New faultlines in JNU after deep cuts in research seats

The university will admit only 242 research scholars this year, an 82.81 per cent cut from the 1,408 seats for 2017-18 approved by the Academic Council

Written by Uma Vishnu | New Delhi | Updated: April 11, 2017 8:06 am

 

 JNU, Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU seat cuts, JNU research seats cut, UGC,  Mphil-PhD degree seat cuts, india news, delhi news, indian express Last year too, JNU was adjudged the winner of two of the three Visitor’s awards.

In October 2015, Purushothama Bilimale joined Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as head of the Kannada Studies chair and got to work straight away. Over the next year, the professor managed to get a grant of Rs 43 lakh from the Karnataka government, organised seminars and cultural programmes, set up a research library with around 12,000 books, prepared the MPhil curriculum and got it approved from the university. “My plan was to take three MPhil students this year, three next year and three the year after.”

But on March 21, when JNU released its e-prospectus, the professor at the Centre for Indian Languages at JNU’s School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, was shocked: zero seats for the programme. “Which means, I won’t have any students this year. I am blank. Why did I have to do all this? What am I even here for?”

With JNU implementing the 2016 UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD Degrees) Regulations, Bilimale’s story finds an echo across JNU’s 10 schools, whose brick-red structures house 42 centres or departments, and four special centres.

The Indian Express studied the minutes of the December 23, 2016 meeting of the JNU Academic Council, which approved the intake/proposed offers for admission to various programmes for 2017-18, and compared it with the e-prospectus released by JNU. The result: 31 of the centres in JNU’s 10 Schools and two of the special centres — Sanskrit Studies and Law and Governance — will have zero new students, that is, they will see no new MPhil/PhD admissions this year (the admission process closed on April 5). Many of these are exclusively research centres.

The university will admit only 242 research scholars this year, an 82.81 per cent cut from the 1,408 seats for 2017-18 approved by the Academic Council — it includes, among others, the Vice-Chancellor, deans of all schools and chairpersons of centres — and a 75 per cent drop from last year’s 970 seats.

Consider this:

1. Zero admission in the Centre for Historical Studies. An intellectual powerhouse for research and teaching in South Asian history and one of JNU’s oldest, it took 52 MPhil students last year. The School of Social Sciences, of which this centre is a part, has seen a 93.23 per cent seat cut — from 458 seats approved by the Academic Council to 31.

2. The School of International Studies will get 11 seats, down from the 283 seats approved by the AC — at 96.11 per cent, this centre has seen the deepest cut.

3. The School of Languages will see an 86.39 per cent cut — from 272 approved seats to 37.

4. The six schools and two special centres of science will get 146 seats against the 314 that had been approved — 53.5 per cent fewer seats.

For a university that’s arguably India’s best research university — and which on April 3 was ranked the second best university on the HRD Ministry’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), with research one of the key criteria for the award — that’s bad news. JNU watchers and several of its faculty say they worry that the seat cut will affect the university’s standing as a key contributor to India’s higher education staffing.

The JNU administration, however, says it’s only implementing the UGC regulation that puts a cap on the number of students a teacher can supervise: a professor cannot guide more than three MPhil and eight PhD scholars, an associate professor a maximum of two MPhil and six PhD scholars and an assistant professor not more than one MPhil and four PhD scholars. Besides, it says, teachers in JNU anyway exceeded the cap by a huge margin.

“In IIT Madras, which is the No.1 IIT in the country (NIRF rankings), there are 2,471 PhDs on campus and 600 faculty, which makes it an average of 4 student per teacher. IIT Kharagpur has an average of 3.3. It’s much higher in JNU — an average of 8.4. In fact, the distribution in JNU is skewed — there are some professors who supervise up to 25 students and some who would have none,” JNU Vice-Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar told The Indian Express, while insisting that “it is not a seat cut”.

“It’s a seat cut when the upper cap is 18 and we say we can only have, say, 10. How can I compare this year’s numbers (of seats offered) with last year’s, which were anyway irregular, and say there has been a seat cut? The university is simply following the 2016 UGC gazette. The 2009 gazette too mentioned upper caps, but JNU did not follow it. Therefore, when the 2016 gazette is implemented, since we already have excess students in many centres and schools, where is the question of seat cut?” he said.

On March 16, the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by JNU students against the UGC notification, saying the university will have to implement the UGC regulations “without any deviation”. Besides the seat cap, UGC regulations have made the entrance test for the MPhil/PhD programmes a “qualifying exam”, with candidates to be selected solely on the basis of the viva voce or the interview. Many teachers say they are apprehensive about the “subjectivity” that might come in with this, considering that a lot of JNU students are from backward regions of the country.

