This could well be the tip of an iceberg. More than 53% of all teaching faculty members in colleges affiliated to Thiruvalluvar University in Vellore district do not have even the minimum academic qualification required to be an assistant professor.
Out of 4,240 teaching staff, 2,270 had not even applied for approval of their appointments by the university, confirming the University Grants Commission’s worst fear that a large number of teaching faculty members at college-level are under-qualified. The damning data came to light after the Madras high court ordered a probe into the allegations levelled by retired professor I Elangovan in a PIL. Some other universities, though not covered by the PIL, may not be any better.
As per UGC Regulations, 2010 an assistant professor (formerly lecturer) shall have at least 55% per cent in postgraduate courses and must possess NET/SLET pass certificate or a PhD from a recognized university, said UGC’s counsel P R Gopinathan, clarifying that it was only the minimum requirement and that nothing stops colleges from recruiting candidate having better academic credentials.
In his PIL, Elangovan said that only about 25% of the 5,000 teaching staff coming under Thiruvalluvar University were qualified to become assistant professors. The university has 112 affiliated and approved colleges, six constituent colleges and seven PG and research departments, he said. His counsel S Sathia Chandran said UGC had not initiated any action despite a specific order of the court. It was pursuant to this order on July 9 that the UGC formed a five-member committee to go into the issue.
On Tuesday, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan expressed surprise at the presence of a large number of under-qualified staff, and asked if the PIL sought to close down the university. “If the pool of talent is too small how will you fill vacancies? What if you go without teachers,” they asked the UGC counsel. To this, Gopinathan said that in that case colleges concerned must write to the UGC, which could relax conditions or grant more time to comply with regulations.
Counsel for the university, however, said much of the violations in minimum qualification criterion were noticed only in self-financing colleges, and that the university had sent notices to all erring colleges and their principals. They are expected to send in their replies by September 14, he said. The judges, noting that the UGC should do further random study, posted the matter to November 26 for further proceedings.