Deprivation points go, so do some JNU dreams: ‘All I wanted was a PhD, then to teach in Hisar’

From 52 MPhil and 30 PhD scholars approved by JNU’s Academic Council for 2017-18, the Centre for Historical Studies has zero new seats this year.

Written by Uma Vishnu | New Delhi | Updated: April 12, 2017 8:13 am
JNU, Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU seat cuts, JNU research seats cut, MA UGC,  Mphil-PhD degree seat cuts, india news, delhi news, indian express Jawaharlal Nehru University

FOR A 26-YEAR-OLD, Sumit cries easily. He cried that day in 2015 when he travelled from his hometown Hisar to Delhi and found his name on the admission list of JNU’s MA programme; again, when he couldn’t understand what was taught in his first class; then, when his professor told him, ‘you have come to JNU, you are in safe hands’.

And now, sitting in his professor’s room, Sumit cries again as he talks about JNU’s decision to implement the UGC cap on MPhil/PhD seats. “When I heard of the seat cut, I was in the library. Pair ke neeche se zameen khisak gayi (The world slipped from under my feet). I started crying,” he says, smiling through the tears this time.

A final year MA student of Ancient History at JNU’s Centre of Historical Studies, Sumit had — like many in his class and those in the other two MA (History) streams — hoped to take up an MPhil course here. But with the university implementing the UGC cap, his centre is among several on campus that will not take in any research scholar this year.

From 52 MPhil and 30 PhD scholars approved by JNU’s Academic Council for 2017-18, the Centre for Historical Studies has zero new seats this year.

“I have done everything to get here — picked plates at weddings, given out tokens to patients at a hospital in Hisar. All I wanted was to do my PhD from JNU and teach in Hisar. My father is 73, but he still cycles everyday to a vegetable shop where he works as a helper. He is doing that for me, hoping I’ll some day get a job. It breaks my heart to think that I’ll go back with just an MA degree. I can still apply in Delhi University and a few other places. But I will never be able to afford their fees and can never hope to get a hostel,” he says, his voice cracking again.

Sumit’s story of a smalltown boy getting into what is arguably India’s best research hub is, in fact, a story of JNU itself. It’s a university with a unique model of deprivation points for backward regions that ensured students such as Sumit, who is from the OBC category, and the others in the room — classmate Prasikha Negi from Odisha’s Sundargarh, seniors Virender Singh Bithoo from Rajasthan’s Bikaner and Jitendra Kumar from Bihar’s Jamuri — got their first taste of world-class education.

It’s this uniqueness that many fear will be hit with JNU implementing the 2016 UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD Degrees) Regulations. On March 16, while dismissing a petition by JNU students, the Delhi High Court ruled that the university cannot formulate its own admission policy, and that its system of deprivation points was “legally impermissible”.

According to the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), almost everyone who is offered a seat takes it — joining rates are in the range of 88% to 100% — mainly because the campus is seen as non-discriminatory, largely free of elitism and one that offers a relatively safer space for women. According to data compiled by the JNUTA, more women (453) than men (433) joined the MPhil/PhD programme in the university last year.

So while many professors whom The Indian Express spoke to agreed that a regulation wasn’t such a bad thing, they said that a “one-size-fits-all approach” shouldn’t have been applied.

Ashok, an assistant professor from Sumit’s centre who goes only by one name, says a regulation of this kind was long overdue, considering how PhDs are handed out across the country — a case of “total anarchy”. However, he says, “you can’t compare JNU with these universities”.

Ashok, who specialises in the economics of education, says, “Here, the resources are much more and only the School of Languages has undergraduates, so one professor can supervise more than three MPhils (as mandated under the cap). In JNU, we spend Rs 19,000 per student per month — just the recurring expenses — whereas a state university would spend around Rs 6,900.”

JNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, however, says there “can be no exceptions when it comes to improving research standards in universities”.

