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Delhi High Court stays order upholding JNU admission policy for MPhil and PhD courses based on UGC regulations 2016

Business Standard | Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi  April 25, 201 |

The Delhi High Court has stayed its single judge order upholding the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) admission policy for MPhil and PhD courses based on the UGC regulations.  The July 2016 regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) had put a cap on the number of students per professor/supervisor in MPhil and PhD courses in all varsities. A single judge of the high court had held that the JNU admission policy was bound by the UGC regulations and the varsity had to accept them without any deviation.  It had given the finding while dismissing some students’ plea challenging the JNU’s admission policy based on the UGC regulations. 

However, a two-judge bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra, on an appeal filed by the students, has stayed “the effect and operation of the findings on law” of the single judge till April 28.  The bench passed the interim order as the findings of the single judge “would have wide ramifications” and the appellant students had “made out a prima facie case”.  “In view thereof, it is directed that till the next date of hearing, there shall be a stay of the effect and operation of the findings on law of the single judge,” the bench said.  The students, in their appeal, have contended that the single judge had “erroneously granted complete supremacy to the applicability of the UGC Act”.Courtesy

UGC will be useless if its rules are not followed, says Supreme Court

Hindustan Times |  Apr 26, 2017 | Bhadra Sinha |   New Delhi  |

The Supreme Court voiced concern over a string of cases in which educational institutes sought exemption from UGC guidelines.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) would become a useless body if its regulations are not followed by universities, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, voicing concern over a string of cases in which educational institutes sought exemption from the statutory body’s guidelines.  A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud made the comment while hearing an appeal filed by Lucknow-based Integral University challenging a high court order ousting its vice-chancellor because he was not a distinguished academician as one is required to be under UGC rules. The university told the apex court that it was a minority institution and was therefore under no obligation to follow UGC standards.  The university said it had not adopted the UGC’s regulations, which an earlier SC verdict had made mandatory.

“If the regulations are not adopted, then we are not required to appoint a V-C as per the rules,” advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Integral University, told the bench.  He said a university’s needs have to conform to the regulations established while appointing teachers.  The apex court, however, disagreed with his argument and said it was willing to take a re-look at the two-judge verdict that gave this liberty to universities.  “Qualification of a head of the university has a bearing on the standards of the institution. Power to regulate standards is not just restricted to teaching staff but also its head,” Justice Chandrachud said.  What is left to the management is selection, it said, fixing Wednesday to hear the matter when a larger bench of three judges would be sitting.  An outcome in this matter is bound to have a bearing on Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) case which is contesting for autonomy. AMU is defending the appointment of Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah (retd) as the V-C on the ground it was a minority institution and that it never adopted the UGC regulations. – Courtesy

CBSE to conduct NET, confirms UGC

Live Mint | Tue, Apr 25 2017 | Prashant K Nanda |

The status of NET exam had been uncertain after CBSE had written to the HRD ministry earlier this year expressing its inability to conduct the exam.

New Delhi: Ending confusion for nearly 5 lakh students, the University Grants Commission Tuesday said it has convinced the Central board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to conduct the entrance test based on which college and university teachers are recruited.  For the first time in 33 years, the national eligibility test (NET) was facing uncertainly after CBSE had written to the human resource development ministry earlier this year expressing its inability to conduct the exam. Qualification in NET is a must for recruitment of teachers at college and universities. The decision comes even as students groups protested outside the UGC, the higher education regulator, over the last two days regarding the confusion over NET. The NET exam happens twice in every year during December-January and June-July.  “NET will happen in time – at max a week here and there. We have sorted out the issue with CBSE over the NET exam,” V.S. Chauhan, officiating chairman of the UGC said on the sideline of an education event in New Delhi.

Chauhan said CBSE, UGC and HRD ministry had a meeting over the issue and it was pointed out that the previous government had issued an executive order entrusting the CBSE to conduct NET exam. The results also help the UGC in grating junior research fellowships.  CBSE over the last few months had said that due to capacity crunch, it won’t be able to handle a lot of entrance exams. In fact, Budget 2017-18 had a proposal to set up a National Testing Agency to conduct all academic entrance examinations.  In the absence of any national testing body, CBSE conducts major higher education related entrances apart from school leaving exams at Class 10 and Class 12 level for CBSE affiliated schools.  It conducts the Joint Entrance Exam-main (JEE Main) for engineering schools including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and the National Eligibility Test for UGC (UGC-NET) for selecting professors in college and university system.  It also conducts the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) for appointment of teachers across several states. It is also in charge of conducting the single medical entrance test for admission to all MBBS courses. – Courtesy

