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Rate, and don’t rank, academic institutions

The Hindu Business Line |  Ashish Nanda | 31 March 2017 | Opinion |

Rankings distort organisational behaviour, forcing them to focus on measurable and limited, rather than qualitative, goals.

A colleague recently told me: “NIRF rankings are coming up. We will have a gala event, like last year, with tremendous publicity. These rankings are becoming our Oscars.” His remark crystallised for me some of my concerns with the NIRF (National Institute of Ranking Framework) ranking of higher education institutions. I believe rankings should be replaced by ratings, and these should be done by an independent agency. Rankings accentuate competition. They anoint champions of tennis tournaments, winners of beauty pageants, fastest athletes in track races. Competitors not only want to win, some also want others to do poorly. As they identify winners from a competitive choice set, rankings amplify zero-sum dynamics.

Winner’s market

Academic contexts are not zero-sum settings. The best of academic institutions collaborate with their peers and build shared strengths. Ranking them competitively weakens the motivation to cooperate.  Rankings magnify the winner to the exclusion of everyone else. You might recall Moonlight won the Oscar for best film last month. How many of the eight other films nominated for best film can you recall? Because of asymmetric rewards, those being ranked go to extraordinary lengths to be highly ranked. This leads to two distortions in behaviour: focus on measurements rather than goals, and susceptibility to herd mentality. Since rankings are high-powered rewards, those being evaluated focus on what is being measured even to the possible exclusion of what is important. When schoolteachers were rewarded based on students’ test scores, although the students’ test taking abilities improved, their creative abilities, social skills, and love for learning fell.  Rankings reduce performance on many dimensions to a single ordinal number. When all are being measured on the same metrics with the same weights, ranking-sensitive subjects eschew differentiation, and avoid innovation.

Cheap tricks

Some higher education institutions are tailoring their strategy narrowly; others might be gaming in their reporting, with the objective of improving their NIRF rankings. When an institution reports area dedicated to sports in square feet rather than square yards, is it due to an honest error, or desire to raise NIRF score? I heard the director of a reputed institution justify to their alumni focus on activities, not because of their institutional value, but because they would improve rankings. Since rankings raise the stakes, evaluators must ensure that criteria and measurement are robust. Though National Board of Accreditation (NBA) is valiantly administering NIRF, the criteria remains fluid. For example, should research output of institutions be recognised only if it is management research, or should it also include work done in core disciplines such as economics, statistics and psychology? One of the criteria used to evaluate management institutes in 2016 measured their commitment to Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are valuable to education in India. However, given their high fixed cost and increasing returns to scale, MOOCs should be offered from only a few platforms. Making it a ranking criterion influences all institutions to invest in MOOCs, risking socially inefficient investments in sub-scale offerings.

Evaluation systems must be built on broad consensus on appropriate criteria and their weightages, as well as audit capability to ensure submissions are correct. Whether this can be done by a body subsidiary to the HRD ministry is an open question.  Although it operates as an independent body, membership of various authorities of NBA suggests significant influence of the government, especially MHRD, on its operations. The shadow of NIRF rankings can induce overly compliant behaviour from academic institutions. Even if entirely aboveboard in its actions, MHRD’s ability to influence rankings might be seen as compromising the independence of academic administrators. So, what’s the way forward? Evaluating higher education institutions and publicising how they stand on various criteria is useful. A reliable, independent evaluation is socially beneficial. The approach to evaluating academic institutions should be to rate, not rank them. Academic institutions should be measured against yardsticks, not against one another.

Bring third parties

Ratings may create less buzz, but are more aligned to what the government is trying to achieve: encourage academic institutions to accomplish high quality standards and oversee the institutions in a way that differentiates between them based on quality.  To my knowledge, nowhere else in the world are rankings or ratings of academic institutions conducted by government bodies. To prevent politicking, and avoid even the appearance of conflict of interests, ratings should be done by a neutral, third party that is at a clear arm’s length from the Government, as also from the institutions being ranked, and is seen as capable in evaluation and audit.  This will only increase public trust in the ratings.  –  The writer is Director, IIM-Ahmedabad –  Courtesy

End of the temptation of engineering courses

The Free Press Journal | | Opinion |

Representational Image

THE impact of competition on our engineering colleges will similarly depend on the underlying economic conditions. The portents are not good. Large numbers of these colleges are already in trouble. Around 70 per cent of the total seats in engineering courses are lying vacant in the state.  Human Resources Minister Prakash Javadekar has laid a new philosophy of higher education. Until now the government provided funds to engineering colleges and they churned out graduates while charging nominal fees. The Minister has challenged this proposition and has brought in the new factor of competition. Speaking at a function at Jalandhar, he said, “We feel, whether government or private, only good institutions will flourish and bad will go. Survive through competition and that is 21st Century India.” This market-driven approach is welcome. But competition can be either killing or invigorating depending upon the underlying conditions. Competition leads to invigoration and innovation if the market is growing. Businesspersons find new ways of producing better and cheaper goods. The same competition becomes killing in a slowing economy. Businesspersons have to cut costs in order to survive. They compromise on quality of the goods produced by them. A destructive cycle is set in motion. A slowing economy lead to less demand, which leads to losses for businesses, which forces them to cut costs, which leads them to producing low quality goods, which impose hidden costs on consumers, and in turn it kills the economy.

The impact of competition on our engineering colleges will similarly depend on the underlying economic conditions. The portents are not good. Large numbers of these colleges are already in trouble. The number of students taking admissions has dropped from 89,000 to 79,000 in Maharashtra. Around 70 per cent of the total seats in engineering courses are lying vacant in the state. Many engineering colleges have been put on sale in Andhra Pradesh. They are finding that their graduates are unable to secure jobs. New applicants have vanished and colleges are in trouble. The employers blame this on poor quality of the graduates being churned out of the private colleges. While that is true on the surface, the malaise lies deeper. This can be understood by looking at the controversy regarding H1B Visas. Companies in the United States say they are not able to find skilled workers hence they have to employ foreign nationals. But this often is a ruse used by private companies to access cheaper imported labour. A report in the Los Angeles Times gives the example of Qualcomm, an American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company. The Company claimed that they “face a dire shortage of university graduates in engineering.” But only a few weeks later it cut its work force by 5,000 people. Qualcomm was making a phony plea of shortages to put pressure on the US Government to allow more foreign nationals on H1B visas that are willing to work at lesser wages. Another study quoted by the Atlantic Magazine says, “No one has been able to find any evidence indicating… widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations…  Were there to be a genuine shortage, there would be evidence of employers raising wage offers to attract the scientists and engineers they want.” These examples show that there is actually reduced demand for engineers and the talk of shortage of skilled engineers is more due to the unwillingness of the employers to pay the salaries demanded by the graduates. The situation in our country is similar. Employers complain that they face difficulty in finding candidates of good quality. What they mean to say is that they are not willing to pay the correct price for a candidate of good quality.

