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Wednesday , June 25 , 2014
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VCs, new endangered species
‘Panic reaction’ by DU colleges

Delhi University VC Dinesh Singh

New Delhi, June 24: The University Grants Commission today claimed that 57 of the 64 colleges under Delhi University had agreed to follow its directive and scrap the contentious four-year undergraduate programme the varsity had introduced last year.

In a media statement tonight, the higher education regulator said the colleges, including top institutions like St. Stephen’s, Hindu and Shri Ram College of Commerce, had conveyed to the commission that they would revert to the old three-year system immediately.

“Out of these 64 colleges, as many as 57 colleges have sent their replies to the UGC informing that they are complying with the directives of the UGC,” the statement said.

The statement, on a day that saw a resignation drama involving university vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh, came two days after the commission had threatened to stop grants to colleges if they didn’t junk the four-year course.

Several members of the university’s academic council, however, said the decision of the colleges hardly had any legal validity. “According to the Delhi University Act, the academic council is the body to decide on academic issues. No college has the power to do so,” professor Sanjay Kumar, a member of the council, said.

The council, which is headed by the VC and has around 140 members, including 15 principals, heads of departments and independent academics, has to approve through an ordinance any course before it is introduced or dropped.

After the academic council, the executive council, also headed by the VC, has to approve the ordinance. The ordinance is then sent to the Visitor, the President, for approval. If no response comes within a month from the Visitor, the ordinance is deemed to have been approved.

“When the ordinance for the four-year programme was approved, the old ordinance for the three-year system had been scrapped. The old system can be brought back again through an ordinance, which has to be passed by the academic council and the executive council,” Kumar said, adding that colleges on their own could hardly do anything to restore the old system.

“These colleges have agreed because of the arm-twisting done by the UGC and the human resource development ministry. They cannot bypass the laid-down procedure. Otherwise, it will be invalid and can be challenged in court.”

Aditya N. Mishra, former president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association and a member of the academic council, said the colleges had reacted in panic. “How can a UGC direction overrule the academic council and executive council of the DU created by an act of Parliament? It is a panic reaction by the colleges,” Mishra said.

Mishra said the academic council members would fight the attempt by the UGC and the Union government to destroy the university’s autonomy. “We will fight it out,” he said.

At the council’s last meeting, attended by some 100 members, the majority had opposed going back to the three-year format. Only 10 members had dissented.

A UGC official, however, said the varsity had no choice but to implement the commission’s directive. “If the UGC stops grants, can they (the university and the colleges) manage on their own?”

In the media statement, commission chairman Ved Prakash said the “UGC assures all students that no student will be put to any inconvenience and interest of students will be protected”.

The UGC had on Friday asked the university to admit students for the 2014-15 academic year to the three-year undergraduate programme that was prevalent before the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) was introduced last year.

The university was also directed to make appropriate arrangements for the students already admitted under the FYUP in 2013-14 to switch to the three-year structure and to take all the steps necessary to adhere to the 10+2+3 system.

The UGC has constituted a standing committee under vice-chairman H. Devaraj to advise the university on the switch.

The higher education regulator, which had on Sunday threatened to de-recognise the university’s degrees, today sent another letter to DU and the 64 colleges reminding them of its directives.

At Delhi University, celebrations unfolded as news spread that vice-chancellor Singh had resigned. Activists of student bodies like the BJP-affiliated ABVP and the Left-wing Aisa started celebrating in front of the arts faculty by singing and beating drums. Pro-VC S. Pachauri later denied these reports.

Earlier, a message attributed to DU’s media coordinator Malay Neerav had said the “VC has resigned”. Late tonight, PTI quoted Neerav as texting: “VC hasn’t put in his papers. Pro-VC Shri Sudhish Pachauri has already clarified… that faculty members of the university met the VC and made an honest request to the VC that he must not resign.”

Madhu Kishwar, the academic who has been tweeting barbs at HRD minister Smriti Irani, said after a meeting with the VC that he had told her he had not resigned.

A group of teachers staged a hunger-strike to protest the “interference” of the UGC and the HRD ministry in DU affairs.

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