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Is UGC ‘NETting’ Students Careers?

It’s an old saying that ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat it for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for his life’. University Grants Commission (UGC) conducts NET or National Eligibility Test twice a year for lectureship eligibility. But for past many years something fishy is going about its results declaration schedule. The declaration of December 2010 NET results is still caught in UGC’s meshwork post mid-May in the running 2011. Almost half a year gone, UGC remains in the troubled waters without a catch. The Consequence? Students are left to feel like a fish out of water. UGC’s laziness about NET, far from teaching students ‘how to fish’ is NETting their crucial moments of career for a certain death.

SIO as a national organisation, and working in India for the last 30 years, has always braved such challenges head-on. UGC officials were alarmed on May 27 when SIO leaders and cadre broke their result-related slumber by protesting at its central office for no less than two hours in New Delhi. This was the first protest of its kind against UGC by some students’ organisation.

OUR FOCUS AREAS

SIO is an ideological organisation besides being a national level Students organisation. Logically, the focal area of activism is students, education and educational institutions. We have tried and contributed a lot to the betterment of Indian Educational system, including policymaking, policy implementation and critical evaluation of government educational activities. We also have our own concepts, philosophy, methodology and orientation to education, evaluation of the Indian Educational system and possibilities within it as a whole.

Secondly, we have a separate study and research wing especially for developing educational policies and issues in the national youth interest, both at the state and central level called Education Strategy Cell. They are studying and contributing to the positive developments within education system, as well as ensuring students’ participation. SIO studies and submits the educational packages, formulae, suggestions and recommendations to the central and various state governments, universities, educational bodies, educational activists. SIO’s contribution to Lingdo Commission Report, National Knowledge Commission, Central Minority Scholarship, University Reforms, and Educational Reforms, etc. can be boldly mentioned here.

The third part is about our ‘struggle’. We conduct campaigns, protest if needed and raise student community’s demands before government and educational authorities for handling and solving their problems.

REASONS FOR PROTEST

UGC has over the time changed its date of announcement of the last year’s NET results. From the month of April came the second week of May and now the ‘Second Half’ of May. The complete ‘uncertainty’ over the date is unacceptable. It is ‘choking’.

Even before the previous results were announced the commission came up with the applications for the next examination schedule. The students who took the previous examination and were not sure of results, were left to spend money for the same application and go through the entire process once more.

Before announcing the last results, UGC declared the last date of fresh applications as 02.05.2011. Its announcements read: “Applications received after the last date (i.e. 02.05.2011) at the test centre will not be accepted.”

With such high exam fees and mechanism of ‘double collection’ UGC no more remains a grant giving organisation, it has become a revenue collecting body itself.

The above aspect poses great danger and therefore needs highest attention. Is Education a Business? A trade? A product?

For countless students across the country, NET is the hope of their career and necessary for their ‘appointment’ as lecturers. Many state universities had issued vacancies; the delay on the part of UGC caused great difficulties for students, amounting to injustice and cruelty.

The confusion between NET/PhD as Eligibility Criteria is a ‘historic’ problem that UGC has not yet assured to have finalised. The need of a clear-cut decision/regulation has been denied for too long.

SIO demands each of these issues be immediately taken up and satisfactorily solved to avoid further nuisance to students, escalation of academic problems and more difficulties of career before the student community.

ABOUT THE N E T

One must know what the UGC itself has to say about NET. The following information is available about NET on the UGC website: The National Educational Testing Bureau of University Grants Commission (UGC) conducts National Eligibility Test (NET) to determine eligibility for lectureship and for award of Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) for Indian nationals in order to ensure minimum standards for the entrants in the teaching profession and research. The Test is conducted in Humanities (including languages), Social Sciences, Forensic Science, Environmental Sciences, Computer Science and Applications and Electronic Science. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) conducts the UGC-CSIR NET for other Science subjects, namely, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Mathematical Sciences and Earth Atmospheric Ocean & Planetary Sciences jointly with the UGC.

The tests are conducted twice in a year generally in the months of June and December. For candidates who desire to pursue research, the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) is available for five years subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. UGC has allocated a number of fellowships to the universities for the candidates who qualify the test for JRF. The JRFs are awarded to the meritorious candidates from among the candidates qualifying for eligibility for lectureship in the NET. The test for Junior Research Fellowship is being conducted since 1984.

SCOPE OF NET ELIGIBILITY

Clearing of NET confers eligibility for lectureship upon Indian nationals, i.e. the NET qualified candidates are eligible to apply for the post of lecturer in all Indian universities/institutes/colleges.

