JNUTA Criticizes UGC Decision To Grant Autonomy; Calls It A Move To Privatize Public Education

NEW DELHI March 22 The UGC decision to grant autonomy to 60 Higher Educational Institutions has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA) has called the decision ‘the misguided pursuit to make education market determined and market dependent’. Now, JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) has also criticized the decision. In a letter issued by the JNUTA, the association has noted that JNU’s prominent place in the list of institutions which have been granted autonomy is a tacit acknowledgment of JNU’s excellence in achievement and maintenance of academic standards even in the face of constant attack and vilification in the last two years.

JNUTA says that as a community of teachers to address this ‘grant of autonomy’ is autonomy from what, autonomy for whom and autonomy for what purpose?

The association has alleged that the autonomy clause was part of the draft National Education Policy of the current government in power. The government had to withdraw the draft in face of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Now, the government is trying to push those provisions by the back door using the UGC as a pliant body. The choice of institutions based on accredition and rankings completely overlooks the many criticisms of such parametric ‘one-size-fits-all’ criterion of such standard ranking processes.

JNUTA has also criticized the effective 20% reservation for foreign nationals in both studentships  and faculty positions over and above the total sanctioned strength stating that this will reduce the proportion of the potential job pool for Indian academics in India and also will reduce the proportion of seats available for Indian students. This is a discriminatory clause privileging foreign citizenships over Indian ones.

It also implies an overall shrinking of the potential pool of reserved positions that would be available for teachers and students from marginalized communities. Thus in the name of autonomy, this is a direct and severe attack on reservations and affirmative action in public institutions. Further, Clause 4.8 suggests differential pay structures and institutionalization of variable incentive structures for teachers that is bound to affect quality and disempower teachers and directly conflicts the principle of equal pay for equal work.

In the letter, JNUTA says that the move will lead to privatization of public education. The letter says, “Clauses 4.1 to 4.4 of the gazette notification allow these institutions to start new programmes/departments/schools/centres, allow opening of off-campus centres, start skill courses, incubation centres, research parks etc without approval from the UGC and these are to be done through ‘self-financing’ – the codeword for commercialization and blatant privatization of public education with differential fee structures, compromising the questions of equity and access which are the founding principles of public higher education institutions like JNU.”

“The exemption clauses for new programmes from any kind of inspection and exemption of annual monitoring will also severely compromise quality of these institutions. We can already see some of the effects of this by the actions of the JNU administration in anticipation of this autonomy in which new schools of engineering and management are being opened without due process to maintain academic quality and how faculty positions from existing schools are being diverted to this end which will affect the functioning, scope of expansion  and quality of these existing programmes and centres/schools due to understaffing.”

JNUTA has called the decision to grant autonomy an impunity being bestowed on authoritarian university administrations like the current dispensation in JNU to flouts all rules, norms and codes and exercise unchecked power in privatizing universities and undo the agenda of social justice.

UGC Grants Autonomy To 52 Universities: Here’s What It Means

“Thus this so-called autonomy is in direct conflict with the principles of democratic governance, accountability, equity, access, social justice and excellence as the hallmark of quality. The vision of the Public University, its governance, finance and representational structures (including reservation policy) in Central Universities are all governed by the various laws of the land and no proposal can be made to change these structures without checking the legality and also the social implication of such proposal on the questions of access, equity and social justice in higher education which are all constituents of ‘quality’.”