privileging foreign citizenships over Indian ones. It also implies an overall shrinking of the potential pool of reserved positions that would be available for teachers and students from marginalized communities.”

Thus, it is seen as a direct and severe attack on reservations and affirmative action in public institutions in the name of autonomy. The autonomous institutes can start their own programs, departments, schools, centres, allow opening of off-campus centres, start skill courses, incubation centres, research parks etc without approval from the UGC.

“This will lead to commercialization and blatant privatization of public education with differential fee structures, compromising the questions of equity and access which are the founding principles of public higher education institutions like JNU,” said the teacher’s body.
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