UGC's working hours norm has teachers all riled up. Here's why
Update on 27 May 2016:
Responding to the outcry caused by the recent guidelines released by the University Grants Commission (UGC) that extended direct teaching working hours from - from 16 hours a week to 24 hours for permanent faculty, and from 14 hours to 22 for adjunct faculty, the Ministry of HRD has issued a notification amending the UGC notification.
Direct teaching hours have been reduced back from 24 to 16 for permanent faculty and from 22 to 14 for adjunct faculty as per the previous 2010 UGC notification.
While this has brought relief to some extent, member of the Executive Council of the Delhi University Teachers Association Abha Dev Habib finds the notification lacking in clarity.
"The course structure as per the UGC notification has not changed. Tutorials , that form a major part of the curriculum, are left out of the ambit of direct-teaching hours. This would undermine its importance. The MHRD notification has failed to address this," she says.
Abha also points to the fact that under the UGC notification, practical classes have also been given less significance, which could be detrimental for a lot of course studies. "Under the UGC notification, two practical class hours have been regarded as one. The MHRD notification does not address this issue," she says.
Abha emphasises that direct teaching hours are what counts, as it decided the hiring process as well as the funding required for the University.
The total working hours for a teacher per week, of the total 180 teaching days, is 40 hours which include, apart from direct teaching hours, tutorials,remedial classes,seminars etc.
Under the Annual Budget for 2016-2017, the Finance Ministry had announced a staggering 55% budget cut allotted to the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Earlier this month, the University Grants Commission, the higher education regulator, issued a fresh set of guidelines for teachers in recognised colleges and universities.
The guidelines caused an outcry, particularly the one extending the working hours - from 16 hours a week to 24 hours for permanent faculty and from 14 hours to 22 for adjunct faculty. This doesn't include the hours the teachers put in administrative tasks such as grading papers.
Colleges and universities hire teachers on the basis of teaching hours required for a specific course or department. So, if the working hours for every teacher are extended, the requirement for teachers would naturally decrease.
"This will adversely affect 4,000 ad hoc teachers out of the total 10,000 (permanent plus ad hoc) teachers in the university," said Abha Dev Habib, Member, Executive Council, Delhi University Teachers Association, which is leading the protest against the move.
Across the country, the guidelines are expected to affect nearly 200,000 teachers.
DUTA, Habib said, has "taken the matter seriously" and, as a mark of protest, boycotted the evaluations of second, fourth and sixth semester undergraduate papers on 24 May. "There was 100% compliance among all teachers," added another DUTA member Nandita Narain.
Narain claimed the guidelines "will impede admission prospects for many aspiring teachers". "It will mean an increase in retrenchment as the demand for teachers will reduce drastically. The student teacher ratio will be affected. The chances of PhD and M.Phil students seeking teaching job will be hurt," she said.
In a separate statement, DUTA said, "Tutorials have been made optional and practicals devalued by counting one hour for every two. This will drastically reduce individual attention that students can get and will lead to a significant lowering of standards."
"Increase in working hours means a reduction in the quality of teaching as well as the time dedicated to research activities," added Habib. "There will also be a reduction in further appointments and promotions."
Slamming the UGC for issuing the fresh guidelines without consulting the teachers, Habib said, "The present government doesn't believe in dialogue."
In a press conference on 24 May, the UGC had said the guidelines "should not be a matter of concern" as they were recommendations, not regulations.
"This is bizarre. Even if they are recommendations, universities funded by the UGC would be affected. Either way, DUTA will demand withdrawal of working hour guidelines," said Habib.
Seeking to widen their protest, representatives of DUTA will meet with the All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations and the Federation of Central Universities Teachers Associations "to decide the further course of action for demanding withdrawal or modification of these guidelines".