How To Destroy a University: JNU Cuts Down MPhil/Phd Seats by 83%
The University has also scrapped ‘deprivation points’ and has given 100% weightage to oral interviews.
“Suddenly, there are no seats.”
- MA Student, Jawaharlal Nehru University
When Jawaharlal Nehru Universtiy (JNU) released its much delayed prospectus for the academic year 2017-2018, it led to shock and disbelief in the student community across India.
The University has cut down seats in research by 83%, including integrated MPhil-PhD, JRF and direct PhD. Apart from the fall in seats from 1,174 to 194, the University has scrapped ‘deprivation points’ (points awarded to applicants from marginalised districts in India) for MPhil/PhD admissions.
Furthermore, the entrance exam has been delinked from the interview for MPhil/PhD candidates; which means that despite scoring well in the entrance exam, the admission of a candidate will be dependent on a candidate’s performance in the oral interview.
While the JNU administration maintains that these changes are according to the UGC regulations specified in the 5 May 2016 notification, students of the University say that this move jeopardises the socially inclusive nature of the University.
Between UGC Regulations and JNU Administration
In the new session, there are no seats for the integrated MPhil-PhD course in physical sciences, computational and integrative sciences. Reputed centres like the Centre for Historical Studies and English Studies will also not take a single MPhil or PhD seat this year.
The cut in seats in MPhil/PhD was expected in JNU after the Delhi HC dismissed the students’ plea against the UGC notification dated 5 May 2016. But no one expected the number of seats would be slashed so drastically.
The UGC notification limits the number of MPhil/PhD students a professor can guide; “not more than 3 MPhil and 8 PhD scholars” for a professor, and “a maximum of 2 MPhil and 6 PhD scholars” for associate professor.
This is what has ostensibly led to the reduction in number of seats. Speaking to The Quint, AK Poddar, Assistant Registrar (Admission) of JNU says,
The number of seats available for MPhil/PhD were calculated on a centre level and a school level. The calculation was done on the basis of who were eligible to supervise students as per the UGC regulations.AK Poddar, Assistant Registrar (Admission), JNU
But the faculty at JNU argue that the prospectus is in ‘complete violation of the observance of the UGC regulation’ since it is the academic body which can decide the number of research students in the University. Ayesha Kidwai, President of the JNUTA says,
This admission is in clear violation of the 5 May UGC notification, which says that the number of students in a University should be decided by the academic body of the University. The final figures of the seats are atrocious. We will go to the court and challenge the Delhi HC judgement.Ayesha Kidwai, President of the JNU Teachers’ Association to The Quint
But why wasn’t the Academic body in JNU consulted before making the cuts?
AK Poddar explains the decision of the administration and says,
There has been a logjam in communication between the Schools and the Admin which has delayed the prospectus. But the VC had to take some decision. So all the departments here, Admissions, Academic, Evaluation, provided data of their own, and then calculated a possible intake for the available positions. As far as research students go, nowhere does it mention that you have to take a specific number of students. So, there isn’t any violation of UGC regulations.
Meanwhile, the students are angry at the administration for not increasing the number of professors and associate professors in the University. As Mohit K Pandey, President of JNUSU says, “The high quality of research in JNU will suffer a setback. There are vacant seats lying in the University, why should the students suffer for the fault of the JNU admin?”
Dangers of Giving 100% Weightage to Oral Interview
This year, the JNU admission process will be a two-step process for MPhil and PhD students; a qualifying entrance exam and an oral interview, which will effectively decide the admission of a candidate. The 100% weightage given to an oral interview is a departure from previous years, when the final score would include a percentage of the qualifying exam too. And it is a move which will negatively impact candidates from marginalised backgrounds looking for admission in JNU.
Shreya Roy Chowdury of Scroll.in writes that as per the 2012 JNU committee, which was formed to look into allegations of discrimination in viva in the university, “the gap in performance between general and reserved category students was wider in the case of viva-voce than the written test.”
Even in 2016, the Abdul Nafaye committee acknowledged the discrimination in viva for students who come from non-English speaking, weaker sections of society, and proposed that viva marks should be reduced from 30% to 15%.
Now prospective candidates stare at 100% viva weightage.
Why Are Deprivation Points Essential?
‘Deprivation points’ are a maximum of 12 points which are given to candidates from certain districts of India; which are specified on the basis of female illiteracy, percentage of agricultural workers, rural population, and households having no latrine within its premises. Kashmiri migrants and transgender candidates are also eligible for these points which are given for each education level attained by the candidate.
It has been an old practice in JNU to encourage students from weaker sections of society to attain higher education. In 2017-18 though, ‘deprivation points’ are no longer applicable for MPhil/PhD students. As Mohit K Pandey says, it is a move which is being seen as an “attempt to destroy JNU’s model of social inclusion”.
As far as deprivation points are concerned, yeh toh badtameezi hai. This is a mischievous move on the part of the JNU admin to remove provisions of social justice from the University. In JNU, students come from all across the country, and this is an attempt to destroy that model of social inclusion.
On 2 March 2017, Jawaharlal Nehru University was awarded the annual Visitor’s award for the ‘Best University.’ During the ceremony, the President lauded JNU for ‘its unrelenting pursuit of academic excellence.’ But in the face of dwindling research students, will JNU be able to pursue academic excellence? Will the new UGC regulations make higher education and research inaccessible for a student from a marginalised community in India?
With its principles of social justice and inclusion being eroded at the base, will Jawaharlal Nehru University survive?
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