New Delhi: Teachers and students across the country are concerned about the new guidelines for women’s studies centres issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
While the guidelines do not explicitly allude to the dissolution or reduction of paid positions for faculty, academics are suggesting that the implication is inherent.
This apprehension partly comes from the fact that previous guidelines spoke in detail about teaching and training in women’s studies centres, in addition to BA, MA, MPhil and PhD qualifications.
The new guidelines – contained in a slim document of 23 pages – do not address teaching and training and say almost nothing about the four degrees.
“Many women’s studies centres around the country were started because the UGC gave funding for the faculty and researchers. The UGC was supposed to keep funding the centres but the present guidelines are silent on this. Many faculty members who are dependent on the UGC for salaries can be affected,” says Mini Sukumar, head of the women’s studies department at the University of Calicut.
Firdous Azmat Siddiqui, an associate professor at Jamia Milia Islamia, who was part of recent talks with the UGC on the issue, says that the new guidelines are like a “suicide note” for scholars like her. “When we met with concerned authorities in the government, we were told that the provisioning for women’s studies centre has diminished so some staff positions would also be wound up,” she says.
In August 2017, a notice from the UGC’s secretary said there was no proposal to cut funding or support to women’s studies centres.
The previous guidelines laid out many details on how degrees from women’s studies centres can be administered.
For example, they said that a BA Honours dissertation could be 75 to 100 pages long, at the end of the course. They also said that women’s studies “needs to be introduced for science students as well”, along with a compulsory course examining human rights, globalisation and the environment from “women’s perspective”. MPhil and PhD programmes were also clearly described with aims and objectives.
They also referred to fellowships for research projects, doctoral fellowships and highlighted the different phases to go through to to start a department and build it to the level of an advanced centre.
While some universities and colleges themselves pay for and sustain women’s studies centres, many are dependent on the UGC for funding. If the UGC pulls this funding, it could mean the end for many of these centres, their faculty and students.
Impact on women’s studies centres
The new guidelines may mean a “drastic cut in annual fund allocation”, ranging between Rs 12.5 lakh to Rs 40 lakh depending on the type of centre, according to a memorandum submitted to the UGC by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies.
Earlier guidelines had allocated between Rs 47.5 lakh to Rs 75 lakh per annum to centres, depending on how advanced they were.
In the new guidelines, “They have been given a flat figure. Most centres are already in higher phases. By giving this flat figure, these centres are also facing a cut. There will simply not be the budget to pay salaries of those already appointed,” says Indrani Mazumdar, ex officio member of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies.
The current guidelines say that two project officers, four non-teaching staff and a professor-director are all to be paid out of Rs 1.3 lakh per month.
This evaporation of funds can have at least three implications:
Firstly, the current budgetary allocations for women’s studies centre by the UGC in the new guidelines will not be able to pay for staff already hired in various universities and colleges. They may lose their jobs.
Secondly, the tight budget also means that scholars currently pursuing women’s studies will not be able to vie for teaching and research positions that were previously being funded by the UGC.
Finally, MA, MPhil and PhD students may suddenly be left without professors and guides in the middle of their courses.
The Wire has emailed the UGC with queries on this matter and will update the story when a response is received.