Predatory journals make desperate bid for authenticity

The Hindu | CHENNAI April 21, 2017 | National | R Prasad |

They try getting indexed on DOAJ and other websites to cheat innocent researchers

One more evidence that India has a huge and growing number of predatory journal publishers comes from the India office of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Since March 2014, when the new criteria for DOAJ listing were put out, there have been about 1,600 applications from Open Access journal publishers in India.  Of these, only 4% (74) were found to be from genuine publishers and accepted for inclusion in the DOAJ directory. While 18% applications are still being processed, 78% were rejected for various reasons. One of the main reasons for rejection is the predatory or dubious nature of the journals.  Desperate to give websites an air of authenticity, predatory journals try getting indexed on DOAJ and other websites. Being indexed in DOAJ makes the task of cheating innocent researchers more easier. The business model of predatory journal publishing is based on levying article processing charge (APC) on authors even while offering no editorial services.  The DOAJ India office receives applications from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nearly 70% of applications come from India, while the other countries account for 30%.

‘Flashy impact factor’

“Nearly 20% of the journals have a flashy impact factor and quick publication time, which are quick give-aways,” says Bengaluru-based Leena Shah, DOAJ Ambassador, India. “Under contact address, some journal websites do not provide any address but just a provision for comments. In many cases, we have written to people who have been listed as reviewers to know if the journal website is genuine.”  In some cases, even when the website looks fine, the DOAJ staff tend to look at papers published in the journals if they suspect the genuineness of the journal. “We are not subject experts, but we use certain methods to evaluate a journal,” she says. “Assessing journal websites is not an easy process.”  “We can’t police predatory journals. Can you bring down each and every predatory journal? Instead, we can educate the academic community about the cons of publishing in predatory journals,” says Ms. Shah. “The list of approved journals put out by the UGC is one way of rooting out predatory journals.”  The UGC has approved a list of 38,653 journals that are indexed in Web of Science, Scopus and Indian Citation Index.  Journals covered in selected indexing and abstracting services have been added to the UGC Approved List of Journals. In a recent letter, the UGC indicated that the approved list is available as a web-based database with search and browse interface at www.ugc.ac.in/journallist/. In a DOAJ blog post, Ms. Shah noted: “In March 2017, DOAJ submitted a request to the UGC to include Open Access journals that are listed in DOAJ in the approved list.” – Courtesy

Attempts to depose English subject our universities to dangerous social engineering

7th Pay Commission: HRD ministry forms panel to review UGC recommendations

Live Mint | PTI | 19 April 2017 |

HRD ministry forms committee to review UGC recommendations on implementation of 7th Pay Commission in educational institutions after teachers’ associations threaten strike.

New Delhi: The human resource and development (HRD) ministry has formed a committee to review the recommendations made by a University Grants Commission (UGC) panel on implementation of the 7th Pay Commission in educational institutions. The development comes against the backdrop of teachers’ associations of various universities threatening to go on strike over the “delay” in implementation after the UGC panel submitted its report earlier this year.  “Seventh Pay Review committee for implementing the recommendations (of the 7th pay commission) in educational institutions, universities and colleges has submitted its report to the Ministry. I have constituted a committee headed by Higher education secretary to study them,” Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said.

The committee will have officials from finance ministry and other relevant offices and it will submit its final recommendations which will go to Cabinet, he added. Javadekar urged the teachers to refrain from going to strike in view of the examination time and to avoid any disruption in the academic functioning of the varsities.  “I appeal to every one not to stage any protests as exams are around the corner and the ministry will ensure that justice is done to everyone. “Those who had some doubts whether government is moving in this direction, let me dispel their doubts that we have already started action and soon they will get good news,” he added. The pay review committee of the UGC, which was formed last year and was headed by it member VS Chauhan, had recommended scrapping ad-hoc and temporary appointments of teachers across universities. The panel had also suggested that pay of teachers should be in accordance with the 7th central pay commission, which means the overall salary of teachers would also go up if the suggestion is accepted by the HRD ministry. Linking grants to universities to the vacant posts filled by them was also among the recommendations made by the committee . – Courtesy

First suspension cloud on UGC NET in 33 years

The Telegraph | 19 April 2017 | Basant Kumar Mohanty |  First suspension cloud on NET in 33 years

New Delhi, April 18: The National Eligibility Test (NET), through which university and college teachers are recruited, may face temporary suspension for the first time in 33 years because the agency entrusted with the task has said it is bogged down by other exams. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which took over the NET from the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2014 under instructions from the human resource development ministry, has said it is unable to hold the test in mid-2017. Over 5 lakh candidates take the exam every year.  Students and academics have criticised the uncertainty over the test, which is supposed to be held in June-July. The results of the exam are used for various other purposes, including the awarding of the Junior Research Fellowship to students.  The uncertainty has been created as no notification regarding the exam has been issued by the CBSE. The UGC has not clarified the reasons behind the delay, increasing the anxiety of students.