There is a dynamic connection between the demand and supply of any item in the market. Consider the supply of potatoes in the market. Good quality potatoes are available at Rs 30 a kilo while those of poor quality are available at Rs 15 a kilo. Now a buyer wants good quality potatoes at Rs 20 a kilo which is not available in the market. So he complains there is ‘shortage’ of good quality potatoes in the market just as Qualcomm complained that there was shortage of engineering graduates. Now, let us say there is a huge demand for good quality potatoes in the market. Customers are willing to pay Rs 40 a kilo for them. The increase in price is proof that there is a shortage. The message will go back to the farmers. They will produce more of good quality potatoes and the price will come down to Rs 30 a kilo in the next season.  The same applies to engineering graduates. Let us say there is a huge demand for good engineering graduates. Employers would then be willing to pay higher salaries, say, Rs 50,000 per month. The message will go back to the youth that engineers can get high salaries. They will apply for admission in engineering colleges in large numbers. The colleges will be swamped with applicants. They will increase the fees which the students will be willing to pay in expectation of high-paying jobs after graduation. The colleges will be able to pay good salaries to the faculty, and the supply of good engineering graduates will increase in a few years. The fact that there is no increase in the salaries offered to good quality engineers in our country today in proof that is problem is lack of demand for the graduates.

We must understand the saying of the Mr. Javadekar in the above backdrop. Let us consider the private sector first. Competition between the private colleges is taking a toll because jobs are not available. An owner of a private college in West UP said that they are getting more applicants in their diploma courses. Employers prefer diploma holders to degree holders because they are willing to do all types of jobs. Degree holders have a sense of superiority. Thus, both diploma and degree holders get the about the same salary in the market.  That shows the state of the market. There simply is no demand for higher skilled degree-holding graduates. Competition among private colleges in this situation will only lead to the production of more low-skilled diploma holders and fewer high-skilled degree holders. That will not take the country forward. But the Minister of Human Resources cannot do much. The state of the economy is outside his domain.  He can do much in respect of government colleges, however. They have less constraints of money. Teachers are paid according to the scale. But teachers have no interest in teaching. Thus graduates of government colleges often get lower salaries than graduates from private colleges. This is where the Minister must focus his attention. The way forward is to make student evaluation of teachers mandatory in all government institutions. All teachers should be subjected to an external review and the lowest 10 percent should be dismissed every year. That will revive government colleges and provide good quality engineers to the country. The private sector will follow suit. –    The author was formerly Professor of Economics at IIM Bangalore.  –  Courtesy

Social changes brought girls in engineering: Sudha Murthy

The Financial Express | PTI | Kolkata |  March 25, 2017 | Opinion |

Philanthropist and author Sudha Murthy today wondered how social changes in the past 50 years has brought a large number of women in engineering and other fields.

Philanthropist and author Sudha Murthy today wondered how social changes in the past 50 years has brought a large number of women in engineering and other fields. At present, 35-40 per cent of IT sector employees are women while she had been the only girl student doing Electrical Engineering in Karnataka decades ago. “There have been lot of social changes in engineering sector as well as in other fields including IT since my day as the only engineering student in university,” Murthy, chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, told PTI.  “And now when I visited the same place after over five decades, what a change it was! 75 cent girls in instrumentation, 75 per cent in electronics, almost 70 per cent in computer science,” she said after being conferred the ICC Lifetime Achievement Award here. Recalling her days in the university, she said there was not a single girls’ toilet in the institution and when she had approached the authorities on this, they refused to build the facility on the ground that there was no guarantee a woman would pursue her studies in engineering stream.

Philanthropist and author Sudha Murthy today wondered how social changes in the past 50 years has brought a large number of women in engineering and other fields. At present, 35-40 per cent of IT sector employees are women while she had been the only girl student doing Electrical Engineering in Karnataka decades ago. “There have been lot of social changes in engineering sector as well as in other fields including IT since my day as the only engineering student in university,” Murthy, chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, told PTI.  “And now when I visited the same place after over five decades, what a change it was! 75 cent girls in instrumentation, 75 per cent in electronics, almost 70 per cent in computer science,” she said after being conferred the ICC Lifetime Achievement Award here. Recalling her days in the university, she said there was not a single girls’ toilet in the institution and when she had approached the authorities on this, they refused to build the facility on the ground that there was no guarantee a woman would pursue her studies in engineering stream. “Today’s women are more assertive, have lot more economic power and more vocal,” she said. “When I had opted for engineering, I was told by my family that no man will marry you if you go for the stream. Now can anyone say that?,” she asked.  Murthy, whose Infosys Foundation is involved in philanthropic work, said her dream remained to provide three-time meal to every child in rural area, four dresses and help to study and pursue vocation. She said that the Infosys Foundation has set up 14,000 toilets in South India and set target for 60,000 libraries. To a question about her icon in life, Murthy, the wife of Infosys co-founder N R Narayanmurthy, said, “I never believed in icons. I always believed (that) correcting yourself is most important.” The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said it was a great privilege to bestow lifetime honour on Murthy whose Infosys Foundation has made India proud at home and abroad. –  Courtesy

Time for remedial measures to correct skewed spread of engineering education

Times of India Blog |  March 17, 2017 | Pyaralal Raghavan in Minority View | TOI  | Opinion |

Growth of engineering education in the country seems to have hit a ceiling with the number of students, including both capacity and enrolment, falling in recent years. This is despite the fact that the number of engineering colleges continues to steadily increase going up from 6,220 in 2013-14 to 6,446 in 2016-17 indicating that many of the older institutions are facing a large shortage of students.  This is borne out by the numbers which shows that the total number of engineering seats sanctioned peaked in 2014-15 at 31.79 lakh and has now fallen to 29.96 lakh in 2016-17, a fall of 5.8%. However the highest fall has been in the total enrolment rates which have come down from 17.82 lakh in 2013-14 to 15.96 lakh in 2015-16, a fall of more than 10 percent. Consequently, the share of vacant seats now is almost half with the vacancy levels going up from 39.6% in 2013-14 to 48.4% in 2015-16.  But what makes the scenario complicated is the skewed distribution of engineering college seats in the country. More than half the engineering colleges and seats are concentrated in five states. Tamil Nadu leads the state rankings with 1025 colleges and 5.26 lakh seats followed by Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with 790,636, 485 and 377 colleges and 3.43 lakh, 2.91 lakh, 2.84 lakh and 2.31 lakh seats respectively. These five states now account for around 51.2% and 56% of the engineering colleges and seats in the country.

