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Students and Teachers Up in Arms Over 10-day Window for Feedback on Scrapping of UGC

The ministry of human resource development had given 10 days for suggestions and feedback on its website, with July 7 as the last date for submission.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:July 5, 2018, 8:09 PM IST
Students and Teachers Up in Arms Over 10-day Window for Feedback on Scrapping of UGC
The University Grants Commission (UGC)
New Delhi: The government’s decision to replace the University Grants Commission with the Higher Education Commission of India without giving ample time for feedback has irked stakeholders.

The ministry of human resource development had given 10 days for suggestions and feedback on its website, with July 7 as the last date for submission.

With just two more days to go, several students and teachers associations have demanded more time, terming the ten-day window “arbitrary,” and bereft of “wider consultations”.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) demanded that the ministry extend time for public response on a proposal that is designed to bring such sweeping changes and will impact a large number of students and teachers as well as the future of the country.

JNUTA President Sonajharia Minz and Secretary Sudhir K Suthar said they would submit their detailed response to the government.

The faculty members were of the view that while the proposed legislation aims at creating a new mega institutional structure in the form of a regulating authority in the field of higher education, it fails to identify the problems with the existing institutional structure - the UGC.

The Delhi University Teachers’ Association, meanwhile, is completely against the move to replace the UGC with the HECI and it has prepared a draft to appeal to the ministry to withdraw the Draft Bill for HECI Act, 2018.

Instead, it wants the government to open widespread consultations for amendments required in the UGC Act, 1956 in order to strengthen its regulatory functioning and empower it to address the prevailing challenges in higher education.

President of DUTA Rajib Ray said, “We will submit our suggestions before the deadline – but that does not mean due procedures have been followed.”

“The envisaged Higher Education Commission will be a toothless paper-tiger, bogged down by the enormous burden of maintaining superfluous documentation related to 850 universities and over 40,000 colleges across India, while the vitality of these HEIs will be sucked dry by allowing the entry of vested political and corporate interests,” the draft said.

The Teachers' Association of Aligarh Muslim University also criticized the 10-day time period. “This time period is too short as it sounds illogical to discuss, deliberate and submit suggestions mindlessly dismantling a regulatory body," the association said in the emergent general body meeting.

The All India Democratic Students Organization has also called for a protest over the proposed time period.

In a statement, the outfit said that the Ministry should try to build a consensus on this crucial issue by involving universities, teachers’ and students’ representative bodies, civil society organizations.

It added, “The HECI won’t have a council, which used to suggest different changes in regular intervals of time, unlike the UGC till now. Only to maintain a democratic gesture, the HRD ministry appealed to stakeholders to furnish suggestions within only 10 days.”

The Congress-led UPA Government in 2011 had also attempted to establish an over-arching authority called the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). But the HE&R Bill was withdrawn in 2014 after it met with protests from all quarters.

“It’s an irony that following the steps of the previous UPA Government, the existing BJP-led NDA Government is again going to establish HECI, an autocratic body,” said Ashok Mishra, the General Secretary of AIDSO.

“We must ask why this arbitrary step?” ask the AISA students, “For such reforms, the MHRD has ridiculously given only 10 days for feedback, which shows how desperately the Government wants to push this dangerous policy,” said the statement from the student body.

The government, however, maintained that the draft Act is in accordance with the commitment of government for reforming the regulatory systems and has added that it would facilitate holistic growth of the education system. The new proposal takes funding role away from HECI and the gives it to the government

R Subrahmanyam, secretary Higher Education told News 18 “We have already received close to 2,500 very good and well-thought out suggestions so far. That there is so overwhelming a response is an indication that time is not a constraint if you have constructive suggestions.”

He added, “Those who are agitating over the less time period given would do well to stop shouting, sit and read the draft, and come up with suggestions.”
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