A government committee formulating India’s new education policy has proposed restricting how long students can reside in university hostels or stay enrolled in a course after complaints that many pupils at leading institutes took years to graduate.
The TSR Subramainan committee’s recommendation comes after months of unrest at top university campuses such as Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Hyderabad and Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India.
Critics of these anti-government protests say the demonstrations are often led by students who stay on after overshooting their stipulated period of finishing degrees, implying that falling academic standards contributed to the unrest.
“One frequently hears of ‘students’ who continue for seven or eight years or more, enrolled in the university, and occupying the hostels – in general should there not be some guidelines or time limits for enrolment in a particular course or for occupation of hostels?” the committee noted.
The committee felt that students overstaying at universities start “owning” the campus and have an undue influence on the course of non-academic activities.
The panel made a host of other recommendations, including a uniform national test for admission to undergraduate courses and nearly doubling the government expenditure in the education sector.
The committee said Class X examinations in Mathematics and Science should be in two levels – Part B at a basic level and Part A at an advanced level.
“Students who wish to complete their studies at Class X need, by choice, to appear in Part B,” the panel said. Those who want to continue after Class X will take the Part A examination.
The committee also recommended restricting political activity on campuses and proposed doing away with student groups explicitly based on caste, religion or political parties.
The proposed ban on campus politics is expected to rile student activists, especially after protests against perceived caste-based discrimination in Hyderabad, alleged government high-handedness in FTII and the sedition row in JNU rocked India this year.
“The government is scared of activism after what happened in JNU and FTII. They want politically naïve citizens coming out of the universities,” said NSUI leader Angellica Aribam.
In its report to the HRD ministry, the committee also warned against letting campuses turn into “political arenas to settle national rivalries”.