Mumbai: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to continue all its existing schemes for another year. This decision was conveyed to the various educational institutions on Wednesday, ending the suspense over the funding of several centres across the country. This includes centres in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai and elsewhere, whose faculty had been earlier informed that they would no longer have jobs after March 31, the last date for the UGC’s decision.
Though no official reaction was available about whether the faculty members would now not lose their jobs, one of them said that this implied the notices would be withdrawn. The teachers from TISS who had been told, in writing, that their jobs may no longer be required from March 31, are from the Centre of Excellence for Human Rights Education, School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance, Centre for Advance Studies for Women and Centre for Inclusion and Exclusion.
Normally, these centres are given a five-year extension at any one time, but fears had spread that the UGC would not extend their tenure. Scores of students had expressed worries about their research projects at these centres.
A professor, who was among those who got the letter, had told The Wire that many of those who got the letters had been trying to form a teachers’ association for the past six months, a move that had angered the TISS establishment. He said the TISS establishment had pre-empted the UGCs decision and needlessly agitated faculty members by issuing letters.
TISS has around 5,000 students and almost 250 faculty members. There are two kinds of positions – 90% are funded by the central government and 10% by the Tata Trusts. In its 77 years of existence, it has not ever had a teachers association, till very recently.
The TISS management has also been worried about the central government’s reaction to any protest activities on the campus. “What happened in JNU and DU really scared them – just recently the director had sent an open letter to students not to get involved in JNU type student politics,” the professor said.
The extension by a year does not fully resolve the issues around the centres, placed in universities in different parts the country. There are 60 or so such centres in different universities – extending them by just a year implies their future is still not secure.