Is the University Grants Commission (UGC) unmindful of its own gazette notification relating to specification of degrees? If not, then why is its secretary, a senior officer in the regulatory body, claiming (on the UGC website) that he started “unique and novel degree courses” which are actually unspecified degree programmes?
Professor Dr Jaspal Singh Sandhu’s profile on the UGC website and a reply under RTI by the principal information officer of UGC reveal that Sandhu, as head of the department of sports medicine and physiotherapy at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, had started sports degree courses which violated UGC’s own gazette notification. These programmes,taken by hundreds of students, have been running for over 10 years.
Sandhu himself is the authorised signatory on the revised gazette notification of 2014 but the nomenclature of these degrees has not yet been changed.
“Prof Dr Jaspal Singh Sandhu, professor in the department of sports medicine and physiotherapy, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, has held many academic and administrative posts. He established the first and the only department of sports medicine in Indian university system which came under CPEPA Scheme of UGC in 2004. He introduced unique and novel courses in sports sciences such as PhD and doctor of medicine in sports medicine, master’s in sports physical therapy, master’s in exercise physiology and nutrition, master’s in sports psychology etc,” reads Sandhu’s profile on the UGC website.
When HT Education checked the consolidated list of UGC’s approved nomenclature of degree(s), none of the course started by Singh were mentioned. This correspondent then asked UGC, under the RTI Act, whether the masters’ degree courses in neurological physiotherapy, physiotherapy sports, exercise physiotherapy and nutrition offered by GNDU were valid. The reply, signed by Hemang A Desai, education as well as principal information officer of UGC, stated that the degrees mentioned in the RTI were not specified by UGC under Section 22 of the UGC Act.
The vice chancellor of GNDU, Prof AS Brar, said Prof Jaspal Singh should be questioned “as these degrees were started by him when he was the HoD.”
Sandhu’s response to our queries was quite surprising. While according to the RTI reply to HT Education, the first gazette notification regarding the specification of degrees was issued in 2004 and every university had to follow the notification or its revised version (a recent one being a July 11, 2014 notification), Prof Sandhu says, “Before July 11, 2014 regulations, there was no provision under which universities were supposed to follow any specification of degrees. So degrees with innovative nomenclature were started by many universities. Thus, degrees started by me before July 11, 2014 are all fine.”
He adds, “Also when I left GNDU in March 2014, the GNDU should have been wise enough to follow UGC’s July 11, 2014 notification. In fact, we gave six months time to all the universities to follow our notification. How am I responsible for unspecified degrees in GNDU now?”
Brar’s clarification was, “We had constituted a committee to look into the nomenclature of all our degrees and post degree courses. We closed some courses and renamed others to bring all our programmes in line with UGC norms. For us these are valid degrees but if UGC writes to us, we will have no problem in changing the nomenclature from the next academic session.”