news Thursday, July 02, 2015 - 05:30
(Image for representation)   Said to be the largest University in India for imparting Home Science education at different levels exclusively to women, the last few months have become difficult for staff working at the Avinashilingam University in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. A deemed university which is run via public funding from the University Grants Commission(UGC) through the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD) along with partial funding from the state government, has been facing issues  over non-payment of salaries and has now crossed the deadline in submitting a written Memorandum of Association to the UGC on June 30. The bone of contention, say professors, remains over the appointment of the university’s chancellor TSK Meenakshisundaram, whose post as a member of the managing trust goes against the requirements of the UGC Code of Regulations, 2010. As a result of violation of the UGC norms, there was a break in funding to the college for a short period – which in turn directly affected the payment of salaries to the staff at the college. In fear of losing support from the Central government, protesting teachers believe that the university is in danger of losing its finances over its lack of implementing deemed university norms as per the UGC regulations, 2010. In 2010, new UGC guidelines were introduced that prevent a chancellor of a deemed university appointed by a sponsoring society from being a part of the society or the trust. In the case of Avinashilingam University, the problem arose over the Chancellor’s continuance in his post despite a conflict of interest. This problem has been going on since 2010. But it was only this year after three months of not receiving our salaries did we come to know that the UGC had stopped funding to the college, said a professor. She says that salaries for staff for the months April, May and June were not paid on time. It was alleged that later permission was sought for an extension of deadline till June 30 to comply with the requirements. Also, appropriate required funds were released. With the deadline threshold having passed by a day, professors of the institution have been protesting via sit-in agitations . The school management also closed the college for three days fearing continued protests, said a report.  “There were many other universities from across India who were given a deadline to comply by the UGC rules. Everyone including a TN-based institute has complied," says another professor. A number of other deemed universities including Tamil Nadu’s Gandhigram University had been told to submit a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) complying by the new norms of the UGC. However, Avinashilingam University’s MoA application was reportedly rejected. Criticism over the UGC regulations However, the newly amended guidelines in 2010 were not embraced with open arms across the country.  Following reservations over the changes by a number of universities, in 2014, the Karnataka High Court called the UGC’s amendments unconstitutional and invalid . However, the government and the UGC cited transparency and accountability as reason, despite universities thinking otherwise.  Professors boycotting classes are of the strong opinion that continuing to refuse to comply by the UGC requirements would lose the college its main central funding ; thereby affecting its status as a deemed university catering to the needs of rural girls in south India. The bigger fear amongst the faculty however, is the possibility that the college would be converted to a self-financing institution. Apart from allegations that the agitating staff may be forced into leaving, the faculty was also concerned that fees in the college would be hiked after a change in its status. An all-women’s college catering to the rural girl students' needs, it also is said to be the only women institution based in the south to be receiving central funds. Started by noted educationalist, Dr. TS Avinashilingam in 1957, it has grown from having a modest 45 student population and today is home to atleast 5000 women students.   Begun as a part of Madras University, it achieved deemed status under rules of the UGC in 1988. According to a statement by the Teaching and Non-Teaching Welfare Association of the college, multiple rounds of talks were held between the teaching faculty and the Avinashilingam management with no acceptance to adhere to the requests for compliance in signing the MoA. It was only after continued agitation that the decision was made to consult the MHRD on the matter. Both the management as well as representatives of the faculty reached New Delhi to discuss the issue with the UGC and the MHRD on reaching a viable solution. “Atleast 400 families and 5000 students along with pensioners will be affected by this if it continues,” says a professor. “We are sceptical of what will happen next,” says one lady professor. Efforts to reach the college management have gone unanswered. 
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