There will be no seat cuts in M.Phil and Ph.D courses and there is no reason for anyone to be agitating for the revocation of the UGC Gazette order of May 2016, says JNU Vice-Chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar.
A full year since becoming the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of unarguably the most politically charged university in the country, Kumar finds himself in the eye of a storm, during which he has been accused of cutting the admission seats and called a "Sanghi"—a follower of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology—by the agitating students.
"There has been a rumour that there will be massive seat cut for the M.Phil and Ph.D. candidates, which is not the case. There will not be a seat cut at all," Kumar told IANS in an interview.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) notification adopted by the university entails an upper cap on the number of students a faculty member can guide. But as Kumar observed, "There were many professors who were guiding as many as 25-30 students, while many had none at all."
So, how could the clause of upper cap be applied without cutting down the number of students?
Kumar says that those faculty members with "excess of students" will not get any new students until the existing ones pass out, and additional vacancies are created. He emphasises that even after allocating students across the faculty, including among those who have none or less than what is prescribed now, there will still be excess students pursuing Ph.Ds and M.Phils.
"Of course, we cannot throw the existing students out; they are part of the system. The UGC notification cannot be applied retrospectively. They will continue their study. There will be a transition period of 2-3 years until the system stabilises. After that we will accept candidates within the framework which the notification prescribed," Kumar explained.
"In Ph.D it takes time to complete the thesis. If we keep on admitting the same number of students, let's assume, in five years there will be about 150 students. Where will they go? No university does that," he added.
However, there are many teachers from the university who have lately joined the students' protests and voiced their disapproval of the "capping" clause, alleging that the move portends a "massive seat cut".
"I have no clue why they think so, you need to ask them," says Kumar about the protesting teachers. He adds that "UGC is the funding agency for all central universities" and that "we are paying far more fellowship amount than what UGC gives us because of the excess of students, whereas it gives us a fixed amount".
He also says that the notification was binding and not subject to the discretion of the university and that "almost every university followed it, even Delhi University".
One of the issues which students list with the capping clause is not having any freedom to choose their guide themselves, which is chosen according to the "specialty" of the professor and "research topic" of the students, as one student leader told IANS earlier.
Kumar counters the objection saying that this is not the case with the rest of the universities and cites an example from his own domain.
"If a students comes to me and says that he wants to do a Ph.D. in analog electronics, and if I don't have a faculty member with a vacancy under him in that department, I may ask him to pursue a Ph.D. in digital electronics. He may choose to do so or he may not. In the latter case, he'll look for some other institute where there is a vacancy in his chosen field. This is the norm everywhere," he explained.
Differentiating between the bachelor's course or other lecture-based courses, Kumar asserted that one cannot have a definite number of Ph.D and M.Phil. candidates every year, and the admission into these should ideally be done on the basis of number of faculty members and vacancies under them.
He also parried the charge of having links with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its ideological parent, the RSS, and allied right-wing groups, in the wake of students labelling him a 'Sanghi'.
"People are entitled to their opinions. They are free to call me anything, it won't turn me into that. I have no political affiliations. I am just an academician focused on my research and committed to my students," Kumar said.
As of now, the JNU Administrative Block remains "occupied" by the protesting students who are demanding that the VC address their queries from an open forum and not in a closed-door meeting. His proposal to meet the students was rebuffed by the JNU Students Union, which wanted the VC to meet a delegation comprising representatives from all centres and schools.