HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

UGC standoff triggers debate over DU’s autonomy

Neha Pushkarna, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 26, 2014
First Published: 09:30 IST(26/6/2014) | Last Updated: 13:54 IST(26/6/2014)

Is Delhi University free to decide on academics or not?

The standoff between Delhi University and University Grants Commission has forced many to repeat this question. While some say it is the UGC’s responsibility to prevent any violation of nor ms, others find it over-stepping its mandate in DU.

Former UGC chairperson Sukhadeo Thorat said the education system in India has a set framework, giving autonomy and rights to stakeholders at all levels.

“It’s alright as long as issues in an institution are dealt with peacefully. When a change as major as the four- year-programme is introduced, it should be done with consensus. Rushing through the change caused all the problem and UGC as an overarching body has to intervene. It’s the commission’s responsibility,” said Thorat.

The former UGC chief said the three-year programmes were launched after much deliberation by the Kothari Commission.

Even the critics of DU administration believe that UGC has no business to threaten the university to budge on the issue of FYUP or lose funds.
It’s dangerous for the autonomy of any institution, they suggest.

“UGC, for a whole year, not only tolerated FYUP but also praised it to high heavens. But now there’s a complete turnaround. It is giving ultimatums after ultimatums to the university. So what has changed in this one year? There has been a change in UGC’s stand after the elections,” said Professor Harish Trivedi, who headed the department of English at Delhi University.

He said the UGC’s role primarily has been to issue general guidelines, make suggestions and act against any violation of its norms like it did in the case of deemed universities.

According to teachers, a university has to act in accordance with its academic and executive councils unlike the UGC that is simply giving orders to colleges to revert to the old system of three-year undergraduate programmes or “face consequences”.

However, protesting teachers also insist that DU has itself been quite ambiguous about its autonomy.

“When it came to paying teachers their financial dues, the university chose to wait for the UGC to take a call. Where was its autonomy then? It cannot be autonomous selectively,” said a teacher, who did not wish to be named.

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