On UGC letter to Colleges threatening to withhold maintenance grants
The DTF takes a serious view of the UGC letter to the Principals of Delhi University colleges threatening not to release maintenance grants till the Principals show to the UGC letters of intent expressing their willingness to get assessed by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). The UGC, in gross violation of university autonomy, is arm-twisting colleges in order to pave the way for commercialization of higher education and facilitating private players. A rating agency such as NAAC is visualised to give students (consumers) some idea about the worth of an institution and act as a guide in decision making over investing time and money in any of the various competing institutions. NAAC has also been devised to eventually reduce public spending and coerce public-funded institutions to meet an increasing share of their expenditure through educational trade – higher fees, market friendly courses for which consumers are willing to pay replacing those which are not immediately profitable, earning through consultancy, etc.
It was precisely on these grounds that a premier University like the University of Delhi had refused to get itself accredited by NAAC all these years. With the new framework following the National Knowledge Commission, there seems to be an urgency on the part of the Government to remove all bottlenecks in its privatization-commercialization drive.
There are serious problems about how assessment and rating is done, the specific methods adopted tend to value relevant (marketable) courses and infrastructure (for which the Government provides inadequate funds). The rating given by NAAC is used to deprive funds to those institutions which need it most. NAAC has now been operating for some years and there are misgivings about the fairness in its rating: often understaffed private institutions of questionable repute gain better ratings than well-known established public-funded institutions. Whether such anomalies are due to wrong methodology or foul play is something that must be seriously examined. The record of AICTE in similarly assessing technical institutions is in the public domain: students pay huge fees to study IT at institutions recognised by it though these lack buildings, infrastructure, library, equipments and teachers.
The DTF calls upon Prof. Deepak Pental to pursue the stand taken by the University of Delhi so far and not surrender to the threat by the UGC. If Heads of premier institutions cannot take a fearless academic position, they would be equally responsible for the decline of higher education.