Article 3 of the Charge Memorandum: Damaging the Interests of Students aspiring for research, wasting public money and violating CEI Act and Reservation Policy

Under the present Vice Chancellor’s leadership, admissions to JNU in the year 2017-18 were drastically cut by deliberate misuse of the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.PHIL./PH.D Degrees) Regulations, 2016 and by turning a blind eye to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006 (henceforth, the CEI Act 2006). This has deprived a large number of potential students from gaining admission to a premier university of the country. This act was directly in violation of the CEI Act passed by the parliament in 2006. The changes in admission policies and shoddy implementation of admissions have resulted in a drastic reduction in the intake of students from deprived communities.

JNU is primarily a research university and typically research programmes account for about two thirds of its student strength. In discharging its role as a premier research university, JNU has done a stellar national service by training teachers and researchers that are working in educational and research institutions all over the country. Stifling research programmes of the university would thus have far reaching consequences for functioning of institutions of higher education across the country. Many Centres in the university have only MPhil/PhD programmes. Except in the School of Languages, teachers do not have the burden of undergraduate teaching. Apart from teaching in postgraduate classes, supervising research scholars is their primary duty. Stifling research programmes has meant a huge waste of resources in JNU.

The seat cut was introduced in the most autocratic manner in JNU. The UGC Regulations 2016 were brought in Part B of the 141st Academic Council meeting, in which student representatives were not present, though it was clearly an item that should have been placed in Part A of the meeting. Members raised various issues and clarifications were sought. However, the item was wrongly recorded in the minutes as passed and members strongly objected to this when the minutes of the 141st AC meeting were placed for approval in the 142nd meeting. Members also protested that the minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee of Admissions were presented to the 142nd AC meeting even before they were confirmed by members of the Standing Committee of Admissions. Members of the Standing Committee who were present in the 142nd AC meeting disapproved of those minutes on the floor of the AC meeting.

The disputed minutes of the AC meetings were placed before the Execute Council before these had been confirmed by the AC.

All further decisions were taken directly by the JNU VC, or by the JNU Administration directly under orders from the VC, without consulting the Boards of Studies of Schools or the Academic Council of JNU. These included completely flawed calculation of the intake, giving up the policy of deprivation points, computation of reserved category seats for each Centre, derecognising the Pre-PhD programme in Science Schools, and enforcing 100 per cent weightage to viva-voce marks.

As we attempt to show, the consequences of these decisions, for which the JNU Vice Chancellor has been directly responsible, have been disastrous for JNU’s academic programmes.

1. Preventing a large number of research scholars from gaining admission to a premier university

As shown in Table 1, number of seats announced by the JNU administration were 84 per cent less than the intake approved by the Academic Council for 2017-18. While number of seats offered was reduced by 1067, the shoddy implementation resulted in not even 194 research students being allowed to take admission. As yet, there is no official document that would tell us how many students actually managed to get admitted to different programmes this year.

Table 1. The extent of the seat cut

Seats approved by the Academic Council Seats announced by JNU administration
M.Phil/Ph.D (or Pre-Ph.D) 987 102
M.Phil/Ph.D (JRF) 96 28
Direct Ph.D 178 64
Total 1261 194

Source: Document 1 and 2

2. Wastage of Resources

The CAG had indicted JNU in 2011-12 for not utilizing resources fully on account of giving admissions to fewer students than the agreed intake every year [A1]. Even after that, the actual intake in research programmes has been below the 969 candidates that JNU was required to take as per the CEI Act 2006. In other words, the current strength of research students is less than what it would have been had all seats been filled every year.

Table 2: Actual Admissions to M.Phil/Ph.D programmes in JNU, 2010-11 to 2016-17

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
814 818 885 829 864 924 886

Source: Admission Data as presented to 141st AC and 42ndAnnual Report of JNU

Over this period, strength of the faculty has increased faster than the student intake, so that the average number of research scholars (MPhil and PhD students) supervised by a teacher has fallen steadily since 2012, and was only 8.5 per teacher in 2016 (Table 3). This simple statistic exposes the lie that has been spread about JNU teachers supervising unrealistic number of research scholars.

