Mess in higher education: ‘Suit-boots’, moneybags taking over education

In the name of graded autonomy, the govt wants universities to generate their own funds which obviously will be generated from the students. How many students will be able to afford education then?

Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Sudhanshu Kumar

The NDA Government’s first major step was to establish a Higher Education Financing Authority (HEFA) as replacement for University Grants Commission. While UGC was giving grants to universities, HEFA will be giving loans. The principal amount will be paid back by the university while HEFA will repay the interest!

The government then proposed CBCS (Choice Based Credit System) and told students that they could study subjects of their choice. But the syllabi earlier finalised by universities, the government said, would now be prepared by the UGC. At the graduation level, however, it is not a common course that everyone needs to study; it is about a specialised course that students want to pursue.

This new policy also affects the uniqueness of universities. With every university offering the same syllabus, there is not much to choose. If Oxford and Cambridge start teaching the same syllabus, how will they remain unique?

Graded autonomy

All the universities are autonomous since inception. But while the Government claims to be liberating higher education, it is nibbling away at the autonomy of universities. They claim that graded autonomy has enhanced the image of the IIMs world over. But concerns remain. At what cost? It’s not a secret that fees in IIMs went through the roof after they were conferred graded autonomy.

When a normal BA degree starts costing three to four lakhs, it will be difficult for students to pursue higher education. What survey has the government conducted that they are sure that the students are already capable of paying lakhs of rupees for their education? What is the basis? Meritorious students from villages will not be able to pursue higher education due to lack of funds.

Higher Education Policy Draft of 2018 mentions that the Central government is not going to open any new education institution and in the existing ones, they are increasing the fees.

A letter sent by MHRD to all universities in March 2016 directed universities not to take any decision which has financial implications. The situation is such that every decision has to be taken only with the approval of the MHRD. Last year, many colleges of Delhi University proposed new courses but the UGC did not give its approval. Earlier, universities used to decide if the college is capable of doing what they are proposing, if they have enough infrastructure etc. or not.

A communication sent on 13th January 2017 stated that all autonomous institutions must generate 30% of the 'pay package' themselves. Already, recruitments are not happening, and the pay is pathetic. Due to meagre salary, most good teachers prefer working in the IT Sector or in tuition/coaching centres instead of in schools or universities. Eventually, even the most esteemed universities will soon be reduced to hollow shells of what they once used to be.

Since, permanent recruitments have been kept on hold, Delhi University makes do with ad-hoc teachers. They are paid the salary of an assistant professor (entry level) but are not entitled to any increment, leave or allowances.

Governments keep adding Ad-hoc teachers because they have to pay just the entry-level salary and no other compensation at all.

Sudhanshu Kumar is the vice-president of Delhi Universty Teacher’s Association (DUTA)

As told to Vikrant Jha

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