“JNU, on the other hand, should be a role model by doing high-end research. That is possible only when students and faculty publish in top-class journals and, in science streams, apply for patents, too… Nowhere (else) in the world will you see a professor guiding 30 research scholars,” he says.

Professors, however, disagree. “Yes, the Chemistry department in the University of Hyderabad has a cap of 12 students per faculty, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai has a cap of three, but they are doing it for their own reasons — lack of facilities, space constraints, etc,” says a senior professor in one of the sciences schools.

According to JNUTA data, the seat cut will lead to an “80-85% drop in enrollment” for those in the reserved categories — SC/ST, OBC and Persons With Disabilities.

R Mahalakshmi, professor for Ancient History at the Centre for Historical Studies, is among those whose student count is “much more” than the UGC cap. She agrees that “at one level the numbers are skewed”, but says there must be a “better mechanism of reforming the system”.

At least 70 per cent of her MPhil and PhD students come from non-English-speaking backgrounds, many from reserved categories, she says.

“For the first six years or so of my years in JNU, I hardly had any students, now I am among those with a minus score (in excess of the UGC cap). When a student approaches you, hoping to specialise in your field, it’s hard to say no,” says Mahalakshmi, who did her MPhil and PhD from JNU and has taught for over 18 years here.

“Yesterday, when I took my MA class, I couldn’t look many of them in the eye. Some of them had joined JNU because they were focused on academics and now… It’s sad,” she says.

— Tomorrow: ‘How did they arrive at the numbers?’

