Around 4,500 ad hoc teachers of Delhi University, who comprise around 40% of the university’s teaching force, have been agitating since August over a circular by the university, which they saw as an attempt to hire them as guest teachers instead. After a call for a strike and boycott of examination duties by the university teachers’ association, thousands of teachers stormed the vice-chancellor’s office on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Ministry of Human Resource Development called for a meeting with the vice-chancellor in which it was decided to take certain steps to address teachers’ concerns.
What triggered the unrest?
It began when the university sent out a letter to all constituent colleges and departments on August 28, advising them to “fill up the permanent [teaching] vacancies at the earliest and till permanent appointments are made, Colleges may appoint guest faculty, if required, against new vacancies arising first time in academic session 2019-20”.
This resulted in confusion over what exactly these “new vacancies” were: new posts created in 2019-2020, or vacancies created with the of expiry of ad hoc teachers’ 120-day contracts last month, which were to be renewed by November 20. As a result, several colleges had not extended renewal of appointment of ad hoc teachers or released their salaries, and teachers have seen this as a move to do away with the ad hoc system and to move towards the less stable guest teacher system.
How far have the issues been addressed?
In Thursday’s meeting between senior UGC and ministry officials with the vice-chancellor, it was decided that the circular shall be amended to “The colleges/institutes shall fill up the permanent vacancies before the start of the next academic session without fail. During the interim period, if vacancies which have to be filled for maintaining smooth academic functioning of the colleges/institutions, adhoc/temporary/contract guest faculty can be appointed.” What this effectively does is put a cap of July 2020 to fill all permanent posts. It also means all ad hoc teachers who had served during the current academic year can continue until then.
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In the meeting, it was also decided to tweak norms for shortlisting candidates for interviews for assistant professor appointments to favour ad hoc teachers, by giving greater weightage to their work experience.
The teachers’ association, meanwhile, has said the strike and current boycott of duties for end-semester exams will continue.
Why are there so many ad hoc teachers in Delhi University?
A decade ago, the number of ad hoc teachers in Delhi University was estimated at just around 500, which has multiplied to the current 4,500, or 40% of the university’s strength. Several factors have led to this.
According to Rudrashish Chakraborty, teacher at Kirori Mal College and former Academic Council member, one reason was that between 2008 and 2013, almost 1500 teachers retired, creating vacancies. Second, in 2006, central universities were given additional teaching posts to adjust for the larger student intake on account of OBC reservation. Delhi University was given around 2,600 posts, of which around 1,300 were released in 2007. While the number of vacancies ballooned, the recruitment process for permanent teachers stalled, and university departments and colleges began to resort to ad hoc recruitment. Many teachers have been working in an ad hoc capacity for years, some for over eight years.
But why was recruitment of permanent teachers in stalled?
The recruitment system has changed several times, which has led to agitation, litigation and court stays. This happened in 2010 against the introduction of the Academic Performance Indication score system to screen candidates before interviews, and in 2013 against the introduction of a 200-point roster. Even when posts have been advertised, interviews have not been conducted. This has been due to a centralised, elaborate process, which has often got stuck because the university simply did not send panels of experts to colleges to interview the shortlisted candidates.
How is ad hoc hiring done?
According to the university’s guidelines, an ad hoc appointment may be made “In case there is a sudden, unexpected and short vacancy, arising out of sudden sickness or death, on medical grounds (including maternity leave), abrupt leave or any other situation that may disrupt the normal process of teaching learning…”
Every year in June and November, the university draws up an ad hoc panel of applicants, to be forwarded to colleges looking to recruit. The interviews in the colleges are held by a selection committee. An ad hoc teacher is paid on the same scale as a starting-level permanent teacher, coming to around Rs 80,000 per month in hand. However, this amount is not subject to annual increment. Those working for many years in an ad hoc capacity have only got dearness allowance hikes. They are appointed for a period of 120 days at a time, with rules and conditions specified for leave and vacation with salary, and possible placement and promotion. While most colleges have decided to renew appointments at the end of the 120-day period, some like Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences for Women hold interviews once a year, and some even after every 120-day period.
What is different for guest teachers?
The qualifications required are the same for ad hoc and guest teaching. However, while ad hoc teachers are appointed for 120-day periods and paid a monthly salary on the same scale as an entry-level professor, guest teachers are hired and paid per lecture. According to UGC guidelines, guest teachers are to be paid Rs 1,500 per lecture, and cannot be paid more than Rs 50,000. Moreover, teaching in the university effectively only happens for eight months a year, so guest teachers can only be employed and paid for those months. They are not entitled to leave and vacation with salary. The guidelines also state that “Guest faculty will not be treated like regular teachers for the purpose of voting rights for becoming the members of various statutory bodies of the university”.
Amid celebration, voices of caution: Let law prevail