(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 08, 2009
MHRD NOTIFICATION ON UGC SCALES
THE notification of the ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) issued on December 31, 2008 on revision of UGC pay scales for teachers in universities and colleges across the country has brought into sharp focus the dichotomy between the rhetoric of inclusion and the practice of exclusion, which is the trade mark of UPA’s approach to reforms in education. The notification has created a mirage of inclusiveness, while promoting divisive practices in state funded universities and colleges, as compared with centrally funded institutions, raising serious questions about the practice of federalism in higher education. While projecting an appearance of implementing competitive scales for attracting and retaining talent in the teaching profession, the notification, which does not provide any incentive for the appointment of regular teachers in state universities and colleges, would result in de-facto contractualisation of teaching in a large majority of institutions. The provisions which seek to ensure accountability of the administration and of the individual teacher actually create hurdles in the expansion of access and improvement of quality. The attempt is to practice exclusion and elitism by default, while keeping up a façade of inclusion. In doing this, MHRD has substantially deviated from the recommendations of Chadha Committee, constituted by it to make recommendations on the revision of salary and service conditions of university and college teachers.
COMPROMISE ON INCLUSION
While Chadha committee had recommended 1oo per cent central assistance for the first five years and 50 per cent for the next five for the implementation of its recommendations in state universities and colleges, MHRD has reduced the assistance to 80 per cent and limited the period of assistance to four years and three months. There was sufficient rationale for the recommendations of Chadha committee. Higher Education is placed in the concurrent list, implying sharing of powers and responsibilities between the centre and states, with the balance of power and responsibility tilted in favour of the centre. Maintenance of standards in higher education is the statutory responsibility of UGC, which is a central agency. The scheme of UGC scales of pay is being implemented with the objective of ensuring uniform standards in higher education through out the country. The past experience of the implementation of UGC scales in several states has been most disappointing. Many states have failed to implement the scheme in toto, mainly because adequate financial support has not been extended by the centre for the implementation of the revised scales.
As a matter of fact, even the 80 per cent central assistance is a mirage. The assistance is only available to posts existing and filled up as on January 1, 2006. Chadha committee has estimated that about 45 per cent of the posts are lying vacant. Central assistance will not be available to such posts, even when they are filled up. Central assistance will not also be available for new posts created after January 1, 2006.The assistance available for existing and filled up posts as on January 1, 2006 will be limited to four years and three months. This means that the effective central assistance is less than 20 per cent of the additional expenditure for the implementation of the pay scales over a period of ten years. The share of the central government in the actual salary commitment in respect of state university/college teachers is less. It works out to only about 8 per cent over the next ten years. The lion’s share of 92 per cent will have to be incurred by the states. This is especially so in respect of states which are taking steps to fill up existing vacancies and create new posts , in accordance with the guidelines issued by MHRD and UGC for the implementation of the XI Plan scheme for increasing access to and quality of higher education.
The meagre central assistance for attracting and retaining talented teachers in higher education is not in conformity with the vision of XI Plan, which has repeatedly been called an “Education Plan” by the prime minister. The motto of the XI Plan is “inclusive development” in and through higher education. A mere continuation of failed policies and practices in respect of central assistance for the implementation of UGC scales in the past will not do for an “Education Plan” and an “Inclusive Plan”. The recommendations of Chadha committee are moderate, considering the importance attached to quantitative and qualitative improvement of higher education in the XI Plan. Even central assistance at 100 per cent of the additional commitment for the implementation of the new scales will only amount to the government of India sharing 25 per cent of the total salary commitment of teachers in state universities/colleges for the next ten years. The rest of the 75 per cent will still be borne by the states.