Table 3: Student and Faculty Strength in JNU

 Category 31.3.2011 31.3.2012 31.3.2013 31.3.2014 31.3.2015 31.3.2016
Faculty Strength 470 452 478 522 565 614
M.Phil/Ph.D Students 3864 4359 4609 4846 4990 5219
Total Students 6665 7304 7677 8061 8308 8432
All students per teacher 14.18 16.16 16.86 15.44 14.70 13.73
M.Phil/Ph.D Students per teacher 8.22 9.64 9.64 9.28 8.83 8.50

Source: JNU Annual Reports for Relevant Years

The seat cut has thus led to a massive waste of the faculty and other resources. As many as 32 Centres, which a total faculty strength of 308, had zero admissions in their M.Phil programmes in 2017 [See Appendix Table 2 for centre-wise details for those who have a M.Phil/Ph.D integrated programme]. This means that 308 faculty members, and others who join during this academic year, have:

– no course-work teaching to do in the 2017-18 academic year.

– no work of supervising M.Phil dissertations in the 2018-19 academic.

– no students moving into the Ph.D programme in 2019-20.

These 30 Centres with zero admissions to their research programmes include Centres that only have M.Phil/Ph.D programmes and no/limited teaching responsibilities in M.A./M.Sc programmes. Even in Centres with a positive intake, the numbers are very small (just 1 in several Centres) and therefore most faculty in these Centres will also not have students to supervise for their M.Phil dissertations in 2018-19.

3. Violation of CEI (Reservation in Admission) Act

– The Central Educational Institutions(Reservation in AdmissionAct, 2006 mandated all institutions to increase intake by 54 per cent over the level of intake in 2006. Clause 5 of the Act states:

Mandatory increase of seats:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in clause (iii) of section 3 and in any other law for the time being in force, every Central Educational Institution shall, with the prior approval of the appropriate authority, increase the number of seats in a branch of study or faculty over and above its annual permitted strength so that the number of seats, excluding those reserved for the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, is not less than the 4[number of such seats available or actually filled, whichever be less,] for the academic session immediately preceding the date of the coming into force of this Act.

(2) Where, on a representation by any Central Educational Institution, the Central Government, in consultation with the appropriate authority, is satisfied that for reasons of financial, physical or academic limitations or in order to maintain the standards of education, the annual permitted strength in any branch of study or faculty of such institution cannot be increased for the academic session following the commencement of this Act, it may permit by notification in the Official Gazette, such institution to increase the annual permitted strength over a maximum period of 5[six years] beginning with the academic session following the commencement of this Act; and then, the extent of reservation for the Other Backward Classes as provided in clause (iii) of section 3 shall be limited for that academic session in such manner that the number of seats available to the Other Backward Classes for each academic session are commensurate with the increase in the permitted strength for each year.

The seats declared by the JNU administration in 2017-18 were in violation of the CEI Act 2006.

In 2006-07, the intake for MPhil/PhD and Direct PhD programmes was 683. As a result of the CEI Act itself, the seats increased by 54 per cent, to 1055 (Table 4). Intake in almost all the programmes in JNU had remained fixed at that level (2006 level + 54 per cent increase) from the time the CEI Act was fully implemented until 2016-17. Almost all the increase in intake since implementation of the CEI Act 2006 had been on account of new programmes that have been started in JNU (see Table 5).

It is worth noting that the UGC had earlier pressed for implementation of the CEI Act and utilization of additional grants given to Universities for enabling expansion [Item 6.02 in A2 and revised version in 1.01 (Item 6.02, Page 2) in A3]. While the CEI Act originally required the universities to expand their capacity and increase intake over a period of three years, this was subsequently extended to six years, which came to an end in 2012.

In a letter dated June 3, 2016 (which is after the 2016 UGC Regulations were finalised), the UGC sent a letter to all Central Educational Institutions to comply with the CEI Act [A4]. The letter specifically said:

University may follow the reservation policy in admissions in all courses as per provisions contained in the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 (Gazette notification dated 04.01.2007) and as amended in 2012 (Gazette notification dated 20.06.2012).