“The UGC and the CBSE are silent on the NET. This is frustrating. I am preparing for the exam. I cannot imagine the test being suspended,” a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University said.  The UGC used to hold a test for awarding the Junior Research Fellowship since 1984. The government asked the UGC to conduct the eligibility test for lectureship in 1988, following which the commission rechristened its earlier test as NET. The NET is conducted twice a year – in June and December – on subjects such as humanities, social sciences, environmental sciences and computer science and applications.  Students clearing the NET are recruited as assistant professors in universities and colleges. The top scorers are also awarded the Junior Research Fellowship depending on the availability of slots. The awardees are exempted from appearing in entrance tests in universities for admission to PhD courses.  The CBSE usually issues a public notification announcing the NET on its website around three months before the exam. Last year, the CBSE issued the notification on April 4 for the exam held on July 10. The last NET exam conducted by the CBSE was in January this year. The notification had been issued in September. CBSE chairman Rajesh Kumar Chaturvedi had written to the HRD ministry six months ago expressing inability to hold the test because the board is already overloaded with multiple exams such as the JEE-Main, the Central Teachers’ Eligibility Test and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, apart from the board exams.

A senior CBSE official said the chairman had also informally told board officials that it would not hold the NET any more. Extra exam work affects the board’s core responsibility of ensuring quality schooling, Chaturvedi is believed to have said. An UGC official said they had not received any instruction on which agency would hold the NET.  An HRD ministry official said the government was in the process of setting up a national testing agency to conduct all kinds of education-related competitive exams.  Rajesh Jha, who teaches at Delhi University, said if the NET was suspended, it would affect lakhs of students, many of whom could have started their career in academics in 2018.  “When there is a dearth of faculty, the suspension of the eligibility test would further deepen the crisis. I hope the exam is not cancelled,” Jha said. –  Courtesy

Swadeshi era in academia – Nod for vernacular journals

The Telegraph |  Basant Kumar Mohanty |   New Delhi, 2017 April 17  |

The University Grants Commission looks set to include journals written in Indian languages in its approved list of publications where teachers are expected to publish papers following complaints that the catalogue of 38,000-plus journals released earlier this year was anti-vernacular.  The list the higher education regulator had brought out included mostly international journals and hardly any in an Indian language.  Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar today told reporters that Indian-language journals that were well-known research publications would be included too.  “We are looking into it. English magazines should not be the only ones to figure in the prescribed list of journals. There will be others too. We will recognise various other platforms that are well known as research publications,” Javadekar told reporters on the sidelines of an event to review the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan scheme for the development of higher education.  The UGC has written to all universities asking them to send by May 15 the names of journals they think should be included in the list.

The move followed complaints to the regulator that many “reputable” journals, particularly those in Indian languages, had been left out.  The list of 38,653 journals that the UGC had brought out in January this year mostly included journals mentioned in international databases like Scopus and Web of Science.  It also had journals mentioned in an Indian database – the Indian Citation Index – but hardly any published in an Indian language.  A UGC regulation says that junior teachers have to publish papers in journals on the approved list to get the points required for promotions. Another regulation, on MPhil and PhD admissions, says that teachers need to publish in the referred journals to gain the right to supervise research students.  The norms have a bearing on the careers of nearly five lakh teachers in the 800 universities and 38,000 colleges across the country.  Professor Vashist Anoop, who teaches Hindi at Banaras Hindu University, said the UGC’s list does not include any journal on Hindi literature, putting a question mark over the careers of Hindi teachers across universities.  “In Hindi, there are several journals like Alochana, Dustabez, Naya Gyan Odaya, Udbhaavana, Parichaya and Bahuvachan that are peer-reviewed publications with International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). They should be included. Otherwise, teachers of Hindi will not be able to get promotions,” Anoop said.  There are many Indian-language journals also on subjects like social science and law, sources said.  A senior UGC official said the universities, while recommending the names of journals, would have to explain why such journals merited inclusion in the list.  “A standing committee of the UGC will examine case by case and suggest inclusion only after being convinced about the reasons cited by a university. The revised list with the addition of new journals will be ready before July,” the official said.  –   Courtesy   /     Published on 13/04/2017 – UGC Letter reg.: Approved List of Journals    /       www.ugc.ac.in/journallist/