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  1. S
    Sekhar
    Apr 13, 2017 at 11:25 pm
    If the JNU admissions policy, fee structure, Phd student intake limits, hostel rules and other facilities are more beneficial to students, the same should be extended to all universities starting with IITs, AIIMS, Central Universities and IISc. dt818
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    1. G
      Gsn Murthy
      Apr 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm
      JNU supporters always bring in sentiment against regulations .
      Reply
      1. S
        Susan Tappata
        Apr 12, 2017 at 6:56 pm
        For centuries the lower castes were oppressed. Just about when they are trying to a come out of the shackles of the social status and to become ertive, this happens.
        Reply
        1. S
          Santy
          Apr 12, 2017 at 5:15 pm
          Very good policy decision. Now there will less number of kanhaiyas's floating around
          Reply
          1. A
            Abhishek Kumar
            Apr 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm
            Sumit should crack ugc net and definitely will get admission in some other colleges.after all he studied ma from jnu dian express only promoting left ideology by justifying jnuta .Jnuta just select students on basis of their left ideology for different jnu programmes.vande mataram.Let ugc give a free and fair selection process to jnu.and helping in producing world cl research scholars.
            Reply
            1. N
              NK
              Apr 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm
              So sad, where will now they shout anti national slogan and protest again Yakub memon conviction
              Reply
              1. C
                carnama
                Apr 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm
                How to do protest. JNU should add one subject And their students would be best in the world. They do every thing except study. Carry on , Good step.
                Reply
                1. A
                  A villager
                  Apr 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm
                  What good news than this, good riddance. Sometime IE is giving positive news.
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    TheConquestor
                    Apr 12, 2017 at 1:01 pm
                    There is a Problem, may it be with UGC or Students, there is a Grave Problem somewhere. If we look closely almost many of the teachers in JNU are the P outs, I mean it dose not happen most of the time in other colleges. Well JNU isn't like other colleges is it! I don't think so. We should try to change their approach at looking things differently nothing to do with LEFT RIGHT OR CENTER just to do with a broad vision and a better understanding of situation, which their Professor and teachers have failed to teach them that.
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Shriram Mehendale
                      Apr 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm
                      In a setback for Congress Veerappa Moily backs EVMs, says no question of going back to manual methods Moily slammed the party's decision to join the chorus against EVMs, saying that amongst all countries, our electoral system is the best and for that the credit should go to the UPA and Congress. IE will never publish the above news because it is against its ethics of Free , fair and Just journalism. It is not Indian Express but it should be called Congres press.
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Sage
                        Apr 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm
                        Please stop Indian Express !!! Please !!!!! I am knee deep in tears !!! Ha ! Ha ! Thi wants to teach in Hisar? teach what ? The same slogans that Khalid and Kanhiya shouted? This swamp that is the JNU needs to be drained of communist filth. The sooner the better. It's unbelievable that the Indian Government has fed and sheltered this verminous lot at taxpayers expense for decades. The pervious Governments ere nurturing these snakes> Had they still been in power we would never have known the extent of the rot in JNU. Next on the list Jadavur and Hyderabad. Let Barkha, Rajdeep, Sagarika and other members of the communist loving brigade pay for his education. After all they have the money don't they?
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                        1. G
                          Guest4321
                          Apr 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm
                          I hope this ultimately leads to shutting down of the anti-national University.
                          Reply
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                            Arjun
                            Apr 12, 2017 at 11:12 am
                            If the story is true.I feel sorry for Sumeet. But he should Thank Kanhaiya and his gang of Marxist, for his present predicament.
                            Reply
                            1. P
                              Pradeep Phadke
                              Apr 12, 2017 at 10:52 am
                              At 26, this fellow is still doing his MA. Average students in average universities p MA/MCom or even BTech/MBBS by that age. He must be a real intellectual with no responsibility to his family (father cycles to market at age 73!) or nation.
                              Reply
                              1. M
                                Madhukar Nikam
                                Apr 12, 2017 at 10:50 am
                                Another one sided fake article.....
                                Reply
                                1. M
                                  MSB
                                  Apr 12, 2017 at 9:46 am
                                  I am Very happy. Excellent move by the NDA Govt. All leftists should go to china if they want to promote thugs in the name of research. All thugs now feel the heat. Govt. should not waste tax payers money.
                                  Reply
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                                    Rakesh Katyal
                                    Apr 12, 2017 at 9:30 am
                                    This is the problem , one who comes into JNU never wants to leave. Professors also don't want old students to make way for new ones. So Kanhaiyas and Khalids go on and on with taxpayers money. UGC guidelines are refreshing to ensure a turnover.
                                    Reply
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                                      RAKESH KUMAR
                                      Apr 12, 2017 at 9:25 am
                                      A story planted by leftists in history faculty in JNU. Actually, JNU should be restricted to biotech. and foreign languages departments. On other counts JNU is a white elephant and a drag on national exchequer. If the mentioned student is meritorious enough he should compete with others to get enrolled in MPhil/PHd course from other university of repute and can manage his livelihood by giving tution to students, a job thriving in Delhi. Actually, the sum provided to such students in JNU is lucrative and reason for mad rush in JNU. The 'worthy' Professor in History mentioned in the report should better adviced to concentrate on her profession seriously than playing politics.
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                                      1. M
                                        Mâññâyâdâv k%c3%bcshw%c3%a2h%c3%a2
                                        Apr 12, 2017 at 9:17 am
                                        I feel very happy when I read any such article.. JNU has lost all its re tion in the eyes of commoners... They eat our money and dream of "Bharat ke tukde". Let these uncles go to stan and study there. Keep posting such monoric articles.....We enjoy reading them...Each slash on JNUites is a welcome move
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                                          NS
                                          Apr 12, 2017 at 8:37 am
                                          Paid piece by Jnu s. ? For what these fi lth want phd? To chant bharat tere tukde honge? Good that the option for these s to waste tax payers money on anti national activities is being reduced..will be happy if this den of leftie cretins is closed asap
                                          Reply
                                          1. U
                                            Uday Yadav
                                            Apr 12, 2017 at 8:06 am
                                            Shut down this terror mill. I want NOT ONE RUPEE of my taxes to fund these free-loading anti-nationals.
                                            Reply
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