However, even these numbers fail to capture the true extent of disparity in engineering education in the country. This is brought out by the sharp differences in the share of engineering college seats and population in the respective states. By this yardstick the share of engineering college seats exceed their share of population is more than half a dozen states.  These would include states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Haryana. While Tamil Nadu had 6.1% of the population and 17.6% of the engineering college seats, Maharashtra had 9.4% and 11.5% respectively. The respective numbers of the other states were Andhra Pradesh 7.4% and 9.5%, Karnataka 5.1% and 7.1%, Punjab 2.4% and 3.7% and Haryana 2.1% and 4.2%.  What is striking is the sharp disparity between the share of population and engineering college seats in some of the larger states. For instance, while Uttar Pradesh has 16.2% of the population it accounted for only 9.7% of the engineering college seats. Similarly West Bengal which has 7.8% of the population had only 3.2% of the seats. The worst case was that of Bihar which had 8.1% of the population but less than one percent of the engineering seats. Other states where the engineering college seats were disproportionately lower than the population included Madhya Pradesh 5.9% and 4.9%, Rajasthan 5.5% and 4.9%, Jharkhand 2.6% and 0.6%, Assam 2.6% and 0.3%, Chhattisgarh 2.1% and 1.2%, Delhi 1.4% and 0.6% and Jammu & Kashmir 1% and 0.3%. However, in states like Gujarat and Orissa the share of engineering college seats were lower than the share of population but only marginally. In Kerala the share of population and engineering college seats were almost at par.  All these certainly indicate that it is time for corrective measures to ensure faster spread of engineering education in the laggard states, especially the large poor states, as it will ensure greater access to the less privileged and ensure greater availability of skilled personal need to boost overall growth. –  Courtesy

Chemistry on the way out for BE engineering students?

The New Indian Express | By Ashmita Gupta  |  ENS  |  20th March 2017  |

CHENNAI: Should engineering students study Chemistry?


A debate on this is on among Anna University professors as the university’s Syllabus Committee has been mooting the idea of scrapping papers on Chemistry in a few BE courses. The idea to do away with Chemistry paper for BE students was discussed in the panel meeting about three months ago, said a section of professors who are against the move. The students of several engineering streams like Civil and Mechanical Engineering usually have a paper on Chemistry during the first or second year of the course.  While a few professors said a decision has been made in this regard, officials of the Centre for Academic Courses denied it. “We discussed the idea, but no final decision has been taken. It can be done only with the approval of the Board of Studies, Syllabus Committee and the Academic Council,” said TV Geetha, Director for Centre for Academic Courses.  But a section of professors are strongly against the idea. They believe that basic sciences like Physics and Chemistry are fundamental to several engineering concepts.

“One cannot study Mechanical Engineering without first learning about metal composition, thermal composition, oil composition, ignition and all the related principles that are applied in engineering. Strong fundamentals are necessary to understand these subjects,” said A Pandurangan, Head of Department of Chemistry, Anna University.  A professor of Madras Institute of Technology, Chromepet, which also functions under Anna University, has a similar argument. “In Aeronautical Engineering, to learn about fuel, an understanding of basic Chemistry is essential. A student may not understand what a bio-fuel is if he has not studied Chemistry,” the professor says on condition of anonymity. He says many students don’t want to learn tough subjects like Chemistry since they are not interested in pursuing a career in their field of study, but take up a job in the IT industry. Due to such reasons, the university must not compromise on its syllabus, argues professors who oppose the move.  Not all arguments of Chemistry professors are based on the importance of the subject. Some also candidly said they are worried because their livelihood will be affected if the basic sciences subjects are scrapped from the syllabus. According to sources, Chemistry and Physics papers are already replaced with papers on latest engineering subjects like electronic devices and circuits for students of part-time BE courses offered by the university. “All the energy-related subjects require an understanding of basic Chemistry. But adding new subjects will be a burden on students. So the university has decided to remove the basic sciences,” said another professor of the university. –  Courtesy

IITs do all but research in engineering

The New Indian Express |  By Richa Sharma  |   19th March 2017  |  Opinion |

NEW DELHI: The great Indian IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) dream may be losing its charm. A study has found that these premier institutions lag way behind in producing quality research in engineering which is their core area.  The study, published in the country’s prestigious scientific journal Current Science and conducted jointly by authors from the Banaras Hindu University and South Asian University, reveals that majority of the research output from IITs is in subjects such as physics, chemistry and material science. For IITs to be placed high among the global institutions, a lot of effort and support is required, it states.  The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are laggards in producing quality research in engineering. Publishing research is important for any institution, for it helps in determining its international reputation and funding in case of private institutions. A joint study by authors from Banaras Hindu University and South Asian University analysed research performance of 16 IITs. At present, there are 23 IITs in India but data of rest seven was not available. “The discipline-wise research performance analysis indicates that majority of the research output from IITs is in Physics, Chemistry and Material Science and research in engineering disciplines lags behind substantially,” observes the study.
It adds that IITs being primarily engineering and technology institutions should produce more research work in core engineering disciplines. The IITs lag behind as they are not focusing on publishing research in right kind of publications internationally. The analysis also explains that there is a substantial difference in research performance levels of old IITs compared to the new IITs. Among 16 IITs, seven are old—Kharagpur, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Delhi, Guwahati and Roorkee. While nine others—Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Patna, Ropar, Indore, Mandi and Varanasi—have been established in the last 10 years.  “The new IITs are very young for a research performance in comparison with old IITs. Some new IITs, particularly the IITI, show promising research performance.” The research also stresses that one of the major outcomes of the analysis was that even the best-performing IITs of India are behind two top-ranking world universities—Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in research.  “Of these, NTU (established in 1991) is younger than the five older IITs, which shows that the age of an institution alone does not only call for higher performance. If a new institution like NTU can achieve higher research performance levels then why not some of the Indian IITs?” it questions. –  Courtesy  /   Click here to View / Download the Article Fulltext  Research performance of Indian Institutes of Technology by Banshal, Sumit Kumar ; Singh, Vivek Kumar ; Basu, Aparna ; Muhuri, Pranab Kumar, Current Science, Vol. 112, No. 05 – 10 March 2017 – 10 Pages

No, this is not quite a textbook solution

The Economic Times Blog |   March 18, 2017 |  ET Editorials |ET | Opinion |

The decision by a set of publishers to not pursue their case against Rameshwari Photocopy Service, Delhi, which photocopied portions of textbooks and sold them to students as ‘coursepacks’, may have settled the long-drawn-out court battle with foreign publishers but highlights unsettled nuances of infringing copyright for the purpose of education.  The publishers had wanted caps on how much of the book could be photocopied, and had asked for the payment of copyright dues for inclusion of the material in the coursepack. Those representing the interests of the students and photocopy shop argued that the coursepack was a collection of reading material selected by the teachers in keeping with the objective of the course and its curriculum and, therefore, should not be subject to a copyright fee or limits on the amount of the textbook that could be photocopied. Technically, this is expansive interpretation of the fair-use clause in the Copyright Act.

