Teacher-job rules hit PhD holders' chances

Apex court upholds UGC’s 2009 order, Centre unlikely to seek review

The human resource development ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC) are unlikely to seek review of a Supreme Court judgment validating a contentious UGC decision that debars a large number of PhD holders from teaching jobs.

At a meeting of the UGC last week, the matter came up for discussion. Two members of the commission said the representative of the HRD ministry and the UGC officials gave the impression that they may not seek any review of the court decision.

On March 16, the apex court upheld the UGC’s regulations of 2009 on minimum qualification for appointment of teachers in colleges and universities. According to the regulations, the eligibility for assistant professor in a college or a university is the National Eligibility Test or the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) qualifications. However, a candidate who has a PhD that complies with the UGC’s PhD norms of 2009 would be eligible for the post even if he has not cleared NET or SLET.

The UGC had in 2009 provided for admission through entrance test and course work before working on the thesis. It also laid down that a teacher cannot guide more than eight PhD students and five MPhil students at any point in time. Before this, every university had its own PhD regulations.

The 2009 order threatened the careers of thousands of existing PhD holders who had not cleared NET/SLET. After protests, the UGC last year decided to amend its regulations to grant an exemption to the pre-2009 PhD holders. It sent the amended regulations to the HRD ministry, which has not yet granted approval.

Ruling in a case filed by a few PhD holders, the apex court held that the HRD ministry and UGC are the highest policy makers and their norms must be followed.

Since no assessment has been done to ascertain if any universities were following the UGC’s 2009 norms for PhDs, it is not clear which of the pre-2009 PhD holders can be granted exemption from NET/SLET. The confusion is affecting the prospects of many aspiring teachers, including those who had earned their doctorates from universities that followed rigorous norms.

After serving as ad hoc faculty in Dyal Singh College under Delhi University for seven years, Manoj Singh was selected as assistant professor in March but his appointment has now been put on hold.

The college has sought clarification from the varsity whether it can appoint him since he does not have NET/SLET qualification. The university has not replied because there is no clarity on the issue yet.

“I have done PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). But the college is not allowing me to join as a regular teacher after selecting me,” Singh said.

Out of nine candidates selected, seven have been allowed to join in this college because they had qualified NET/SLET.

College principal I.S. Bakshi could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls to his mobile phone.

At last week’s meeting, the UGC members brought up the plight of the pre-2009 PhD holders.

“The UGC and government officials said that they would respect the Supreme Court direction,” a member said.

Another member said the HRD ministry was not approving the amendments to the regulations on the ground that many universities have started implementing the UGC regulations. Any change would add confusion and dilute quality, he said.

Teachers’ organisations feel the regulations should be amended since they cannot be implemented retrospectively. All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations general secretary Ahok Barman said the government must file a review petition. “You cannot implement a policy retrospectively. It is a big blow to thousands of PhD holders who want to become teachers,” Barman said.

Former Madras University vice-chancellor S.P. Thyagarajan, who headed a committee that prepared the 2009 regulations on PhDs, hailed the Supreme Court ruling.

“Personally, I support the court order. There has to be some quality control in teacher appointment. All PhDs should not be treated equivalent to NET,” he said.

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