UGC Decision Could Reduce Reservations for SC, ST and OBC Teachers at Universities

Instead of calculating the number of reserved seats based on the total number of faculty members at a university, the UGC wants the calculation to be department-wise.

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has reportedly yet again made a controversial decision on faculty reservations that could reduce the number of SC, ST and OBC teaching positions. This decision is now waiting for “concurrence” from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, Indian Express reported.

Reservations for SC, ST and OBC teachers should be calculated department-wise and not based on the aggregate posts in a university, the UGC has decided. Indian Express quoted former secretary to the central government P.S. Krishnan, an expert on the subject, as saying that this change would reduce the number of seats reserved for marginalised candidates.

The UGC’s decision is based on an Allahabad high court order from this April. In the course of hearing a case on teachers’ recruitment at Banaras Hindu University, the court said that each department, rather than the whole university, should be treated as the “unit” on which reservations are based. The court was unhappy with the UGC’s policy of implementing reservations in a “blanket manner”. “If the University is taken as a ‘Unit’ for every level of teaching and applying the roster, it could result in some departments/subjects having all reserved candidates and some having only unreserved candidates. Such a proposition again would be discriminatory and unreasonable. This again would be violative of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution,” Indian Express quoted the high court order as saying.

According to official data quoted by the newspaper, there are 17,106 teaching positions at 41 UGC-funded central universities. As of April 1, 5,997 of these were vacant. If the human resource development ministry accepts the changes the UGC has decided on, the new policy will affect all future recruitment drives.

How exactly will things change? “Take professors, for instance. There are fewer professors in a department compared to assistant professors. If a department has only one professor, there can be no reserved posts there as reservation cannot be applied in case of a single post. But if all posts of professors across different departments are clubbed together, then naturally there is a better chance of positions being set aside for SC, ST and OBC,” Krishnan, who has been working on SC/ST-related issues for decades, told Indian Express. “If our goal is to strengthen India by giving opportunities to persons belonging to the submerged populations, who have become qualified, then we should interpret rules or make rules to enable them to come in due numbers. If our aim is to weaken India then we can interpret rules in a manner which defeats the goal of reservation.”

Meanwhile, how accessible universities are to marginalised students also continues to be an issue of contention in institutions of higher education. An earlier UGC directive this year, capping the number of research students a faculty member can supervise – at both the MPhil and PhD levels – has led to massive seat cuts at various universities. Fifteen students at Jawaharlal Nehru University who were recently protesting this seat cut have now been held guilty of indiscipline. The students had petitioned the JNU VC M. Jagadesh Kumar for redressal in February this year. Refusing to budge, a  proctoral committee has now said that the students, many of whom are from marginalised communities, were “unauthorisedly” sitting in the committee room while waiting for the VC, Telegraph reported. The students were also protesting against the 100% weightage that will now be given to interviews for research student admissions, saying that students from marginalised communities often fare worse during interviews and are discriminated against.