What constitutes as fair use is contentious and up for interpretation. Copyright serves to acknowledge the author’s effort and intellect, and reward him for these. And while there are uses for which the author or creator should be willing to forgo the reward, there needs to be a limit to how much the creator has to forgo.  There is a need to balance the needs of individuals/students with that of the author/creator, to keep the supply of good books flowing. A principled solution could be for universities and colleges to allocate a portion of their library funds to pay for the intellectual property of textbooks, whose publishers can then be persuaded to make their books available at reduced rates and to forgo further claims on photocopying for students’ use, with a collective body for the university system negotiating with the publishers to determine a reasonable compensation. – This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times. –  Courtesy

UGC 2016 Regulation and the Future of Higher Education in India

Live Law |  Deepak Kumar | March 5, 2017  | Opinion |

As the human body needs a proper meal for nourishment in the same way education is needed for the nourishment of human mind.Education is thesole factor to the difference between animals and human. Historically,education in India only restricted to a certain caste that dominates the majority of the population. Alas, till the date things are more or less same. It is highly unfortunate that almost seven decades has come to complete after the enforcement of Indian Constitution but education has not become the national interest subject under the Constitution.*Indian Education Inclusive or Exclusive *In India, there are various kinds of boards and universities exist for primary as well as higher education level i.e. central, state,minorities and private or self-financing to established segregation or water type compartment among citizens. On the one hand, in the schooling system, there are International boards, ICSE board, CBSE board, states boards, minorities’ boards like Madarsa and Gurukul. Among all Kendriya Vidyalaya is the unique schooling system which is available only for the central government employees’ children. On the other hand in higher education, there are institute of national importance, IITs, IIMs AIIMs,NLUs etc., the central universities, the state universities, minorities’ universities, deemed universities and the private or self-financed universities.The State segregates the citizens on the various grounds in education but the “language” is the most contested ground of all. For example almost all states boards in India; mandate the medium of education intheir local language rather than English. The result of this prohibition of majority of the students lose the opportunity to entering in the mainstream professional degrees for example IITs, IIMS, IIMs, NLUs, and even these students cannot make it to the merit list just because of the useof English in the top universities in India like Delhi University. It remains a sociological fact that through English one can be getting better education and jobs because it opens the doors of manyopportunities. Amartya Sen argued that “/knowing English opens all sortsof doors in India, even to someone who may not be particularly qualifiedotherwise [/Dreze, Jean and Sen, A. (2013)]To control and regulate whole education system in India, there is aUniversity Grant Commission (hereafter UGC) which comes under thecentral government, and the UGC is doing whatever the Central governmentwants to do. There is no single board for the school as well as thehigher education level in India. The primary education is the foundationfor the higher education and from primary level the State startsits/segregation’s policy/ through various modes. The condition ofgovernment schools is miserable and become to commodity that canpurchasable. The condition of the higher education is more or less same.The scope of the public universities is shrinking day by day due to neweconomic policies of the State. The education budget is lesser thanother things because the State does not believe that education is not anecessary for the development of the nation. For analysis the above situations, the questions arises here that who is responsible to makeeducation a commodity, Constitution, industry or the State? Thesequestions arise yet again in light of the controversy over the UGC notification of May 2016, and its implementation in various universitiessuch as Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University among others?The UGC last year in May 2016 passed a Regulation which has become controversial and its impact has been perceived as drastically negativeon the researcher’s freedom to craft research areas as well as for undermining the autonomy of the universities and institutions. I suggestthat that through the2016 UGCs regulation the State’s intention is to prohibit the down trodden peoples from acquiring the M.Phil and Ph.Ddegree and become the part of the mainstream. We may well ask why is theUGC through the new notification trying to cut the huge number of theseats of M.Phil and Ph.D programme. Do the new regulations signal that onthe one hand the State curbs the scope of public university to restrictthe access of the down trodden communities candidates from higher education and on the other hand, the State promotes private education?Do we fully understand the effect of 5^th May, 2016 UGC’s Notificationon social justice which is guaranteed by the Constitutions of India?The preamble of the Indian Constitution guarantee to its citizen thatthe State shall be provide justice (social, economic and political) and equality of status and opportunity to all irrespective to anything.Article 38 of the Indian Constitution is direct to the State to secure social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people. Art 38(1)stated that /“The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform allthe institutions of the national life/.Article 38(2) stated that /“ The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, and not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of peoples residing indifferent areas or engaged in different vocations./That means it is the fundamental obligation on the State to make such laws accordance with the sprite of the Constitution which ensure justice and opportunity to all, but the State fails to fulfil its positive duty towards the Constitution as well as its citizen. The State on the one hand promotes and established the private education and on the otherhand shrinks the scope of public education due to reduction in funding,by not recruiting faculty and now reducing or freezing intake in theM.Phil/Ph.D programme.These disadvantage groups are neither able to /“purchase primary”/education from private schools nor are they able to access publicuniversity due to limited seats available. The State is under threat from the voices raises by these socially and educationally backwardsstudents’ communities after acquiring the higher education from public universities. Therefore, it is the last weapon in the hand of the State to stop marginalised populations for not entering in the higher education. This may be the reason behind the low budget of the education in India that in the State’s priorities the concept of spending money on education is a concept of /waste of money/. To acquire the higher education in private institutions is not less than a day-dream for the majority of the population (historically disadvantage groups i.e. SC/ST/OBC/women and minorities) and the last hope left in their hand that is public universities which is equal to the private education.