The letter included a copy of the Gazette notifications which spelled out the requirement for university to maintain a minimum intake as specified in the CEI Act, 2006. However, while the JNU VC selectively chose to implement the May 2016 UGC Regulations, he decided to arbitrarily ignore the said letter dated June 3, which required him to implement the provisions of the CEI Act in admissions to all courses.

It is also of note that the intake approved by JNU’s Academic Council for 2017-18, on which the cut was applied by the VC, ensured little more than compliance with the CEI Act, 2006 (Table 5).

Table 4: Effect of CEI Act 2006 on Intake for JNU M.Phil/Ph.D and Direct Ph.D Programmes

Programme Intake in 2006-07 Intake in 2006-07 + 54%
M.Phil/Ph.D (including JRF) 627 969
Direct Ph.D 56 86
Total 683 1055

[Source: A5 and A6]

Table 5: Approved Intake for M.Phil/Ph.D programmes, 2006-07, 2016-17 and 2017-18

School Intake 2006-07 Approved Intake 2016-17 Intake 2017-18 Approved by AC
In Old Programmes In New Programmes In Old Programmes In New Programmes
SIS 144 230 8 224 8
SSS 180 293 47 293 47
SLLCS 134 211 10 214 13
Others 116 166 5 163 25
Total 574 900 70 894 93
M.Phil/Ph.D (JRF) 53 90 8 88 8
Grand Total 627 990 78 982 101

Note: Old Programmes refer to those that were in existence in 2006-07 and those started later are New Programmes.
[Source: A5, A7 and A8]

4. Undermining the affirmative action policy

4.1 Undermining reservation of seats

As per the constitutional mandate, the university is required to reserve 15 per cent seats for Scheduled Caste candidates, 7.5 per cent seats for Scheduled Tribe candidates and 27 per cent seats for OBC candidates (non-creamy layer).

In terms of the number of seats that were reserved for these categories, JNU failed to meet this constitutional requirement in 2017-18. This was done because the reservations were implemented only at the level of individual Centres, and since the number of seats available were very few, in many Centres which had some admission, there were no reserved seats for some of these categories.

If these reservation percentages have to be implemented at the level of individual Centres, a Centre has to have at least 6 seats to have 1 reserved seat for SC and at least 15 seats to have 1 reserved seat for ST candidates. Of the 12 Centres/Schools that had admissions for MPhil/PhD programmes, 4 had no seat reserved for SC and 10 had no seat reserved for ST. Of the 3 Schools that had admissions for MPhil/PhD (JRF), 1 had no seat for SC and none had any seat for ST. For 11 Centres/Schools that had Direct PhD admission, 7 had no seats for ST and 10 had no seats for ST candidates (Table 6).

Table 6. Number of Centres/Schools which had admissions but no seats for SC and ST candidates

Number of Centres/ Schools with admission No seats reserved for SC candidates No seats reserved for ST candidates
Mphil/Phd 12 4 10
Mphil/PHD (JRF) 3 1 3
Direct PhD 11 7 10

Source: Computed from A8.

4.2 Barring qualified candidates from selection on reserved seats

Even in Centres/Schools where some seats were reserved, very few candidates were able to get admissions. The statutory provisions require that candidates from reserved categories (SC, ST, OC (non-creamy layer) and Differently-abled) are given a relaxation of 5 percentage points in entrance tests. This was given up last year and all candidates were required to get 50 per cent marks in the qualifying exam.

According to the UGC Regulation 2016, the admissions to MPhil/PhD process take place in a two-stage process. The first stage requires candidates to clear a qualifying entrance exam. All students who qualify the exam are then required to appear in an interview through which candidates are selected given the number of seats.