Now, Mumbai University students and alumni can store documents in e-lockers

The Times of India | TNN |  Apr 2, 2017 |

MUMBAI: The University of Mumbai has thrown open its digital locker facility for students and alumni after a year-long pilot project. The first alumni digital locker was created for the university’s old boy Mukesh Ambani. The locker holds documents safe and in digital format, relinquishing the need for physical papers.  The Digital Locker system, developed by an IIT, Madras-incubated company, was handed over to the university as part of the R&D and technology transfer plan for powering universities to go digital.   The technology will support requirements of the government’s digital locker programme, academic repository, embassy/foreign qualification recognition plans and private digital locker service providers, said vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh. Using the digital locker facility, students and alumni can send digital credentials for job applications or higher studies requirements. The facility will also comply with the UGC’s new requirements of adding Aadhaar number, photographs and other details of the student on certificates and marksheets.

As part of the programme, verification of degrees, marksheets and other documents will go digital. The online process aims to reduce processing time by more than 80%, added Deshmukh. The university’s verification staff has been provided with a secure and dedicated login ID. Higher officials will review reports of turnaround time, cases of fake degrees and long pending cases.  Details of fake degrees detected will be uploaded on the university’s website automatically as required by the state information commissioner, said a university official. The programme is in line with the government’s efforts to set up a National Academic Repository and Digital Locker Service. The university is taking up key initiatives to turn itself into a centre of excellence with a focus on digital initiatives, added Deshmukh. –  Courtesy

Bogus journals weighing down research in India

Hindustan Times | April 02, 2017 |  Malavika Vyawahare  |   New Delhi  |  Opinion |

While India takes pride in its ISRO satellite launches, academic research in the country is being hollowed out by practices like predatory publishing.  The results of a global sting operation by Polish researchers published in March revealed that 48 so-called scientific journals were happy to have a fictitious scientist – Anna O Szust – on their editorial board. Interestingly, Oszust is Polish for fraud. “Thousands of academic journals do not aspire to quality. They exist primarily to extract fees from authors,” the Polish researchers said in their paper. “These ‘predatory’ journals exhibit questionable marketing schemes, follow lax or non-existent peer-review procedures, and fail to provide scientific rigour or transparency.” G Mahesh, head of the International Standard Serial Number International Centre (ISSN) in India, has come across hundreds of such applications with bizarre journal titles, fake addresses and non-existent editorial board members in the last three years.

An example is the Springer Group of Journals, an MP-based outfit that sounds similar to Springer Nature — a reputed publishing group.

Feeding this frenzy of publishing low-quality journals is the UGC’s method of calculating academic performance indicators (APIs). The API system was introduced in 2010 to decide recruitments and promotions.  Experts, however, decry the manner in which it rewards quantity instead of quality.  These dubious journals are run as businesses with no regard for academic rigour. When the UGC announced the API system, it granted points for papers published in journals with ISSNs. Since then, India’s ISSN centre has been flooded with applications from publishers who seek the legitimacy of an ISSN number.  However, the ISSN number is a unique numerical code that identifies publications – not a character certificate.  Predatory publishing is an unintended consequence of the open access movement, launched two decades ago to make research easily accessible to the public. When big names in publishing dominated the global market in the past, they could act as gatekeepers for good research. The internet changed all that.

 In the current scenario, setting up a publication is as easy as creating a website. These so-called academic journals lure researchers with the promise of quick publication time and names that sound legitimate. As publishing in international journals fetches more points in the API, many bogus Indian publishers prefix their titles with ‘international’ or ‘world’. Or, as seen in the case of Springer Group of Journals, they simply “borrow” the titles of renowned international players. A big stumbling block to checking this phenomenon is the absence of a universally accepted definition of a predatory journal. Though Jeffrey Beall, an associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, decided to make a list of predatory publications in 2008, pressure from publishers brought it down earlier this year. Meanwhile, Indian researchers are increasingly finding predatory outfits an attractive medium of publication. Almost 35% of the papers published in “cash-seeking, pay-to-publish journals” reportedly come from India.  This figure far exceeds India’s overall share of the world’s scholarly output (4.4% in 2016). The UGC chose to turn a blind eye to the problem until January. After academics cried foul, it came out with a list of 38,000 journals where academics would have to publish for the researcher to earn points in the API system. However, questions have been raised about the UGC list of journals, considering that several among them figured in Beall’s blacklist. “We have identified 75 journals that are predatory,” said Vasantha Raju N, an expert.  There is also the matter of cost. Indian authors have used 488 open access journals who charge anywhere between ₹500 and ₹3.24 lakh in a period of five years to publish about 15,400 papers. India could be spending as much as US$2.4 million annually on author processing charges, another paper in Current Science found.  This is a problem for a country that spends around 1% of its GDP on research. –  Courtesy