*Differences between 2009 and 2016 UGC’s Regulation*

*Eligibility Criteria for M.Phil and Ph.D*

The UGC Regulation in 2009 allows the Universities to retain their autonomy in the matter relating to the academic activities. Section 6 ofthe 2009 UGC’s Notification allows all Universities and others Institutions;/“the institutions shall lay down the criteria for the faculty to be recognised as Research Supervisor for both M.Phil and Ph.D Programmes/.”Section 7 of the 2009 Notification allows the Universities and other Institutions to “/lay down and decide on annual basis, a predeterminedand manageable numbers of M.Phil and Doctoral students depending on the number of the available eligible Faculty Supervisors. A Supervisor shallnot have, at any given point of time, more than Eight Ph.D Scholars and Five M.Phil Scholars/.”Section 9 (i) of the 2009 Notification allows to all universities and other Institutions to admit the M.Phil and Doctoral admission through an/Entrance Test/ conducted at the individual level of the Institution.Section 9 (ii) allows to take /the interview/ at the Institutionslevel.But on the other hand in 2016 the UGC dilute its progressive approach after imposition the new guidelines for the Entrance Test under section 5 of the regulation:/“5.4.1 An Entrance Test shall be qualifying with qualifying marks as50%. The syllabus of the Entrance Test shall consist of 50% of research methodology and 50% shall be subject specific. /And 5.4.2 has provisionfor/interview/ viva voce.” /Section 10 of the UGC 2009 Notifications allows the intergraded M.Phil-Ph.D Programme i.e. “/The Admission to the Ph.D Programme would be either directly or through M.Phil Programme./Contrast this with the 2016 Notification.In 2016, the UGC does notmention a single word about the intergraded programme thereby indicating that the UGC totally undermines this unique programme through aRegulation. Unlike the earlier Regulation, UGC 2016 alters the entrance test in a manner that will decidedly exclude the marginalised—most students, especially in marginalised areas, are not taught methodology. In fact, UGC 2009 cherished the hope that methodology will be taught atthe MPhil level, now it is expected that MA students should be wellversed in methods to qualify for an MPhil! Even more insidious is that the provision for viva, which the JNU administration first insisted was to 100%, and following protests supposedly changed it to 20%, with 80%for the written marks, makes a mockery of the question of access to higher education. For, if a candidate does not qualify an OMR test, the candidate won’t be able to write the descriptive examination. This interpretation by JNU — an alteration of the admission policy—that has not been approved by the Academic Council yet, has been perceived by students as a potent way by which students, especially those marginalised, will not be able to qualify even if there were “vacancies”.

*On the Reservation*

Section 3 the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006, allows the reservation in the Central Educational Institution.Section 11 of the UGC in 2009 clearly mentions that /theUniversities and other institutions will pay due attention to the national/State Reservation Policy/. That means the UGC talks about particularly CEI Act 2006 which is undemocratically ended by the 2016Notification by limited or cut the seats at large scale.The Act mentions that out of the annual existing permitted strength in each branch of thestudy or faculty, fifteen per cent seats shall be reserved for the SCs,Section 3 (i), seven and one-half per cent for the STs, Section 3(ii),and twenty-seven per cent for the OBCs, Section 3(iii).Section 5 of theCEI Act stated the mandatory provision for the implementation of the reservation policy which mentions under section 3 of the Act.On the contrary, the 2016 Regulation mention that the national level reservation policy will applicable in the admission process but thequestion arise on the intention of the State that neither the vacancies of Faculty fulfil nor the seats available for the research then how canthe object of CEI Act 2006 will be fulfil? Is there not a conflict between CEI Act and UGC’s 2009 and 2016 regulations? The UGC 2009regulation makes mandatory provision to extent the existing seats/vacancies with the SC/ST/OBCs reservation but on the contrary 2016regulation curb the seats/vacancies for the M.Phil and Ph.D. If the seats are not available then what will be benefit of CEI Act 2006?

*On Choice/Interest of the Researcher*

The 2009 UGC’s Notification allows great autonomy both the Faculty Supervisor as well as the student as mentions in section 12 of the Notification that “/The allocation of the supervisor for a selected student shall be decided by the Department in a formal manner depending on the number of the student per faculty member, *_the available specialization among the faculty supervisors_*_,_ and the *_research interest of the student as indicated during interview by the student._*The allotment/allocation of the supervisor shall not be left to the individual student or teacher./The choice/interest of the researcher must not be compromise in research. For example if in particular center/department, the particular Faculty who has expert in particular subject but has already maximum candidate for supervision for next 4-6 years, then what will happen withnew researcher who wants to research under /that /particular supervisor?In that situation not only the student deprived her research which shehas interest but the ultimate loss goes to the nation. It will be the pathetic condition if the plants will not get proper water and thegardener hope for the fruits. It is absolutely not justified and itleads to injustice for the future of research in India. If the 2016UGC’s regulation applicable the essence of the research in India will be compromised.

*Is UGC’s Notification Arbitrary and Unreasonable?*

The 5th May, 2016, the UGC make a notification <http://www.sliet.net.in/pdf/2016/UGCNOTIFICATION05MAY2016.pdf&gt; which
says in section 6.5:

/A Research Supervisor/Co-supervisor who is a Professor, at any given point of time, cannot guide more than three (3) M.Phil and Eight (8)Ph.D. scholars. An Associate Professor as Research Supervisor can guideup to a maximum of two (2) M.Phil and six (6) Ph.D. scholars and anAssistant Professor as Research Supervisor can guide up to a maximum of one (1) M.Phil and four (4) Ph.D. scholars./It is statutory power of the UGC to make any rule/regulation for the academic purpose under section 26, but the question arises that can theUGC has sole power within itself or it can consult with universities.Section 12 of the UGC Act, 1956, that /It shall be the general duty of the Commission to take, in consultation with the Universities or other bodies concerned, all such steps as itmay think fit for the promotion and co-ordination of University education and for the determination and maintenance of standards ofteaching, examination and research in Universities, and for the purpose of performing its functions under this Act./Though, the UGC has expert members but how can the UGC free from influence of the central government? It is serious question which required answer from the UGC as well as the Government.In a democratic country every single decision which affects the public at large even the future of the country must be taken by the democratic process. It is the duty of the State to secure justice and make every single stake holder directly or indirectly in the process of any decision. Neither the State nor the UGC have absolute power do whatever they want to do. It was the UGC’s duty to consult with the universities before taking such step.

