Calling the fresh reforms enforced by the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad irritational and discriminatory, nearly 200 students have launched an indefinite protest against the administration from Wednesday. The protesting students demand complete rollback of the newly introduced policies by the Executive Council.
Earlier this week, the Standing Committee of Academic Council (SCAC) recommended that PhD aspirants who qualify for the University Grants Commission Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) shall be exempted from appearing in the entrance test and directly appear for an interview, which will be for 30 marks. Marks obtained out of 30 shall be calculated to arrive at the score out of 100.
The protesting students claim that this decision is unfair as it gives undue advantage to the students who have a JRF over the others. “A non-JRF candidate will have to give a written entrance for 70 marks, and then again perform exceptionally well in the interview process to have an edge over the JRF candidate. Whereas the latter would just have to appear for the interview, and in all likelihood even if they score less in the interview, they would still get the seat,” a PhD student said.
He also added that there are some humanities courses like cultural studies for which one cannot appear for the National Eligibility Test (NET) and secure a JRF. “This is a mindless decision. Under which subject should we apply for NET? This is a move to effectively reduce the non-NET fellowship students from studying and cut the funding,” he alleged.
EFLU has an interdisciplinary system where MA students can directly apply for PhD without securing a JRF. The protesters claim that students from marginalised communities will be affected by this decision.
Another PhD student on condition of anonymity said, “These reforms are arbitrary and were not made with the consultation of teachers.”
The second change the students are protesting against is a mandatory sit-in exam for all PhD students for the Research Methodology course, which has been made compulsory. A protesting student said, “Among the several irrational decisions, they have also made it mandatory to give sit-in examinations even for PhD scholars, and the assignments are no longer considered as a valid form of evaluation. The teachers are also confused about it because there are several courses which cannot be evaluated only based on a sit-in examination. It is not possible to have such an evaluation method.”
Another point of contention is the registration of courses in the MA programme. EFLU has a “cafeteria” system, where the students select their own courses. However, as per the new guidelines, only 30 students can avail a course, and the registration will be on “first come first served” basis. And if there is one particular course which has an overwhelming number of takers, the same course would be offered by a different teacher. But the students claim that they don’t have enough teachers who would be qualified to teach the same course.