In a university that has since the sedition row of February 2016 seen a fractious relationship between a big section of the faculty, led by the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), and the students unions on one hand and the administration on the other, the new rules, especially the seat cap, have only deepened the divide.

“It’s ludicrous. As professor, I am paid Rs 1,40,000. For what? Makhi marne ke liye (to swat flies)? If we don’t have students to teach, who are we,” asks Ayesha Kidwai, who, as president of JNUTA, is among those leading the fight against the cuts.

In her room at the School of Languages, Kidwai says she has 11 students, of whom three will submit PhDs by July, three have written their synopsis and five will soon write theirs. “I would have taken three more MPhils but I will get none.” Anyway, she says, these numbers are “manageable” because students are usually at different levels. “For instance, in the first year (of MPhil), when a student is doing course work, she doesn’t bother me because there is no need for supervision. So I am free to supervise some other student, who, say, is in the second year. So you shouldn’t then be counting that first student against my name because I don’t have to spend much time with her.”

The V-C, however, says “nowhere in the world will you see a professor guiding 30 research scholars”. “Guiding research scholars requires giving individual attention and providing good facilities so that their output is of high quality. In lecture-based programmes such as BA or MA, it does not matter whether there are 10 students or 100. But in research, good mentoring can be provided only if the faculty member is handling a limited number of research scholars,” he said.

Kidwai disagrees. “Why should an assistant professor have only one student? If as a young assistant professor, Noam Chomsky had been allowed only one research scholar, the whole field of linguistic theory wouldn’t have existed today.”

Besides, teachers say, JNU’s new admission policy goes beyond even what the UGC regulations say. They say Clause 6.5 of the Regulations, which specifies the student-teacher ratio, doesn’t mention that it can be applied retrospectively — that is, the teachers say, the existing student load for a teacher should not have been counted when announcing the seats.

The V-C has a different take. “At any given time in the university, the number of MPhil and PhD students cannot exceed the upper cap fixed by UGC. When we say it is not applied retrospectively, it means that students, who have already been admitted in the university before the 2016 UGC rules are applied, have the option of continuing to work with their current supervisors. With more recruitments taking place, the number of students who can be admitted in MPhil and PhD programmes will increase. The system needs a couple of years to stabilise,” Kumar said in a written reply.

Kidwai is not convinced. “The aim is simply to lower standards in this country. I see no other aim. How can the V-C preside over the destruction of the university?” she says.

— (Tomorrow: ‘All I wanted was to do my PhD from JNU and teach’)