*Judicial Approach Regarding UGC’s Rules/Regulation/Notification *

In */Ajesh V.V. Varapuzha House vs The University Grants Commission<https://indiankanoon.org/doc/113619130/>/*/, /the Supreme Court of India held that the UGC has statutory power to frame any Rules and Regulation under section 26 of the UGC Act, 1956. The Court held in para21 that “/If any interference is made to the guidelines issued by theUniversity, it will amount to dilution of the 2009 Regulations which isnot permissible and the Courts cannot take a different view from whathas already been stated”./The Supreme Court in*/P.Suseela and Others v. University Grants Commission and Others <https://indiankanoon.org/doc/68173382/&gt; /*heldthat the regulations made by UGC have no retrospective effect:/“14. The other interesting argument made is that such regulationsshould not be given retrospective effect so as to prejudicially affect the interests of any person to whom such regulation may be applicable.In order to appreciate this contention, it is necessary to distinguish between an existing right and a vested right.”/The apex court apply its hands offs approach in */University Grant Commission & Anr v Neha Anil Bobde (Gadekar)<https://indiankanoon.org/doc/187384523/>/* CIVIL Appeal No. 8355 of 2013.
/“29. We are of the view that,<http://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/6370531_Supreme-Court-judgement-UGC-NET-exam.pdf>in academic matters, unless there is a clear violation of statutoryprovisions, the Regulations or the Notification issued, the Courts shallkeep their hands off since those issues fall within the domain of theexperts. This Court in University of Mysore vs. C.D.Govinda Rao, AIR1965 SC 491, Tariq Islam vs. AligarhMuslim University (2001) 8 SCC 546and Rajbir SinghDalal vs. Chaudhary Devi Lal University (2008) 9 SCC284, has taken the view that the Court shall not generally sit in appealover the opinion expressed by expert academic bodies and normally it iswise and safe for the Courts to leave the decision of academic expertswho are more familiar with the problem they face, than the Courtsgenerally are. _UGC as an expert body has been entrusted with the dutyto take steps as it may think fit for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in the University._For attaining the said standards, it is open to the UGC to lay down any“qualifying criteria”, which has a rational nexus to the object to beachieved, that is for maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research.”/* *

*The effect of UGC Notification on JNU*

JNU administration adopts UGC’s 5^th May, 2016 Regulation in its 142^nd Academic Council Meeting with undemocratic manner and not consulted withthe whole member of the AC Meeting. The JNU administration did not follows the JNU Act while trying to implement the UGC’s 2016 Regulation.In 141 Academic Council meeting the UGC’s Regulation not discussed in democratic manner by the JNU Administration and neither this Regulation circulated to the Schools and Centres for comments and suggestions before adaptation of the Regulation.There are two highest level committees in JNU, first Academic Council(Academic Body of the University), and the second Executive Council(Executive Body of the University). The Academic Council has two parts (A and B), part A include the student representative body with the Faculties, who elect by the election andhave statuary rights under the JNU Constitution to participate in AC Meetings when the policy matter discuss about admission and reservation at the university level. The part B of the AC includes the Faculty members and representatives of the elected members of the JNTA.On the other the student body have no right when the matter discuss relating to(a) faculty positions, requirement, conditions of service and academic freedom; (b) the issue relating to actual process of evaluating theacademic preference and merit of the students.The JNU administrations deliberately not discussed the Regulation andeven not clear how to implement the regulation. Pratiksha Baxi stated,it is the unique feature of the JUN student body that represent indecision making process. Baxi stated:<https://kafila.online/2017/02/21/the-struggle-to-save-the-jnu-act-the-student-standing-counsels-response-to-ugc-2016-pratiksha-baxi/>/Surely it is a matter of pride that students have this statutory rightand exercise their academic freedom without fear or threat. Very few universities, if any, concede such rights to students and we, as faculty are privileged to learn from our students how to make our university aninclusive, equal and dignified experience. This is an on-going process—and we have much to learn from our institutional history. /In the JNU Act, the AC only has rights to make Ordinance on matters relating to academic and the EC (Executive Committee) must approved the Ordinance which is deliberately decision taken by the AC. The AC alsohas a power to requisition an AC meeting if the EC passed an Ordinance beyond the JNU Constitution, and the Visitor have the power to annul EC proceedings.Baxi stated that how undemocratically the administration passed the

Ordinance:

/In the 142 AC meeting, the minutes of the 141 meeting were passed amidst protests by members of the Academic Council. From accounts ofcolleagues in the AC, we learnt that the minutes were cursorily calledout, as “passed, passed”. Students who protested were suspended andteachers who were issued a collective show cause notice, following the JNUTA’s call for a one//‑//day strike. The show cause notice raised thespectre of CCS Rules, and five teachers were subsequently threatened with enquiries for making speeches on the adverse impact of the UGC Actevoking an inapplicable 20m rule, which proscribes where certain kinds of protests can take place<https://kafila.online/2017/02/21/the-struggle-to-save-the-jnu-act-the-student-standing-counsels-response-to-ugc-2016-pratiksha-baxi/&gt;./By the undemocratic attempt of the JNU administration, constitutionally validity of the JNU Act, Academic Council, JNUSU, and JNUTA become /null and void. /The JNU administration, by pass the whole process which is violated the JNU Act and surrenders JNU’s autonomy before the UGC’s Regulation.The JNU administration uploads two tables of the existing research scholar and Faculty Members. The administration did not follow a due process while made these two tables. Because of these tables not onlythe student but the Faculty members are under stress that what will happen with the future of the M.Phil 2^nd year and Provisional Ph.Dcandidates. Dr. Baxi called it /Show Cause Jurisprudence<https://kafila.online/2017/02/21/the-struggle-to-save-the-jnu-act-the-student-standing-counsels-response-to-ugc-2016-pratiksha-baxi/>/*.*

Ayesha Kidwai
<https://kafila.online/2017/01/24/howdothenewugcregulationsaffectprospectivestudentsapplyingtojnuayeshakidwai/&gt;,argued /in “How do the new UGC regulations affects prospective students applying to JNU/? Kidwai stated that due to this regulation the seatswill be reduced drastically and in may center of JNU will not have asingle seats of M.Phil/Ph.D. Due to this Regulation the admission policywill be affect as disaster for the JNU, it will be a blow on socialjustice, and the researcher advisory committee will curtail the academic freedom in the campus.

