New Delhi, June 17: The Centre will help universities that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The University Grants Commission is for the first time offering extra funds to central educational institutions that admit more women, Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes, minority and differently abled students.
The grant will increase further if the universities adopt prescribed mechanisms to help these students compete on a par with others.
The incentives come after the UGC noted that many central educational institutions were not filling up reserved category seats on the plea that applicants were failing to meet even the lower cut-off marks. Many in the government want these seats filled somehow — even by further lowering the bar.
Also, there are no official quotas for women and minority applicants. The government wants individual universities to make it easier for these students to get in.
The UGC also wants each central university to set up an equal opportunity office that will protect students from the weaker sections against discrimination and ensure that the special programmes prescribed for them are implemented.
The office will also serve as a grievance cell, where students who face bias or abuse can complain. The office, which should be made up of students from disadvantaged sections and senior faculty members, will have a hotline to the UGC.
“At least some of the additional funding will go towards directly helping the students from these weaker sections... that’s what we’re counting on,” UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat said.
The UGC has also noted that many educational institutions have not implemented government schemes meant for disadvantaged students.
“The government has special programmes for SC/ST students, such as remedial classes. But we have received complaints about the low quality of implementation of these schemes,” a human resource development ministry official said.
“It was felt that only a cell dedicated to keeping an eye on the implementation of these programmes can help.”
The equal opportunities offices will be modelled on a similar cell at Jawaharlal Nehru University with some modifications.
Since JNU has such an office, it could benefit immediately from the incentives scheme. So could Aligarh Muslim University, whose student population is predominantly Muslim.
The ministry is considering expanding the equal opportunity offices’ mandate to include students from rural backgrounds.
“After all, rural students also suffer because of their lack of English-language skills. Eventually, we see the new cell evolving into a body that takes care of them as well,” the HRD ministry official said.
The scheme means the Centre is putting its money where its mouth is. The United Progressive Alliance government got the Constitution amended in 2005 to allow reservation in education for the disadvantaged sections.
Last year, it enacted an Other Backward Classes education quota, which sparked protests on the streets and has been challenged in the courts.