Published: 05th February 2021
Is Anna University’s decision to drop two MTech courses over confusion about reservation policy justified?
As the central government rules of reservation were not acceptable by the Tamil Nadu government, Anna University said it was unable to proceed with the admission for the two courses
The Madras High Court criticised Anna University on Wednesday for choosing to cancel two courses due to lack of funds. A candidate applying to Anna University filed a petition in court against the University’s decision to drop the MTech Biotechnology and MTech Computational Biology courses. The defence asserted that there was confusion as to whether the University should follow the Centre’s reservation rules or the State’s and that if they were to follow state-mandated reservation, they would not be able to afford the course.
The High Court called the decision a ‘shame’.
The state mandates that all institutes follow its 69 per cent reservation policy while the centre has a 45 per cent reservation policy. “As the central government rules of reservation were not acceptable by the Tamil Nadu government, Anna University is unable to proceed with the admission to the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India supported MTech Biotechnology and MTech Computational Biology Programmes for the academic year 2020 – 2021,” the order by the university said. The courses are supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology and the University’s counsel told the court that so far, the authorities had complied with the central government’s reservation system.
“Through the years, the Department of Biotechnology carried out the entire admission process including the list of students to be admitted by complying with the central government reservation. However, this year they had sent the list to Anna University to carry out the admissions,” Anna University’s counsel told the court. Now since there wasn’t any clarity on which reservation policy to follow, the University had decided to withdraw the courses entirely.
What do the guidelines say?
The Graduate Aptitude Test - Biotechnology is conducted by the Regional Centre for Biotechnology on behalf of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and is the admission eligibility test for DBT-supported PG programmes in the participating institutions. Anna University is one of these participating institutions and offers 25 seats for MTech Biotechnology. In the notice advertising for the course, the reservation section states the following - ‘There will be separate merit lists of qualified students for the various categories of students as per the Government of India norms. The participating institutions are required to follow the reservation rules as applicable to them.’ In its disclaimer, the notice again says, “The institutions will advertise and admit students as per their admission and selection process. RCB/DBT will not be responsible for the admission and selection process of participating institutions.”
Under the guidelines for admission the candidates and institutes are thus directed — (1) The concerned Universities/Institutes will display the eligibility criteria for admission, number of seats, reservation as per GOI norms for DBT supported PG Teaching Course at their website and notice/advertisement for admission. (2) The concerned Universities/Institutes may decide admission criteria as per Institutional norms and display the list of selected candidates for admission along with a waiting list.
Set the rules before the game, not after
Education activist Prince Gajendra Babu questioned the University’s decision to drop the courses when the notices calling for applications had not mentioned anything about following the Centre’s reservation policy. “When the notice says that it is upto the University to decide on admission criteria, why is the question about whether to follow the Centre or State rules of reservation even arising? The rule is that based on GAT-B scores the admissions will be made, so that is the only rule that should be applied,” he argued. “If there had been any confusion regarding the reservation policy, why did the University put out an advertisement in the first place? Why give the applicants hope, make them write the exam and then say they are dropping the course? You have to set the rules before starting the game, not after!” he questioned.
“Anna University is located in Tamil Nadu, started by the Tamil Nadu government and funded by the State government. So the reservation policy should also be the state’s,” he added. A representative of the Anna University Teachers’ Association (AUTA) said that the administration should not be forced to bow down to the Centre’s reservation rules, “It is a negative move, if we are asked to follow the Centre’s rules. The two courses are centrally funded but that doesn’t mean we should bow down to the Centre’s reservation policy. The state should be able to gather funding for the course so that the University doesn’t need to drop the course entirely,” he said.
Prince also explained that social backwardness differs from state to state, “Every state is different. In some places the backwardness is higher in comparison to others which is why it should be upto the state to decide on its reservation policy. Reservation is not mercy offered by the government, it is social justice. The right of the people. So alleged confusion over the reservation policy should not be the reason, we deprive students of good courses. Now more than ever we need good researchers in the country.”
Debates over the reservation policy at Anna University started after it was granted the ‘Institute of Eminence’ title. The title meant that the University would have to follow the Centre’s reservation policy, however, the State government insisted that the University follow the state’s reservation policy. Tamil Nadu political leaders said that the University did not require the IoE tag if it meant getting rid of the state’s much-celebrated reservation policy. Eventually, the Ministry of Education had announced that there wouldn’t be any change in Anna University’s reservation policy.