Nivedita Menon,
<https://kafila.online/2016/12/26/jnuvcsabotagesdemocraticfunctioningofacademiccounciltopushthroughantisocialjusticepolicies/>JNU Prof along with 20 Prof in /JNU VC Sabotages Democratic Functioningof Academic Council to push through Anti-Social Justice Policies, /stated:/“We, faculty members of the JNU Academic Council, are shocked anddismayed at the manner in which the Vice Chancellor has conducted the142 Academic Council meeting of December 23 (adjourned to December 26).This was a thinly attended meeting since it was held at short notice inthe middle of the winter vacation, despite several requests forrescheduling. The minutes of the previous (141) Academic Council meetingthat had been circulated contained many errors, misrepresentations, andfalsities. Several of these had been pointed out by many members of theAcademic Council, including in written representations to theRegistrar….//We disapproves of the way in which opinions of many in thehouse were not heard and democratic norms were violated in the conductof the 142 Academic Council meeting by the administration led by theVice Chancellor/.”
We are living in an era where the State not follows its fundamentalobligation to secure justice social-economic and political to itscitizen. Education is the only means through which every sections of thesociety will get the opportunity to come with mains streams, but theState’s intention is opposite at all. On the one hand the State and theUGC is violating the Constitutional principles as they can, and on theother hand the judiciary adopt /hands off approach/ in the matterrelating UGC’s Notifications. The judiciary should take intoconsideration that whether the UGC’s Notification is democratic or not?
The scope of public university is shrinking day by day through various tactics of the State and the future of the higher education comes at theedge. It was not possible for anyone to get admission in any public orprivate university without English but it’s the unique feature of theJNU to allow all sections of the society irrespective of any caste,class, race, gender, religion, language, place of birth andethnicity.The entire academic community are living under stressed due toUGC’s Notification and JNU Administration’s arbitrary and undemocraticdecision. In the academic session 2015-16 the total number of 24,171 Ph.D degrees
awarded
<http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/feb/16/tamil-nadu-gives-india-the-highest-number-of-phd-holders-1571163.html&gt;
and during 2014-2015 academic year the total 21,830 Ph.D degree wereawarded in the country. Due to reduction of seats or intake by the UGC’s2016 regulation, the question arises on the conflict of lawsof thevarious provisions i.e. the constitutionally validity of the socialjustice ensured in Indian Constitution, the JNU Act of 1966, UGC 2009and 2016 regulation, andthe /Central Educational Institutions(Reservation in Admission) Act/ 2006.The UGC 2016 regulation’s impact entire universities and othersinstitutions but the strong voice raised against this draconianregulation by few universities like JNU and Jadvapur University. SomeM.Phil and Ph.D scholars of JNU have moved the Delhi High Court forseeking justice and the whole JNU community is waiting for a positiveresponse from the Court. –  Deepak Kumar is a M.Phil Scholar at Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, New Delhi. –  Article Courtesy

Secrecy about process of accrediting colleges is baffling

  |  By DR AMBROSE PINTO | Opinion |

NAAC’s idea of IEQA flawed; it’s a quiz where you aren’t told the answers. An objective assessment would show that an automated reply can’t be charged Rs 28,000

For all new colleges seeking assessment, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NACC) has a rigorous process. The colleges have to write a letter of intent, first making clear their intention to go for accreditation. They then have to pay a sum of Rs 28,000 and electronically answer some questions. This is known as IEQA (institutional eligibility for quality assurance). An automated message whether the college has made it or not for assessment is received within a few minutes of sending the form. How good is this practice? NAAC has always claimed to be a quality institution with transparency and accountability. In such an institution, the parameters for assessment for new colleges should have been placed on the website. Only those who meet the criteria could have been asked to go for assessment. That would have made NAAC credible and transparent.  Why has NAAC adopted the automated process? If a college clears the IEQA, it is permitted to submit its self-study report. If it does not, the money is not refunded. By all standards, this is an unethical practice. An institution can charge an amount proportionate to its service. In this instance, an objective assessment will tell the public that an automated reply cannot be charged Rs 28,000. This is purely profit-making. NAAC has said in a press statement that 50 per cent of colleges do not make the grade at the first instance.

One can imagine the amount of money NAAC makes out of this exercise. Every year, hundreds of colleges fail to make the grade.  And why do institutions fail? There is a total secrecy in the whole process of IEQA. The marks allotted to each question have been a secret. NAAC has refused to divulge the right answers. The automated reply informs the colleges that they should improve and apply after six months.  In a democratic society, every institution has a right to know the deficiencies of the institution so that they can correct, improve and develop. NAAC was established to improve quality. If NAAC wanted colleges to improve after the colleges had not made the grade, NAAC has a responsibility to instruct the colleges, areas in which they had to improve. If these colleges fail for the second time, then NAAC should partly blamed, for its inadequate guidance. However, NAAC has refused to divulge the marking system or provide feedback despite requests.  It is only after St Aloysius Degree College, Bengaluru, filed an RTI that NAAC parted with the information on the markings a few days ago. Sri Wahidul Hasan, public information officer of NAAC through his letter dated on February 2, 2017 provided the information asked for. However, his note says that “the minimum eligibility criteria to each of the indicators mentioned in IEQA should score 4 points in college details and 36 points in institutional data”. To get those four marks is not easy simply because at least six out of ten questions asked are illogical and against the law. Several questions carry no marks.

These are:
* If an institution exists for more than ten years, one mark is allotted. But according to NAAC guidelines, eligibility for assessment is “if two batches of students have graduated”. What is the rationale for providing one mark for institutions in existence for more than ten years? In fact, delays should not be rewarded. If a mark had to be awarded, it should have been for colleges who go for accreditation soon after five years.

* Location of the college is given one mark provided the college is located in a semi-urban, rural, tribal or hilly region. What is the reason for denying a mark for urban colleges? There cannot be a principle of reservation for assessment for rural colleges since assessment is mandatory for all colleges. It sounds ridiculous that NAAC, which claims to be a qualitative institution, could even think of a trick like this to be corrupt.

* If an institution is permanently affiliated, it gets a mark. The UGC has laid down in the following the norm that permanent affiliation is only after NAAC accreditation. http://www.ugc.ac.in/oldpdf/regulations/gazetteofIndia24-04-12.pdf

* Women’s colleges are offered a mark. While reservation for women is an appreciable step, to give one mark for a women’s college and to exclude others in assessment is discriminatory.

* Recognition under 2f & 12B gets a mark. Under the amended UGC Act 1956, 2f and 12 B is offered only after permanent affiliation, possible after NAAC assessment.

* Number of degrees offered. If a college has both UG and PG, a mark is given. Universities permit only NAAC-accredited colleges to start PG. Besides, at no place does the accreditation manual mention that a college should have PG course for accreditation.

Observations
a. Those who formulated the questions would surely have known the rules and regulations of the UGC, and state universities. One gets the impression that the practice was deliberately planned with ulterior motives. More than 50 per cent of the institutions do not make the grade. One could easily imagine the money NAAC makes out of it.

b. A comparative study of 10 institutions has revealed that some institutions do not have the required eligibility and yet have been assessed. When enquired with, the regional coordinator replied to us that NAAC works on trust and they do not take responsibility for false information provided. It is a strange logic by an institution that informs colleges that they would be checking on the data during self-assessment and institutions that have not provided the right answers would be penalised. To an objective analyst it means that there are other means of clearing the IEQA.

c. Finally, one wonders why NAAC has this practice at all! NAAC could very well tell colleges the requirement for applying for assessment and those who do not meet the required levels do not have to apply. NAAC is for assessment and not for non-assessment. It needs to restrict itself to assess by placing on its website the basic requirements.

