Hundreds of teachers and students marched to the VC Office under the banner of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) today to protest against the surreptitious and illegal move by DU Officials to bully colleges into applying for autonomous status. Delhi University has a unique federal structure with constituent colleges that get a 95% funding from UGC, and its Statutes have no provision for autonomous colleges.
This move is coming at the behest of the Government as part of its policy for cutting back on funding for Higher Education enunciated in the recent Budget through the pronouncements on autonomous colleges, Swayam (MOOCS ie online rather than teacher-taught courses) and HEFA(Higher Education Funding Authority) that will operationalise loans rather than grants to Universities. The conversion of constituent colleges to autonomous ones is being pushed through a set of Guidelines brought out by the UGC under the XIIth Plan. Without any deliberations or decision of the Academic or Executive Council of Delhi University, certain University Officials, such as the Dean of Colleges, Prof Devesh Sinha, are calling Chairpersons of Governing Bodies and pressurising them to apply for autonomous status.
The so-called “autonomy” is clearly only for the management as it gives it unbridled powers to GB’s to start new courses and raise fees, and is likely to adversely affect service conditions of teachers and non-teaching employees, as well as the democratic culture of the colleges. Far from promoting academic freedom as it purports to do, it is likely to degenerate into an autocracy. By sharply increasing the number of short-term marketable courses taught by low-paid contractual teachers, the quality of education imparted is likely to decline. Moreover, the steep increase in fees would further reduce access to marginalised sections. Unfortunately, some members of Governing Bodies who have a non-academic/business background are getting tempted by the prospect of unbridled commercialisation and control, without realising that without continued Government funding, colleges would soon be reduced to academically unviable and financially unstable teaching shops.
The DUTA has written to the VC demanding that the illegal committee set up without the authorisation of AC/EC ostensibly to examine applications for grant of autonomous status, be disbanded forthwith, and all moves by DU officials to coerce colleges into applying for autonomy be stopped. DU administration should instead fight for the autonomy of Delhi University that has been continuously eroded by MHRD/UGC by taking away its power to design courses and decide examination patterns etc.
The DUTA Executive has decided that a Joint March to Parliament on this issue by students, teachers, and Karam Chari’s will be held on 29th March. The rally will begin at Mandi House at 11 am.