Published: 15th October 2020
Why Anna University’s claims of not changing name, retaining reservation policy may not come through
TN education activist Prince Gajendra Babu points out that according to the UGC notification’s instructions the Centre could have more control over the University than the state
Over the last few days, people have taken to social media to criticise the Anna University Vice Chancellor MK Surappa. Political leaders have also demanded his resignation. This morning, the DMK party cadres even organised a protest outside the University demanding the same. All this was a consequence of Surappa writing a letter to the Centre directly seeking the ‘Institute of Eminence’ tag allegedly without consulting the State Government.
In his letter to the Ministry of Education, Surappa had said that they would be able to raise the funds required to acquire the IoE tag. While 50 percent of the funds are supposed to be contributed by the Centre, the State is supposed to raise the remaining 50 percent. Owing to the fact that the State was allegedly unable to raise the amount, the VC told the Centre that it would be able to raise the money on its own, which has left people in the state angry and worried. Activists and the general public feel that this could mean that the Centre could have more power over the University and the State could lose control. However, Surappa maintains that the State government agreed to the University seeking the IoE tag if they agreed to continue the reservation structure which he claims will not change. Another issue that has left people uneasy is the decision to bifurcate the University and change the name accordingly.
The Anna University Teachers’ Association, however, has extended support to the VC and addressed both these issues in their letter. “A newspaper report is portraying the issue as a tug-of-war between the Centre and the State, and the State and the Vice Chancellor is far from the truth. The issue is whether or not the powerful players are willing to allow Anna University compromising the four prestigious campuses to survive with the same name and grow,” the AUTA said. They claimed that the IoE tag is just another added credit to the University and that the Tamil Nadu Government’s reservation policy is bound to continue.
“The AUTA reposes full faith in the VC and has confidence in his leadership. The eminent academic has made efforts in the right direction to retain the name of Anna University and to implement the IoE status,” the body wrote.
Tamil Nadu education activist and the general secretary of the State Platform for Common State Syllabus, Prince Gajendra Babu has however, written a response to this letter detailing why he thinks that they are wrong to make this assumption. In his letter, he requests the AUTA to read the University Grants Commission Notification which states the following —
The UGC Guidelines 2017 would apply to existing government owned and controlled Deemed to be University which seeks to become an Institution of Eminence
Such an institution will have to apply to the MHRD as per the provisions given in the Guidelines and the selection procedure would be as per the provisions given in the Guidelines.
If such a Deemed to be University is declared as an Institute of Eminence under the guidelines, then it would be eligible to be called 'Institution of Eminence Deemed to be University'
The funding, additional incentives, monitoring, accreditation, ranking and penalty of such Government owned and controlled institutions shall be as provided for in the Guidelines
Provisions in these Regulations regarding distance education, unitary status and reservation would also apply to such government owned and controlled Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be University.
Prince Gajendra Babu
Under the section - Reservation Policy, the UGC states that, “The public ‘Institutions of Eminence’ shall implement the reservation policy in admissions and recruitment in accordance with any Act of Parliament for the time being in force.” In the next section ‘Institution to be Unitary, the UGC states, “The Institution of Eminence Deemed to be University shall be a unitary Institution Deemed to be University and shall not affiliate any other institution.”
Finally regarding the highly contested name change, the notification states — “The Institution shall not use the word 'University' suffixed to its name but may mention the words "Institution of Eminence Deemed to be University" within parenthesis suffixed thereto'.”
In an interview, Surappa said that he wasn’t thinking of changing the name at all because it would be disastrous for the reputation of the University that was known world-wide by this very name. Babu, however, says that the notification has completely different rules regarding the name and other aspects that the AUTA claim will not change with the IoE tag, “From reading the Regulation in full we understand the following - once Anna University becomes an IoE, it will come under the IoE Regulation and such an institute cannot call itself a University. It will be called an 'IoE Deemed to be University'. The ownership of the University may remain with the Government of Tamil Nadu but Anna University will be regulated by the Central Regulation. Reservation will be in accordance with the Act of Parliament and not in accordance with the Reservation Policy of the Government of Tamil Nadu.”
“We wish to state that there is a wide difference between the Reservation Policy of the Government of Tamil Nadu and the Reservation Policy Of the Central Government, " Babu adds.
“There is no Reservation for SCA within SC in Central Government. It is 15 percent for SC and 7.5 percent for ST in Central Government. There is a creamy layer criteria i.e. income ceiling in reservation for OBC in the Central Government. In Tamil Nadu there is reservation for SCA within SC. It is 18 percent for SC and 1 percent for ST in Tamil Nadu. There is no income ceiling for OBC, MBC and others in Tamil Nadu. When the regulation specifically spells out the reservation policy that will be followed in the 'IoE Deemed to be University', it is misleading to state that the reservation policy of the Government of Tamil Nadu will be followed even after Anna University is brought under the IoE Regulation,” Babu argued.
Speaking to us on the issue, Babu also added recruitment could be effected in the future as well, "They say that there is separate Guidelines for Government Universities. Yes of course, but, it is only an annexure to the Regulation and further to Para 3.01 in the Regulation. That's why I asked them to show us the material that ensures State's reservation policy. Beyond this future recruitment may be contract basis. Inequality in wages etc. It is open for the market. That is the most important ground on which we are opposing."
While Babu says he doesn’t doubt that the scope and operation of the University should widen and that for such expansion, funds and resources are needed, he urged the faculty to come with a proposal detailing the new thrust areas and resources required. He also urged them to place this before the Tamil Nadu government and the people of the state for further dissemination.
“Through the Act passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Anna University was established. The Government and the Legislative Assembly need to discuss the issue of effecting structural change in the administration of the University established out of public funds. The entire society is a stakeholder as far as education is concerned. A change in structure of the University is going to benefit or adversely affect the entire society,” the activist said.
He also appealed to the AUTA to have a wider dialogue on the issue and a ’democratic exchange of ideas’ with other stakeholders.