COMPROMISE ON QUALITY
The most disturbing fact about central assistance is that no central assistance will be available to existing posts, vacant or filled up after January 1, 2006, and to new posts created after January 1, 2006, which together would constitute more than 50 per cent of the total number of required positions in universities and colleges. As a matter of fact, such large scale vacancies have accumulated over the last two decades on account of the wrong policies promoted by the central government, the planning commission, and the UGC and lately, the National Knowledge Commission, which have at different times recommended the introduction of tenure appointments in place of permanent appointments. National Knowledge Commission and the Planning Commission advocate outsourcing of core, support and peripheral activities in universities and colleges. The MHRD’s refusal to extend financial support to appointments made after January 1, 2006 will make contractualisation of teaching a fait accompli. UGC’s insistence on linking financing with accreditation and accreditation with appointment of permanent teachers will permanently seal the fate of most state universities and colleges by closing the doors of all financial assistance on them. With the best of intentions, the UGC would be bringing about the worst results.
Some of the provisions in the MHRD notification run contrary to the XI plan targets for improving access and quality of higher education. Chadha committee had recommended the continuance of the triple benefit scheme of GPF, pension and gratuity to teachers entering service after January 1, 2004. The MHRD notification has simply ignored the recommendation, preferring to stick to the new policy of the central government, which is the policy of giving no pension at all. The stipulation in the MHRD notification that no new departments shall be created in UG or PG colleges without prior approval of UGC would also put hurdles in the expansion of higher education facilities, necessary for the realisation of the target of 15 per cent access in the XI plan. More over, it is also an unwarranted intrusion into the federal principles that govern the constitution. The insistence in the MHRD notification that only PhD in the relevant discipline will alone count for Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) will have serious repercussions on interdisciplinary studies and research. New knowledge is often created at the intersections of disciplines and any provision that discourages research in this area will defeat one of the most important functions of higher education, which is to generate new knowledge. The restriction in the number of the posts of Professors to 10 per cent of the posts of Associate Professors and of Professors in the grade pay of 12000 to 10 per cent of the posts of Professors is modelled on administrative services where there is a hierarchical structure for sharing powers and responsibilities. This has no relevance to teachers, all of whom perform the same academic responsibilities. The imposition of the irrelevant criterion will only vitiate the academic atmosphere by encouraging favouritism and compromising academic autonomy, thereby limiting the prospects of academic excellence.
There is nothing new in the strategy of the MHRD. It is a replay of the World Bank tactics in higher and technical education. The World Bank had openly recommended a policy of exclusion in higher education in the nineties. The argument was that higher education was a non-merit good, the benefits of which will accrue only to those who undergo higher education and not to the general public. Therefore third world countries with scarce resources were advised to desist from subsidising higher education. The proposal in 1997 of the then central government to reduce the subsidies in higher education from existing 90 per cent to 25 per cent over a period of five years was a reflection of the World Bank recommendation. The observation of the Supreme Court of India in TMA Pai Foundation Case that everyone is expected to pay for higher education and the sanction for “reasonable surplus” that could be generated from running educational institutions mandated by the judgment were inspired by the concept of higher education being a non-merit good. But in the early years of the current decade, World Bank changed course, arguing that higher education is also a merit good. As a matter of fact, the new argument was not the result of any change in perception. It was only a change in tactics. The World Bank now argued that the resources required for expansion of access and improvement of quality in higher education are such that would necessitate not only huge public and private investment, but a mixing of public and private resources to encourage more private investment. The strategy of the establishment of a large number of institutions in higher and technical education under Public-Private- Partnership (PPP) mode, advocated by the Planning Commission under the XI Plan is only a ruse for private appropriation of public investments in education.
The refusal of the MHRD to provide assistance for appointment of teachers in existing vacancies (which is as high as 50 per cent of the total number of posts in most cases) has to be understood in this background. Any genuine scheme for the promotion of inclusive quality in education should have given priority to the appointment of adequate qualified teachers in existing institutions and not to creating, under PPP mode, new “world class” universities, which are likely to become islands of elitism and exclusive excellence. Not only are the priorities, but the very bona fides of the MHRD are suspect. The opportunity provided by the new pay revision could have been used by the MHRD to reverse the trend of privatisation and commercialisation of public institutions, systematically promoted by it over the last two decades, by providing incentive to appointment of permanent teachers. But the opportunity is presently used by the MHRD only to accentuate the policy of privatisation and commercialisation by refusing to give financial assistance to new appointees and thereby facilitating de-facto contractualisation and outsourcing of teaching.