Without going into the merit of the prescribed selection process, we would like to submit that the manner in which JNU implemented the regulation was wrong and illegal. As per the UGC Regulation 2016, everyone who qualifies the first stage of exam is deemed qualified and thus eligible depending upon the availability of seats and other resources (for example, supervisor in the proposed area of work). However, JNU administration decided to pick a leaf from the earlier system of admissions in JNU, and imposed a passing mark in the scores given in the interviews. As a result, a number of candidates who had qualified and may have been admitted, were prevented from gaining admission because JNU imposed a passing mark of 30 per cent in the interview without having made this clear to either the candidates or the interview panel. In fact, there were no guidelines this year on how the candidates were to be scored. There were no guidelines that spelt out that candidates had to obtain any passing marks. Centres used different scales and methods to rank candidates, without any idea that a passing mark would be imposed on the score given to the candidates. A significant number of candidates from reserved categories were thus wrongly disqualified in the second stage.

4.3 Doing away with the system of deprivation points

It may also be noted that the JNU has a long history of using deprivation points to help candidates who have been a victim of caste, class and gender disadvantage gain admission to various points. After reservations were introduced, deprivation points were given to candidates from backward regions, to Kashmiri migrants and to women/transgender candidates. This system of deprivation points has historically been crucial in ensuring that JNU remained accessible to candidates who had faced various kinds of disadvantages and lack of opportunity. The system of deprivation points was widely hailed as a model of affirmative action that needed to be emulated by other institutions.

However, the current Vice Chancellor, without any approval of the Academic Council, decided to do away with the system of deprivation points for admission to research programmes. The direct implication of this would have been a reduction in intake of students from backward regions and of women/transgender candidates. The University administration must provide data to verify how many such students managed to gain admission last year, and how this compares with JNU’s performance in earlier years.

4.4 Making the admission process subject to greater arbitrariness and subjectivity

Over the last few years, JNU community has debated the need to reduce subjectivity in selection of candidates through interviews. JNU Student Union had been demanding a reduction in the weightage of Viva Voce marks (from 30 per cent to 15 per cent) in admissions to MPhil/PhD programmes. This was an important item of agenda of the 141st and 142nd meeting of the Academic Council and was debated at length in both the meetings. While opinion of members varied on the quantum of reduction of Viva Voce marks, most members (including JNU administration) had agreed that the Viva Voce marks should be reduced. However, in a complete turnaround, JNU Administration decided to make Viva Voce the only stage on which final selection for MPhil/PhD and Direct PhD programmes depended. In order to justify their position it was falsely made out as if the Nafey Committee, which was constituted to review the weightage of viva-voce marks in MPhil/PhD admission, was concerned with viva weightage of programmes other than M.Phil/Ph.D. In reality, the Nafey Committee report did not deal with programmes other than M.Phil/Ph.D at all.

The minutes of item 5 of the 141 (A) Meeting of the Academic Council (23 December) state:

05 Considered the recommendations of a Committee constituted by the Vice-Chancellor to look into the demand of the students’ representatives to reduce the viva-voce marks from 30% to 10-15% as per the resolution of the 140th Academic Council meeting held on May 27, 2016.

The Report of the Committee under the Chairpersonship of Prof. Abdul Nafey was considered in detail. The students’ representatives also participated in the entire process expressing their views on viva-voce marks. Keeping in mind the demands of the students to reduce the weightage of Viva marks to prevent the perceived discrimination, the Vice-Chancellor proposed zero weightage to viva. However, there were divergent views in the Academic Council on acceptance of the recommendations of Nafey Committee. No consensus could be arrived at the quantum of weightage for viva. The Chairperson of the Academic Council, therefore, suggested that the Centres/Schools may give either 20% weightage or follow the current system of assigning 30% to viva voce in programmes other than M.Phil./Ph.D. which would now be regulated as per UGC notification dated 5th May, 2016.

This created an extremely unfortunate situation that students had to be selected merely on the basis of Viva Voce that lasted a few minutes. Given the large number of candidates who apply for JNU’s very prestigious research programmes, in most Centres, number of seats were barely 10-15 per cent of the number of candidates who had qualified the entrance test. Given that, selection on the basis of a short interview is fundamentally unfair.

