Vacancy Crisis: MHRD mulls over diluting Eligibility Criteria for Teaching Posts in University

Committee under Arun Nigavekar to examine the PhD-NET qualification norms for entry posts in central varsities and suggest ways to attract, retain talented and quality manpower

A large number of faculty vacancies across central universities and other higher education institutions has forced the ministry of human resources to review the eligibility criteria — PhD and NET — laid down for the appointment of teachers.

A six-member committee under the chairmanship of ace academician Dr Arun Nigavekar has been constituted for evaluation of qualifications, such as having a PhD and qualifying the National Eligibility Test, for appointment of professors, and accordingly suggest a policy for selection.

The committee’s mandate is to examine all issues related to attracting and retaining talented manpower in teaching. It has been directed to submit recommendations within two months. The committee will also review the Academic Performance Indicators (API) criteria introduced a few years ago to assess the eligibility of teachers at the time of appointment and even for promotions.

The committee will also study the problems and issues related to ad hoc and contractual appointments, currently marred by irregularities, with allegations of appointment of under-qualified people as teachers on skewed salaries.

The revised norms may eventually be applicable to UGC-funded state universities as well, said an official.

“The vacancies in centrally-funded higher education institutions is a matter of concern as these universities and colleges have to play the role of pace-setting institutions in their area of operation. The central government, therefore, in larger public interest… constitutes a committee…,” reads the MHRD notification dated July 24.

Over 35% teachers’ posts, including ad hoc and part-time teachers in universities and other institutions (IITs, IIMs and NITs) have been lying vacant for years and authorities have failed to fill them up for want of eligible candidates. Because teaching, as a profession, has lost sheen over the years, many institutions fail to find enough eligible candidates even after advertising the posts, leading to a debate in academic circles about the veracity of norms in changed scenario.

Lack of adequate teachers not only affects the overall quality of education in any institution, but also leads to pressure on students and existing teachers, say academicians. “Certain subjects are not taught at all because of lack of specialist faculty. Also, existing teachers get additional work as they are asked to cover the course many times,” said a JNU professor.

While the MHRD officials insist that the move aims to bring in talented people from the industry and other sectors into academia who have better domain knowledge than mere degrees, academicians’ views are divided over the possibility of dilution of eligibility norms.

Professor of politics at Mumbai university Uttara Sahastrabuddhe said, “It’s high time the government did away with the NET and the API. The standard of NET has anyway gone down since the introduction of MCQ-based exam pattern. Such tests can never judge the teaching ability and skills of candidates.”

She also called the API a “mockery” of the system. “The quantification of research work has led to some unhealthy trend across universities. People are publishing fake/plagiarised papers in unknown journals, organising fake ‘national’ seminars, and giving away certificates to those who don’t even attend it, just to earn scores for promotion,” she added.

A JNU professor condemned the move. “The BJP government has already appointed several non-qualified people in various positions. It is unable to understand that lowering the standards for teachers’ selection would lead to a drastic decline in the quality of higher education in the country.”

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