Jawaharlal Nehru University has decided to implement the University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil./Ph.D. Degrees) Regulations, 2016 in spite of resistance from faculty and students. A clause in the notification prescribes that the written exam will be a qualifying round after which the admission will depend solely on the viva voce or the interview. The Abdul Nafey Committee, in its meeting on November 4, 2016, had recommended reducing interview marks after studying admission-related data from 2012-15.
They had said, “The findings of the committee is that the data consistently indicate the pattern of difference in the written and the viva-voce marks across all social categories, which indicates discrimination. It is the considered view of the committee and it, therefore, recommends that the discriminatory pattern would get mitigated if viva-voce marks is reduced from the present 30 to 15 marks.” There have been various protests and strikes in the University regarding the matter. While this issue has been getting attention from the media, there’s another clause of the notification which can lead to a problem for the institute during the admission season this year and even in the years to come.
Clause 6.5 of the notification restricts the number of MPhil/PhD scholars that can be mentored by a research supervisor. It states that, “A Research Supervisor/Co-supervisor who is a Professor, at any given point of time, cannot guide more than three (3) M.Phil. and Eight (8) PhD scholars. An Associate Professor as Research Supervisor can guide up to a maximum of two (2) M.Phil. and six (6) PhD scholars and an Assistant Professor as Research Supervisor can guide up to a maximum of one (1) M.Phil. and four (4) PhD scholars.”
According to the students we spoke to, most research supervisors in JNU have more number of students than what is prescribed by the notification at this point of time. Last year, the intake for the MPhil/PhD programme in JNU was of 970 students and if this notification is enforced, it is possible that some schools might not even be able to admit a single MPhil scholar this year and for the coming few years.
Moreover, the JNU Academic Council alleged that the procedure for enforcing the notification has also been bypassed. They gave a statement saying, “The V-C tried to push through all agenda items without any discussion despite several objections from the floor, including by those who were not allowed to speak even once. A large number of Academic Council members stood up in protest, but the Registrar hurriedly read a part of the agenda, which no one could hear amidst the protests, and the V-C announced that all items were passed.” However, a circular by Prof Milap Punia (the Director of Admissions) came to the fore, which states that admissions in the year 2017-2018 will be conducted according to the UGC Regulation 2016. Campus Watch tried to get through him but he was unavailable for comment.
We asked students of the University how this would affect the intake of students in M Phil programmes. A Councillor of School of International Studies, Salonee Shital, told Campus Watch, “JNU has an unmatched admission policy to ensure social justice and if this gazette is implemented, that would change. SIS has two MA programs with around 200 students out of which most prefer to stay for an MPhil from different centres. They would suffer and so would all the others who have been preparing for a higher education from other universities.” Sneha Ganguly, an M.Phil student from the University, thinks this would erode the quality of education. She said, “If for 2-3 years, new students aren’t taken, there will be a lull. New research will not be undertaken and there will be a vacuum in the academic world. It will also affect the name of the institution… I think the consequences are too big to even think about fully at the moment.”
What makes it more complicated is that JNU allows students to deregister after submitting a synopsis and take extra time to complete their PhD. There hasn’t been a clarification on the matter yet, but according to a student, the number of scholars that a supervisor is allowed to mentor might include deregistered students as well which will add on to the delay in the intake of new students. Those who were aiming to get enrolled in the University’s MPhil/PhD programme this year are also caught in a fix.
Professor Ayesha Kidwai, Centre for Linguistics, elaborated the effects of this notification further in a Facebook post, “Given what I know of my other colleagues’ research supervision responsibilities, this intake will have to be zero for at least the next two years! And meanwhile many students admitted up to this point will have to hang around the Centre doing nothing as no one will be able to supervise them, and that too without fellowships. Cumulatively, no Centre shall be able to have a fixed intake for every year.”
The President of JNU Teachers’ Association, Prof Ajay Patnaik told Campus Watch what the notification means for the University, “If this is implemented, the whole character of JNU will change. Social justice will suffer. Even the Supreme Court has said that you can’t have one pass mark for all categories!” Even though circulars regarding implementation have already been released, JNUTA is making efforts to retract it since according to them it wasn’t passed ethically. Prof Patnaik also added, “We have been protesting and have a strike on Jan 17. We’ll also speak to the Vice Chancellor again. We are trying to get an appointment with the President of India who is the Visitor of the University.” Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union has also released a statement expressing their apprehensions regarding the notification on January 16. The VC and Rector of the institute were unavailable for a comment.