The candidates who qualify the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) Examination of UGC/CSIR NET are also eligible for the post of lectureship. In addition they are also eligible to receive Fellowships (UGC/CSIR) under various schemes subject to the candidates finding their placement in the universities/IITs/other national organisations.

NET SCHEDULE

UGC conducts NET twice a year, i.e., in the months of June and December. The notifications announcing the June and December examinations are published in the months of March and September respectively in the weekly journal of nationwide circulation, viz. Employment News.

NET RESULTS DECLARATION SCHEDULE

The result of June, UGC-NET is declared generally in the month of October. Similarly December, UGC-NET result is usually declared in the month of April. The UGC-NET results published in the Employment News are also available on UGC website.

NO OPTION BUT TO PROTEST?

It is NOT just this last paragraph of UGC’s own rules which it is violating that has angered the student community all over India. As has been mentioned earlier, the problem areas are many and each of them is immense. But for the cold response relating to results this time is beyond all limits of tolerance. It’s almost over two months that students have waited for the result, have contacted the UGC authorities at various times through phone calls and through various other communication means. Not finding a positive attitude we even conducted online campaigns for this issue, but in vain. UGC couldn’t declare the exact date of announcing result.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF UGC FORMATION

The first attempt to formulate a national system of education in India came in 1944, with the Report of the Central Advisory Board of Education on Post War Educational Development in India, also known as the Sargeant Report. It recommended the formation of a University Grants Committee, which was formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. In 1947, the Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.

Soon after Independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of Dr. S Radhakrishnan “to report on Indian university education and suggest improvements and extensions that might be desirable to suit the present and future needs and aspirations of the country”. In 1952, the Union Government decided that all cases pertaining to the allocation of grants-in-aid from public funds to the Central Universities and other Universities and Institutions of higher learning might be referred to the University Grants Commission. Consequently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) was formally inaugurated by late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Minister of Education, Natural Resources and Scientific Research on 28 December 1953.

The UGC, however, was formally established only in November 1956 as a statutory body of the Government of India through an Act of Parliament for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education in India. The head office of the UGC is located in New Delhi. In order to ensure effective region-wise coverage throughout the country, the UGC has decentralised its operations by setting up six regional centres at Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore.

UGC MANDATE

The UGC has the unique distinction of being the only grant-giving agency in the country which has been vested with two responsibilities: that of providing funds and that of coordination, determination and maintenance of standards in institutions of higher education.

UGC’s mandate includes:

Promoting and coordinating university education.

Determining and maintaining standards of teaching, examination and research in universities.

Framing regulations on minimum standards of education.

Monitoring developments in the field of collegiate and university education; disbursing grants to the universities and colleges.

Serving as a vital link between the Union and state governments and institutions of higher learning.

Advising the Central and State governments on the measures necessary for improvement of university education.

Is UGC ‘ELIGIBLE’ enough to declare the National ‘ELIGIBILTY’ Test (NET) result on time?

Knowing Historical background of necessity, role and duties of UGC and its present difficulty, difficulty even to declare its results on time, raises a fundamental question: “Is UGC eligible”? SIO warned – as a national organisation, that if a specific date has not been confirmed for the declaration of results then SIO will start national level protest campaigns. Of course UGC’s inability as a national body responsible for “framing regulations on minimum standards of education” and testing the eligibility of students of higher learning, become a joke if it becomes helpless in keeping things well in time.

SIO BRINGS VICTORY TO INDIAN STUDENT COMMUNITY

The end result of SIO’s struggle was a victory to Indian student community. SIO delegation met Dr. N.A. Kazmi, Secretary, UGC and Dr. Surender Singh, Deputy Secretary (NET), UGC after the UGC office march and protest dharna on 27th May. SIO has also submitted a memorandum to the Chairman, UGC and Minister of Human Resource Development (HRD). University Grants Commission (UGC) has ensured the delegation that the UGC NET December 2010 results will be declared on or before 13 June 2011 and the students qualifying the same but have applied for the forthcoming NET in June 2011 will be refunded the fees. If the UGC fails to comply with their promise then SIO will lead the students’ community to launch a nationwide protest against the UGC. It is astonishing to note the irresponsible behaviour of the UGC Chairman who is currently out of country as per information from UGC office and the saggy attitude of the staff with regard to the declaration of the results. It is for the first time in the history of UGC that the commission will be refunding any money to the students that they’ve collected in the form of fees.

This is not the first time that SIO has taken up a student problem and pursued it till it has been solved. SIO will continue in future with its consistent efforts for the betterment of student community across the nation.

[The writer is Secretary General, SIO of India. He can be contacted at twitter.com/pmsali]

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