The Seat cuts in JNU, What’s Responsible? The UGC Regulations or #shutdownjnu?

The JNUTA has in several communications  to the public already expressed its continuing opposition to the imposition of this one-size fits all UGC Regulations 2016, on many grounds that we shall not repeat here. It has also asserted that even the Regulations do not show legitimize the statutory violations that have characterized this admission process. This note brings to public note two important aspects of the issue that we have not flagged as yet.

  1. That the basic logic of seat cuts arises from a violation, rather than fidelity to, the judgement in Shubhanshu Singh & Ors. vs Jawaharlal Nehru University.
  2. That there are gross injustices and irregularities in the manner in which the JNU administration are being implemented across the University.

1. The cuts are in contempt of common sense and also court, perhaps

The cuts in M.Phil./PhD admissions distributed per School are as follows, when considered against approved intake:

Why have these cuts taken place? No one knows, really, because JNU administration has announced no admission policy. The most popularly imagined reason is the caps on research students by supervisor rank laid down in Clause 6.5 of the UGC Regulations. If they are, then the University is, in all likelihood, in contempt of court, because its Additional Solicitor General of India appearing in the Delhi High Court, gave the Hon’ le High Court a categorical assurance that “the said provision [i.e. Clause 6.5] is not given retrospective effect” and the number of scholars to be admitted based upon “the number of research scholars”.

Even though the ASG did not cite the full clause under mention, which gives equal weightage to other  factors besides available research supervisors, we shall put that aside for the moment. Consider first the retrospective effect issue. In 2014, the Hon. Supreme Court clarified the basic principles underlying retrospectivity and prospectivity, and laid down  that there are two basic aspects besides fairness:

  • Unless explicitly stated to be so, a current law should govern current activities.
    Therefore, if supervisor caps must be applied, they can only constrain a faculty member’s supervision from when they are adopted. Since JNU appears to have ‘adopted’ them’ the day it issued the prospectus (recall that before this in the AC and EC meetings, they were just passed as ‘Items for Consideration ‘), no past research supervising activity of any faculty member should be counted.
  • Any law that either modifies rights of impose disabilities must be prospective in nature.
    Since Clause 6.5. does both – it modifies and delimits the teachers’ ability to guide research (which counts for their promotions), the number of students they have had
    before JNU ‘adopted’ Clause 6.5 cannot be counted. So all faculty must start with a clean slate w.r.t. supervision in 2017-18.

Furthermore, it is far from clear that Clause 6.5 has been applied at all, as what we have here is a greater weapon of mass destruction. Take, for example, the case of Centre for the
Study of Regional Development, which has 17 Professors, 5 Associate Professors, and 7 Assistant Professors. CSRD has been allowed to admit only ONE direct PhD candidate.
There are two ways that Clause 6.5 could have applied here, assuming the illegal retrospective effect: one, it could be taken that in a two year M. Phil., only the second year counts for a supervisory role. Then, the strength of the Centreǯs intake could be 68. Alternatively, if we were to count the current M.Phils. numbering 53 as part of the supervisory load for this semester, then the number of seats for admission should 68-53 =15.

2. From Cutting-Edge to Cut-Out: The UGC –JNU Blitz on Research in JNU’s Science Schools

Overall, the cut in seats in Science Schools more than two-thirds, 68.78% to be precise. For example, the young and innovative interdisciplinary Centre for Nano Sciences had
proposed a total intake of 13 students for Direct PhD and 20 students for the M.Phil./PhD. This was approved by the Academic Council last year, and by the faculty strength (2 Professors, 2 Associate Professors, and 2 Assistant Professors), the Centre should be able to admit, as per the UGC Regulations 2016, a maximum of 36 students, of which 12 could be awarded M.Phil. degrees en route to PhD. Since this is a new programme, there is no historical backlog of students; yet, the Centre’s seats
have been cut, citing the pretext of the UGC Regulations 2016.

