JNUTA rejects the Academic calendar

For a second time in a matter of months, an academic calendar based on a radically altered time frame has been issued by the JNU Administration for the Monsoon Semester 2022 and Winter Semester 2023. Frequent ‘updates’ to the academic calendar have made it practically impossible for faculty to effectively plan teaching and assessment. While some of these changes were necessitated by the uncertainty around the NTA’s conduct of examinations, the decision taken by the JNU Administration to participate in the CUET is also responsible for compromised academic standards and the disruption of the effective functioning of this institution. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, it would have been wise to revisit the decision by the previous Vice Chancellor to participate in a massive exercise such as the CUET, something that many other central universities have chosen not to do. Deliberations in the Board of Studies meetings in various schools followed by Academic Council meetings could have taken on board the views of the teachers of the universities across schools and centres having different requirements for admission before the university took a considered and informed view for the calendar year 2022-23.

After the pandemic, the first priority before all academic institutions was to synchronise academic calendars. Most other institutions have been able to do so. In JNU, however, the structures of an effective academic life continue to remain destabilised because the NTA was unable to conduct examinations in a timely manner, conducted BA and MA exams one after another, and only very late in the day, and without warning, declared its inability to administer examinations for PhD programmes.

Taking a closer look at the inconsistencies in the latest version of the academic calendar is necessary for re-establishing stability and bringing the calendar back on track next year. A sound and structured academic calendar not only establishes regularity but is also a key to maintaining academic standards.

The following concerns need urgent attention:

1. It should be understood clearly that decisions about how courses are to be taught, their pattern and schedule, fall squarely in the province of the Boards of Studies/Special Committees of the Schools and Special Centres (as underlined by the Delhi High Court in several orders in January 2019). None of these frequent revisions is occasioned by any request that such statutory bodies have made and they have not been consulted or even informed about the need for revision. The JNUTA demands the urgent convening of all relevant statutory bodies to consider this revised calendar as a proposal. 

2. The JNU administration does not mention whether the latest 2022-23 academic calendar is temporary and transitional in nature. The JNU community needs clear assurances that a return to the old academic calendar is back for the academic year 2023-24. JNUTA strongly feels that making such a commitment will require that the JNU administration reconsider its hasty decision to adopt a homogenising system like the CUET, especially in light of recent experiences with the NTA and its failure in organizing and conducting the examinations in a timely, predictable and flawless manner. It must be recalled that the Entrance Examination conducted efficiently by JNU for decades was tailored to the specific requirements of our various centres and their diverse academic programmes. The JNUTA reiterates the urgent need to hold detailed discussions on this time-tested option in faculty meetings of the centres, Boards of Studies, and the Academic Council.

3. The revised academic calendar has semesters of two different durations: for continuing students, the Monsoon Semester is over 6 months, while it lasts for a mere 3 months and 5 days for new students. This is a matter of concern, particularly for most centres in the School of Languages, Literature and Culture Studies. As part of the integrated 5-year integrated BA/MA programme, students completing the third year of their BA are directly admitted to the MA programme. However, they are also joined at that time by students from other universities who come in after writing the entrance exam. Together, they have traditionally formed one batch. On account of this calendar, students in the same batch have to operate along two different calendars. This requires that they be taught separately. Most Centres do not have the faculty strength to teach them separately. Logistically too, this is not possible, given that the same faculty teaches a total of five batches and the timetable can only have a set number of slots. This involves a large amount of extra teaching for the faculty of centres with foreign language programmes, who are already burdened with the heaviest teaching load in the entire university. The JNUTA demands that this matter be immediately tabled in a meeting of the School’s BoS, together with a full explanation of the reasons why this lopsided academic calendar has been created, so that the teachers can together apply their minds to arrive at an academically viable solution.

4. The summer vacation, according to the revised academic calendar, has been cut down by 18 days, although the winter vacation announced earlier has been retained (a fact which JNUTA appreciates as it is in accord with JNU teachers’ rights). JNUTA feels especially concerned about the curtailment of the summer vacation, as the new UGC leave rules have excluded many academic activities like fieldwork, library work, meetings with research collaborators, etc. from the ambit of duty leave. JNUTA in an earlier statement had opposed this change. In recent times, many JNU teachers have been forced to take earned leave (which is encashable and is a part of their retirement benefits) to engage in a range of regular academic activities. As things stand now, vacations are the only period during which JNU teachers plan and conduct these non-teaching academic activities, alongside preparing for the courses they teach in the subsequent semesters. Thus, the substantive curtailment of summer vacation not only violates teachers’ rights but also works as a detriment to the overall academic standards of the university.

For these reasons, JNUTA rejects the revised academic calendar and demands an immediate return to the earlier and highly effective statutory processes, which have proven their capacity to resolve all manner of contingencies time and time again.

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