Look at the ping pong being played with the medical entrance test in India. In 2012 the Medical Council of India notified the centralized National Eligibility cum Entrance Examination (NEET) for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses across the country. In 2013 the Supreme Court declared NEET unconstitutional because it deprived state-run institutions of the right to admit students as per their own procedures. Last week the Supreme Court recalled its 2013 judgment and brought NEET back to life. Who knows what will happen next year?
Recently the University Grants Commission on advice of the human resource development ministry has also announced significant changes in PhD and eligibility norms for faculty recruitment. Candidates who registered for MPhil/PhD programmes before July 11, 2009 no longer need to clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) or State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) in order to apply to become assistant professors in colleges and universities. This of course is a sharp reversal from the earlier position (and Supreme Court judgment) requiring NET/SLET to be a minimum qualification. This won’t be the last of the sharp reversals.
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Also, fulfilling her goal of “any time and from anywhere” PhDs for women, the HRD minister has announced that women (and differently abled) research scholars will henceforth get eight rather than six years to complete their PhD degrees and three rather than two years to complete their MPhil. Sweetly the minister also announced that if a woman MPhil/PhD scholar relocates because of marriage (or any other reason!) she will be allowed to transfer research data to the university where she is relocating. It’s raining sops not standards.
Clearly universities in India don’t have autonomy over how they will admit students, hire faculty, even award the highest of research degrees. Ministers come and go, court benches order this and that, and so the universities swing. Academic excellence demands maintaining standards and independent decision-making but that, sorry students, is too much to expect of your universities.
Article authored by Renuka Bisht, doctorate in media studies from the University of Florida. This article is first published on TOI Blog