This story repeats itself in all the science programs of the university, whether more established or relatively new. For example, the School of Physical Sciences, which includes physics, chemistry and mathematics, has 14 Professors, 6 Associate Professors and 12 Assistant Professors, i.e. a total of 32 faculty. A proper application of the UGC Regulations would arrive at the conclusion that SPS has about 100 seats
for admission available; however, only SIX seats for admission across three disciplines have been indicated. This story repeats across most science schools and special centres.

Since the day the admission prospectus came out, colleagues in the Science Schools have been seeking out the various officials of the University and his team, asking for appointments and urging reason, as there are many colleagues available as Research Supervisors even by solely applying the UGC Regulations 2016, Clause 6.5. As of today, the situation is that they have only been moderately successful in trying to rectify this absurd scenario, as the wilful misapplication of the UGC Regulations and its other guidelines continues.

  • In the Science Schools, one of the modes for admission into PhD is through the UGC-CSIR and other equivalent national level science examinations. Following established practice across universities in the country, JRF holders do not write the entrance test but rather are called directly for viva voce. Although colleagues in the Science Schools have managed to convince a section of the administration to add some JRF seats, it is insisting that these JRF holders still  have to take the university entrance test as well. Colleagues have tried to convince the JNU administration by showing them that the practice of direct viva-voce is completely within the UGC Regulations by legitimised by Clause  5.1 of the hallowed UGC Regulations which states: “The University/Institution deemed to be a University may decide separate terms and conditions for Ph.D. Entrance Test for those students who qualify UGC-NET (including JRF)/UGC- CSIR NET (including JRF)/SLET/GATE/teacher fellowship holder or have passed M.Phil programme.” Since no other universities requires JRF holders to write another entrance test, JNU’s Science programmes will now be in the lowest priority for any applicant. (Note: post the JNUTA press conference, 48 JRF positions have been added to the intake, but the double exam condition remains.)
  • Colleagues from the Science Schools have also argued vociferously for more admission seats into the non-JRF category of the PhD programme, as there  are research supervisors are available in plenty. This has hit a roadblock over the the JNU administration’s wilful misinterpretation of eligibility criteria for admission to PhD. Since M.Phil. is not a degree that is in vogue in the sciences, the almost universal eligibility criterion is an M.Sc. with 55% marks (with 5% relaxations for disadvantaged categories); however, JNU is refusing to budge from the position that non-JRF candidates must have both an M.Sc. and an M.Phil.! Colleagues have cited the fact that clause 3.1 allows Masters level degree holders to be eligible for admission to PhD; that other central universities, including the 8 that host a Common Entrance Test and have a PhD programme, are allowing candidates with M.Sc.’s and the relevant marks to apply to PhDs; that there are UGC orders that make M.Sc. students eligible to
    apply to PhD programmes; they have obtained oral clarifications from the UGC that this should be allowed. However, despite all these sustained efforts, the
    DoA and the Admissions has refused to budge, as can be seen from the circular below.

  • • The JNU administration’s fidelity to the UGC Regulations 2016 is however not absolute, as it has introduced a route for admissions into PhD that is not to be found in these Regulations. This allows candidates who have “at
    least two years research experience after Master’s Degree/BE/B.Tech in recognised institutions and with research publication(s)” to apply for admission
    to PhD. In other words, a candidate with an undergraduate degree is a potential candidate for PhD! This move is alarming to say the least, as it is open
    to manipulation, and will definitely contribute to a drastic lowering of standards

The fate that has befallen JNU’s Science Schools is both just a continuation of the opportunistic use of these Regulations to selectively target JNU and as well as a signal as to how the implementation of the UGC Regulations 2016 in our university is not about the objective facts of enrolment, the integrated nature of our research programmes, the available research supervisors, but merely has the goal of curtailing admission to the university. A by-product of this basic motivation has been that in the School of Computer and System Sciences, the integrated M.Tech/PhD has been summarily delinked in complete violation of all statutes. For all other programmes reeling under massive cuts, our scientist colleagues’ experience should fill us with alarm, as it signifies that the restoration of seats for admissions and the maintenance of the integrated nature of M.Phil./PhD programmes in other disciplines in 2017-18 cannot be a foregone conclusion. 

Ayesha Kidwai             Pradeep Shinde

President                          Secretary


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