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Amid protests against V-C, JNU passes contentious rules for MPhil/PhD students

Praneta Jha | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:47 IST

As protests by students and teachers rage on in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) against 'arbitrary' decisions taken by Vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar, the Executive Council (EC) of the university on 3 January passed a contentious UGC notification that changes the MPhil/PhD admission rules to make oral interviews the sole criteria for selection.

According to the notification, issued on 5 May by the University Grants Commission (UGC), written exams are to be treated as merely "qualifying" exams while oral interviews or "viva voce" will be given 100% weightage in admission of research candidates.

So far, the weightage in JNU was 70% for written exams and 30% for oral exams.

Issues with viva weightage

Students have alleged social discrimination in the viva voce, especially against those from marginalised backgrounds. For the past few years, they have been demanding that the weightage to the viva voce be reduced.

In fact, a Viva Committee had recommended reduction of viva weightage from 30% to 15% in its meeting on 4 November, as the under-performance of SC/ST candidates in viva over the years was found to be statistically significant.

But during a controversial Academic Council (AC) meeting on 26 December, the adoption of the UGC notification was approved. The final approval was awaited from the EC.

Lack of debate

After the AC meeting, teachers had alleged that the vice chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar had passed agenda items - including this UGC notification - without allowing any discussion among the AC members.

Eleven students from Dalit-Bahujan backgrounds were suspended for protesting against the UGC notification as they entered the AC meeting venue shouting slogans after the meeting was over.

On 3 January, a large number of students stood protesting and shouting slogans outside the administrative block, inside which the EC meeting lasted for more than five hours. There are no student representatives in the EC.

11 students have been suspended for protesting against the UGC notification

A high-level university official said, "The meeting was successful and all agenda items were passed peacefully, including the UGC notification. Some students had gathered outside protesting, but they misunderstand the UGC notification. This is a gazette notification, which means it is mandatory. No statutory body can amend it. Universities do not have a choice but to adopt it."

He said the only option available in this regard was to approach the UGC itself.

"If there are concerns regarding the MPhil/PhD admissions, we can only go to the UGC and make our representation."

Protests continue unabated

As the meeting got over and word spread that the UGC notification had been passed, the students continued their protest. As of the night of 3 January, the JNU Students' Union gave a call to students and teachers to publicly burn the UGC circular the same night.

JNUSU president Mohit Pandey told Catch, "Despite the huge ongoing protests by the JNU community, the EC passed the 5 May UGC circular. It is obvious the VC has once again bulldozed it, despite calls by teachers and students against it. But we will keep fighting. We are going to publicly burn this circular. We are not going to accept this dictatorship."

Pandey wrote on Facebook, "... Join the burning of circular at Sabarmati Dhabha, tonight at 9 pm. #JNUVCmustGO".

Edited by Aleesha Matharu

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First published: 3 January 2017, 11:30 IST