According to NAAC authorities, “IEQA is to make sure how the institution understands itself; its strengths, weaknesses, potentials and limitations”. This is pure rhetoric.
It is unfortunate that NAAC does not have the capacity or competence to do it since it has primarily failed in its own role of understanding its own strengths and weaknesses. What is required at this juncture is a thorough cleansing of NAAC. After years of evaluating others, it is time that NAAC is evaluated. There still are good persons in the system. If there is a strong political will, NAAC can become a catalyst of change again. –  (Dr Ambrose Pinto SJ is principal of St Aloysius Degree College, Bengaluru)  –  Courtesy

The Indian ISSN conundrum

Current Science , VOL. 112, NO. 3, 452 10 February  2017 | Opinion | G Mahesh |

The International Standards Serial Number (ISSN), the unique identifier for serials or periodicals, is similar to the ISBN for books and monographs, and DOI for online documents. The ISSN International Centre in Paris governs he ISSN activities through a network of national libraries or national institutions in 89countries.In India, the National Science Library at the CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) is he ISSN National Centre. In the last few years, the Indian National Centre has been flooded with requests for more SSNs than it can actually handle. Figure 1 gives the growth in the number of ISSNs assigned ever since the centre ame into being in 1986. A steep growth in the ISSNs can be seen inthe last few years. One of the reasons for the phenomenal increase in the number of journals seeking ISSNs is because of UGC’s ‘minimum qualifications for appointments of teachers and other academic staff in universities and colleges and measures for the maintenance of standards in higher education 2010’ wherein Academic Performance Indicators (API) for tenure promotions for teachers working in universities and colleges give points forarticles published in ISSN journals1,2.This has been reticulated in a whitepaper prepared by the ISSN National Centre in 2012 (ref. 3). Further by 2010,buoyed by the success of open access journals such as PLoS ONE, hundreds of APC (article processing charge)-based open access journals have mushroomed. Coincidentally, UGC’s API came as a godsend to those individuals and publishers in India who were already toying with the idea of APC-based open access journals. With points to be cored for publishing papers, reams of ‘research ‘papers continue to be produced that make way into the many new nd soon-to-be launched APC-based journals. Many publishers who evidently know nothing about journals continue o literally capitalize on the opportunity, by charging a slow as Rs 1000 for publishing an article. In sheer desperation or API scores and driven by other academic compulsions.  unsuspecting authors continue to fall  prey to such journals.  The level of ignorance of some nou-veau publishers can be gauged by the fact that immediately after obtaining ISSN for a new journal, they also want an impact factor! There have been numerous instances where basic plagiarism check of articles in the proposed first issues of journals failed. We also encounter journals with fictitious editorial board members and bizarre journal titles. The UGC API unwittingly indicating ISSN as a ‘quality’ criterion not only attracted callous and opportunistic publishers but also a few researchers and faculty members who have found it easier to bring out an ‘international journal’ rather than publishing articles in already well-established journals.

The pertinent question that easily arises is why are ISSNs being assigned to such questionable journals?

According to the ISSN inclusion criteria laid down by the ISSN International Centre, Paris all that are required for inclusion of a serial in the ISSN Registry are: there should be content related to a subject, there should be editorial responsibility, a consistent title and a valid  URL. Actually, these are the only criteria required to ‘uniquely identify a serial’, which in any case is the essence of ISSN.

The point is, ISSN is not an indicator of  quality. However, in its endeavour to keep questionable journals at bay, the Indian ISSN Centre has been taking some steps such as carrying out plagiarism checks which clearly is  utside the scope of the prescribed ISSN inclusion criteria. Plagiarism and other quality checks of journal articles are editorial and publisher responsibilities. Unfortunately, the desperation for ISSNs is such that if an ISSN application is turned down for valid shortcomings whatsoever, the editor or publisher reapplies after ‘taking care’ of the shortcomings and are persistent till such time the ISSN is obtained. Quite a few times, non-assignment of ISSNs on legitimate grounds has been countered with not so polite responses including complaints to the ISSN International Centre and higher offices in the government machinery. Now after an ISSN is assigned, the Centre has little control over what is published in the journal. The ISSN National Centre is not a regulatory or monitoring authority of scholarly journals. As per ISSN guidelines, the Centre can suppress  an ISSN only if it subsequently comes to light that misleading information has been provided by a publisher at the time of applying for ISSN. The Centre does receive emails complaining about plagiarized articles published in a  journal which we duly forward to editor  or publisher of the journal. The unenviable situation of the ISSN  Indian National Centre in handling questionable journals has been exhaustively  documented in the white paper and  shared with the authorities including the  ISSN International Centre, Paris3.  The International Centre recognizes the  issues plaguing the Indian Centre and has  stood with the Centre’s decision of not  assigning ISSNs to many journals.

In recent months, the National Centre  has made it mandatory for the print serials  applying for ISSN to first register the  serial with the Registrar of Newspapers  in India (RNI). The Office of RNI coordinates  with the licensing wing of the  police department to verify the identity  of the publishers. This step assures that the publisher’s address given at the time  of applying is verified through the RNI  process. Further, plagiarism check of randomly picked articles is being carried out and in the event of plagiarism being  detected, ISSN is denied. The Centre  now also insists that complete addresses of editorial board members are to be given. Owing to these measures put in place, there has been some check on the  number of ISSNs assigned. In 2014,  2015 and 2016, the numbers of ISSNs  assigned are 2928, 2464 and 1100  (approx.) respectively.

While print-ISSNs are relatively easier  to handle, it is the e-ISSN requests for  online journals that are difficult to manage. An online journal can be easily  launched with just a computer and internet  connection. There have been instances  of online journa l websites disappearing  or vital details such as title and publisher  address on websites being changed after  the online journal has procedurally received  the e-ISSN. With online content being amenable to changes, it is extremely  difficult to monitor the e-journals. It comes as no surprise that many Indian  journals appear on the Beall’s list of predatory journals5.  The University Grants Commission is also aware of the situation and it will be  in the interest of academic and research  fraternity that ISSN is removed from the API criteria. The problem does not seem  to be just with journals. With points to be scored for organizing and attending conferences,  seminars, workshops and so on, it looks like the numbers of such events  have also spiralled over the years.  –   G. Mahesh is in the CSIR-National Institute  of Science Communication and  Information Resources, 14-Satsang Vihar  Marg, New Delhi 110 067, India .