Resisting the UGC Assault on Teaching, Jobs, And Education

THE UGC’s move to enhance teachers’ workload and slash teaching posts will affect employment opportunities of young researchers; teaching conditions; and quality of higher education all over the country. The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) and DU students are at the forefront of the countrywide agitation against this move.

It is the fourth summer in a row when DUTA and students’ community are out on the streets in thousands, defying soaring temperature. In the summers of 2013 and 2014 they continued a more than fifteen-month struggle to get the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) rolled back. Last year they were out in protest against a refurbished version of FYUP, called CBCS, which was thrust upon them by the same HRD minister Smriti Irani who was taking the credit of rolling back FYUP. This summer, when the issues with faulty system of CBCS still loomed large, UGC came up with a Gazette Notification amending UGC Regulations (2010), which have forced the teaching community led by DUTA to take the streets. After a historic month-long complete evaluation boycott and many agitations in which thousands of teachers participated, they forced the MHRD and the UGC to assure the withdrawal of the notifications. But the teachers believe that their struggle is not yet over and important issues remain unaddressed.

Why Are Teachers And Students Opposed to the UGC Gazette Notification?

The UGC Gazette Notification dated 10 May, 2016 drastically enhanced teachers’ workload and, as result, reduced the number of teaching positions. Colleges across the country had been following the workload norms prescribed in the Clause 15.1 of the UGC Regulations 2010, according to which the “direct teaching-learning process hours per week” will be 16 for Assistant Professors and 14 for Associate Professors/Professors. It further directed that both ‘lectures’ and ‘tutorials’ should be included in the calculation of the prescribed workload.

Tutorials in DU were conceived as compulsory discussions for a full length lecture time with a group of 4-6 students but, in practice often include anything between 10-20 students due to admissions exceeding the prescribed number of students for each class. Yet, it serves as an important mechanism for rigorous, interactive learning where the teacher is able to monitor and facilitate the intellectual growth of every student more closely. The Third Amendment Notification of 2016 duplicitously increased the direct teaching workload of teachers by excluding ‘tutorials’ from the calculations of direct workload while maintaining their compulsory character. Tutorials would have to be included in a new category of separate 6-hour per week ‘compulsory work’ which had no bearing on the direct workload! This effectively implied that an assistant professor with a workload of 10 lectures and 6 tutorials would have to teach 16 lectures and 6 tutorials. Whereas on the one hand it would result in almost 50 percent increase in the work load of faculty member, on the other hand it would also cause decline in the number of required teaching positions by nearly 50 percent. To assess the impact, take the example of DU, where approximately half of the teaching positions are filled by contractual or ‘ad-hoc’ appointments: such a decision would make more than 4000 teachers dispensable.

The Hidden Brahmanical Agenda

Another fallout of such a situation will be on the teachers belonging to the OBC/SC/ST community. Delhi University historically has had a dubious track record of failure to fill teaching positions of backward categories; numerous RTIs have shown that number of OBC/SC/ST faculty members in DU is shamefully low. Even in seat calculation DU administration has come up with a faulty roster system which deliberately miscalculates and reduces the number of positions allocated to these categories. Yet, despite these machinations, the vacant seats allowed some representations to the teachers from reserved categories who had been teaching as ad-hoc teachers for many years in the hope of permanent appointments. The notification would effectively mean that all these vacancies, which are the only hope for the representation of reserved category teachers in our highly brahminical academia, will be wiped out.

Changing the Very Meaning of Academics

It has also been pointed out that the notification also opens up a route to make tutorials expendable and replaced by other non-instructional works like ‘administrative responsibilities and innovations’. This is a continuation of recurring attempts at dilution of academic rigour in the University education which had been earlier tried by the implementation of Semesterization, FYUP and CBCS, all of which had been vehemently opposed by the teaching community. The government is toeing the line drawn by WTO-GATS model of higher education as a service-providing exercise, requiring no commitments outside of impersonal spaces of transactional exchange between students and teachers.

One of such motivated policies which has already damaged universities like DU to a great extent is API (Academic Performance Indicator) system. Like semesterization and FYUP, it was also the brain child of Kapil Sibal and was implemented during his tenure as HRD minister in 2010 as the criteria for promotion of permanent faculty members or shortlisting of the prospective ones in interviews. It is an entirely mathematical calculation based on criteria which are completely devoid of any assessment of the academic quality of the work being accredited. In some cases it has resulted in universities being swamped by third-grade or even fake seminars, conferences, and publications – doing irreparable damage to the academic rigour of the Universities.

Whereas the teachers’ and students’ movement has been highlighting the lack of basic infrastructures, class rooms, laboratories, the API expects the teachers to write prolific research papers with additional college hours on the lines of 40 hours a week! The Government and its stooges see the teachers’ protest against API as a symbol of their conservatism or ‘laziness’. The reality is that most of the colleges have a small staff room where even half the number of teachers cannot find a place to sit at one time! Where is the concern for ensuring that teachers have the space and time for quality research?

Teachers believe that the UGC Notification was also intended to dissipate the growing movement against API. It is not surprising that this notification was actually a result of recommendations of Prof. Arun Nigavekar Committee constituted to conduct an “evaluation of the Academic Performance Indicator (API) Scheme as regards the entry point and career advancement of teachers by taking into account its criticism and suggest suitable improvements/alternatives,” among other issues. The UGC Notification is also a direct consequence of the massive 55% fund-cuts for the UGC in the Union Budget of 2016-17 (from Rs 9315.45 cr. in 2015-16 to Rs. 4286.94 cr. in 2016-17). The UGC gazette is merely the ‘software’ required to implement the agenda of killing public funding in higher education and pushing for privatization.

The Government’ refusal to roll back API has forced the DUTA to continue their struggle and the latest reports suggest that they might even boycott the admission procedures if their demands are not met.

-- Sunny Kumar

Liberation Archive