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First Published on: April 11, 2017 5:59 am
  1. K
    Kshitij
    Apr 12, 2017 at 11:34 am
    They deserve it Anti National people.
    Reply
    1. G
      George Cruz
      Apr 12, 2017 at 5:36 am
      The truth is that the JNU has failed to maintain its academic excellence for many years because it has admitted many who didn't qualify, who showed no interested in sincere studies, have spent decades in obtaining PhDs in worthless subjects, have wasted valuable university resources, and lately have committed anti-national activities in the name of democracy and individual freedom, and the government definitely needs a second look at the wasteful expenditure at the JNU.
      Reply
      1. D
        Devika
        Apr 11, 2017 at 9:11 pm
        It is appalling how so many commentators are totally ignorant of the functioning of a research university but hold the worst kind of double standards possible. The proof of a functioning government, bjp supporters often say, lies not in the at ude of the government towards Cons utional values but in its capacity to deliver development etc etc. That is how they justify Narendra modi's dictatorial regime, and despite the fact that the development he has delivered is to be found only in the words of a fawning media and the pockets of ambani and adani. Now by that logic jnu should have no trouble for whatever discussion happens there they produce India's bureaucracy, journalism, diplomacy, and both left and right intellectuals including bjp ministers ! But no, jnu is always blamed, which makes it clear that these commentators are a bunch of paid bjp trolls. The court cleared jnu of the antinational charge long back but they sing the same song!
        Reply
        1. S
          Sarma
          Apr 11, 2017 at 8:00 pm
          Reply to Sahil as the system is not accepting the capcha under reply: Sir, could you please tell me without rancour, why I and other taxpayers should foot the bill for what you seem to have in mind?
          Reply
          1. N
            Nirupam
            Apr 11, 2017 at 7:55 pm
            "“It’s ludicrous. As professor, I am paid Rs 1,40,000. For what? Makhi marne ke liye (to swat flies)? If we don’t have students to teach, who are we,” asks Ayesha Kidwai" Ayesha Kidwai has 5 PhD students under her supervision. Why couldn't she properly supervise and guide them instead of asking for more students?? A list here that ( : www.jnu.ac /Admission/SchoolwiseProg.pdf) shows that some of her colleagues are supervising 16 PhD students!!! Can they do justice to these students???
            Reply
            1. S
              SubbuI
              Apr 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm
              THE PRESENT RSS SPONSERD BJP GOVERNMENT IS TRYING FROM THE DAY ONE TO CLOSE JNU ON SOME PRETEX OR OTHER.THEY ARE KILLING THE UNIVERSITY WITH SLOW POISEN C DOSE AFTER DOSE. THE NAME OF UNIVERSITY AFTER GREAT JAWAHARLAL NEHRU IT SELF IS THE FIRST REASON FOR THEM.THE BEST STUDENTS WHO MADE INDIA PROUD AND ARE MAKING EVEN NOW ARE ALL ANTI NATIONALIST ASPER RSS.AND IN THIS RATE INDIA UNDER RSS IDEOLOGY IS THE END OF ROAD TO PROSPERITY
              Reply
              1. S
                shailendra
                Apr 11, 2017 at 5:16 pm
                better to close down this JNU, what the they did last year even staff is joined with students , shame to some of them ,sorry to say. I respect the scholars but when they join students & show the anti Indian colors how you can except the ins ute work with ethics
                Reply
                1. A
                  ak dev
                  Apr 11, 2017 at 5:28 pm
                  Yes, close JNU and reopen it with new staff.
                  Reply
                2. T
                  TP Chopra
                  Apr 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm
                  JNU needs to be transformed into a real university teaching students the evils of communism, Jihadism and Maoism. Instead it had been captured by the Mao & Jihad lovers. Probably shut it down first and than reopen it under a new name and new agenda. The people of India are fed up of paying for Deshdrohi teachers that create more Deshdrohi Pseudo-scholars.
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    Tutu420
                    Apr 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm
                    It's absurd how can a teacher guide so many PhD students. Nowhere in the world you will find such a scenario. It's good that JNU admin is implementing it.
                    Reply
                    1. T
                      TP Chopra
                      Apr 11, 2017 at 4:43 pm
                      JNU tere tukde honge insha alla insha alla. Aazadi aazadi...JNU se aazadi...Leke rahenge aazadi. Maowad se aazadi...Islamwad se aazadi....Jihadwad se aazadi.....JNU se aazadi.
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Syed Asif
                        Apr 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm
                        Sanskrit Studies and Law and Governance — will have zero new students Hypocrites at their best... HRD Highly Disgust
                        Reply
                        1. O
                          Onkar Singh
                          Apr 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm
                          Probably the right wing affiliates want to make JNU a place for the study of Nathuram Godse and his likes and we have a PM whose hands are soaked in blood of the people of Gujarat.May be this VC has started in this direction : with Najeeb gone missing,and like Nero he is fiddling.These seem to be a team of Godse-Model roles being introduced into the Ins utions of higher learning in the country.Another sample is embedded in FTII Pune!!
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            Abhishek Kumar
                            Apr 11, 2017 at 3:41 pm
                            Let meritorious students become scholars,not left goons on tax payers money.......
                            Reply
                            1. M
                              Mahipal Singh Rawat
                              Apr 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm
                              It is good. And these professors should be given option to get retire. This university is turning out to be an antinational university.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                Sarma
                                Apr 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm
                                Bravo!!! Now the UGC should ensure that the Tax Payer's money is not spent on anti social and anti national activity couched as academic activity. Independence in teaching and research must be in areas and subjects which can attract commercial finding - provided it is not from beyond the borders
                                Reply
                                1. H
                                  harun
                                  Apr 11, 2017 at 2:34 pm
                                  Dont know much about research cant say
                                  Reply
                                  1. J
                                    Jayakumar
                                    Apr 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm
                                    Please close the university and do yoeman service to the the country. This univ. has only caused more problems and is the power house of all the leftists and and antinational people of the counrty.
                                    Reply
                                    1. M
                                      Madhukar Nikam
                                      Apr 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm
                                      I don't understand any sense or logic reading this article, how come without entrance exam JNU was lifting people in its program? JNU gets govt grants it has to follow norms...how come each professor was overseeing 24 plus researchers ? this place requires clean up perhaps SC recognised it
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        ak
                                        Apr 11, 2017 at 1:35 pm
                                        Every day new drama, new politics in JNU. Shut down and save 1,40,000 Let the profs get a real job which adds value for a change
                                        Reply
                                        1. N
                                          Neelakantan Chandrasekaran
                                          Apr 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm
                                          Can someone - even IE explain why such Things happen only in JNU? Not one such news from IITs! I think even in IITs mostly Indians study!
                                          Reply
                                          1. n
                                            nagar.
                                            Apr 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm
                                            A welcome decision by the Center. Totally wind up such useless RESEARCH PROGRAMS & terminate all the faculty who become redundant. - Govt funds should be spent proactively in introducing Yoga, Meditation, Solar Energy Generation, Cow Based organic farming etc.
                                            Reply
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