NET Now Mandatory for Scheduled Caste Students to Avail Research Scholarship

The new guidelines – expected to impact about 2,000 students – have been criticised for being unjust and a move to exclude Dalit students from higher education.

New Delhi: New government guidelines say that Scheduled Caste (SC) students will also need to clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) in order to apply for MPhil and PhD funding.

NET was not previously required for SC students and this change could potentially make it harder for marginalised students to access a special scholarship, which was in fact earmarked only for SC students.

So far, SC students needed to pass their postgraduate exams and submit a research proposal to apply for MPhil or PhD funding, The Telegraph reported.

Earlier eligibility criteria for National Fellowship for Scheduled Caste Students. Credit: Screenshot from UGC website

BJP parliamentarian and chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations Udit Raj condemned the change. “The new guidelines are unjust and a move to exclude Dalit students from higher education,” he said.

The guidelines were sent with a letter from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to the University Grants Commission (UGC) on October, 11 2018 and are actually with effect from April 2018.

The new guidelines.

New guidelines to impact at least 2,000 scholars

“Only NET/UGC-CSIR joint tests qualified candidates are eligible to apply (for fellowship) under this scheme,” say the guidelines issued.

This will impact 2,000 SC scholars: 1,500 in the humanities and social sciences stream, and 500 in the science stream.

These 2,000 slots are separate from the reserved seats for SC students in the general fellowships of the UGC.

The Telegraph reports that around five lakh applicants take the NET every year and about 30,000 clear it.

Students who are awarded the JRF get funded for the first two years of their degree. Scholars receive Rs 25,000 per month for the first two years, which is then increased to Rs 28,000 if the scholars are successful in the next cycle of funding.

The UGC is also expected to develop a mechanism for “verifying the genuineness of the SC certificates” to eliminate the possibility of students applying for the fellowship on “fake certificates”.

SC students who clear the NET-Junior Research Fellowship will not be eligible for any other benefits from similar schemes handled by the UGC.

The fellowship has been offered by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment since 2005. It is given to scheduled caste students who want to pursue their MPhil or PhD in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, engineering or technology streams at Indian universities.

While this ministry has issued the change in guidelines, the UGC – the nodal agency – will decide the procedure and guidelines for actually implementing the scheme.

The document says, “UGC will be responsible for conducting NET/UGC-CSIR joint tests for 2,000 SC students.” UGC will also do the advertisements and invite online applications. The selections of the UGC are not open to appeal.