4.5 Lack of transparency

As per JNU’s ordinances, the Vice Chancellor is obliged to report to the Academic Council the actual number of candidates that have been admitted in different programmes. However, the VC has neither called the Academic Council meeting so far nor has he made public any information on actual admissions.

Information collected by JNUTA from various Centres/Schools showed that of 139 seats in various research programmes announced by JNU administration, admissions were given to only 74 candidates. In all of the university, only 3 candidates from SC category, 1 candidate from ST category, 13 candidates from OBC categories, and none from Differently-abled category got admission [A9]. Of the few candidates belonging to these categories, some had qualified to get admission under the General category. As a result, the actual intake under the reserved categories was even lower.

5. Inconsistencies between computation of intake for 2017-18 and 2018-19

JNU administration under the current VC have been unable to implement even the May 2016 UGC regulations properly and consistently. While the administration issued guidelines for computing the intake for 2017-18 [A10] and 2018-19 [A11], these have not been used to do the actual calculation of intakes.

As per these guidelines, while faculty members who have excess students cannot supervise any new students until the number of their students fall below the ceiling, faculty members who have vacancies are eligible to take new students. However, in 2017-18, in reality, the administration cancelled vacancies of faculty members against excess students of other faculty members, resulting in very little intake. They have not done that in 2018-19, which is one of the reasons for a substantial increase in intake of Direct PhD students from 64 in 2017-18 [A12] to 339 in 2018-19 [A13].  The irrationality of the calculation is shown by the fact that 339 is well above the figure that used to be admitted before 2017 to Direct Ph,D while the intake for integrated M.Phil/Ph.D  – the main route of entry into research programmes – is still well below. This is true even individually for many Centres!

In 2017-18, JNU administration also insisted that science schools in JNU had to discontinue the Pre-PhD programmes through which students with MSc degrees could register for PhD. This was an important route for admission to PhD programmes in subjects in which MPhil programmes do not exist, including in JNU.

In a letter dated August 22, 2017 [A13], the UGC has clarified that candidates with postgraduate degrees with at least 55% marks are indeed eligible for admission to PhD. And therefore the University Administration’s position has been shown to be false.

Consequently, in 2018-19, the Pre-PhD programmes have been merged with the Direct PhD programmes, another change that explains the substantial increase in Direct PhD seats between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

In fact, the fact that JNU has announced an intake of 339 for Direct PhD in 2018-19 raises the question as to why many of these seats were not open for admission in 2017-18?

On the other hand, in 2018-19, JNU administration refused to allow for the possibility that a student could do MPhil with one supervisor who has vacancies for MPhil students and do PhD with another supervisor who has vacancies for PhD students. As a result, many faculty members who had vacancies for MPhil students were not allowed to take MPhil students. As a result, even in 2018-19, the intake announced for MPhil programmes is only 381 [A12].

As per JNU’s programmes, MPhil is a two-year degree, of which the first year comprises course work. While teachers are engaged in teaching these students in the classroom, there is no burden of research supervision for these students. In most Centres, allocation of supervisors takes place only at the end of the first year. Despite this, the university has insisted that these students will have to be accounted for as being supervised by somebody. This irrationally inflates the number of students needing ‘supervision’ which then form the basis for application of caps. This has been the most important reason for a massive reduction in intake of MPhil students since 2017-18.

Summing up

Under the current Vice Chancellor’s leadership, JNU has seen a drastic reduction in number of seats in research programmes. This reduction has been directly in violation of the CEI Act of 2006 and has resulted in a colossal waste of resources that had been provided to JNU for implementing the CEI Act. Faculty members in many Centres are unable to teach because no admissions to MPhil programmes took place. The manner in which the UGC Regulations of 2016 have been implemented and admissions undertaken have not only undone valuable aspects of affirmative action policies in JNU and have resulted in depriving a large number of very deserving candidates from deprived categories from gaining admission to JNU.

As we have shown, the current Vice Chancellor is singularly responsible for these and must be held accountable.

The VC, Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar’s defence

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