DU: Ad-hocteachers in limbo

IN PERSPECTIVE

An official communication from the office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi, dated August 28, 2019, has put the teaching career of more than 4,500 ad-hoc teachers in jeopardy. The letter directs all DU colleges to appoint only guest faculty, instead of ad-hoc faculty as has been the norm in DU since 1996, from academic session 2019-20 in case permanent appointments on vacant posts are not

This act by the DU V-C is of course in compliance with the UGC Guidelines, 2018 which makes no provision for ‘ad-hoc’ faculty in its document in the appointment of teachers in the institutions of higher learning, instead prescribes only contractual or guest teachers in urgent need.

However, the timing of this letter raises doubts about the intentions of the V-C and the ruling dispensation at a time when the public-funded higher education is going through its worst-ever phase in pan-Indian context and gasping for a bailout.

Since public opinion is divided over public-funded higher education, and the ad-hoc teachers of DU comparatively enjoy a special status due to deferential pay against other university teachers across the country, it is extremely important to know how such a category as ‘ad-hoc’ teachers was created in a premier institution like DU and why it is essential to rescue DU ad-hoc teachers from the onslaught of privatisation and commercialisation of higher education.

Ad-hocism in DU was introduced in order to give constitutionally mandated representation to SC/ST/OBCs in higher education. Till 1996, teachers appointed on vacant posts were known as ‘temporary’. A temporary teacher was hired in case the permanent faculty member retired or passed away or in some cases, took study leave. 

The temporary status of the teacher lasted until the ‘temporarily’ occupied post was filled up on permanent basis. In 1997, University Grants Commission (UGC) issued guidelines to all Central Universities and Colleges to implement constitutionally mandated reservation share for SC/STs - 22% for SCs and 7.5% for STs, respectively, in teacher recruitment process with special emphasis on 200-point teaching roster. 

Until then, the 13-point teaching roster was in place and the appointment of teachers was made on the same roster. The need to rework the roster arose as fresh SC/ST candidates needed to be accommodated in higher education teaching.

In 2007, DU adopted the Mandal Commission’s recommendations for 27% reservation for socially and educationally backward classes (OBCs) after they were approved by the Supreme Court in 1992.  

Pressing needs

As a result, 27% seats in the existing teaching cadre were reserved for both students and teachers belonging to OBC category. Since more fresh posts were to be created as per the constitutional mandate and the previous policy of appointing teachers on temporary basis could not meet the pressing needs of the time, the Executive Council of DU passed its resolution to address this urgent issue of rising fresh posts by invoking the term ‘ad-hoc.’ 

It was resolved that the appointments hereafter would be made on ad-hoc basis where the term/tenure of an ad-hoc teacher would be for a four-month period or 120 days drawing the salary on the same pay scale as that of a permanent faculty at entry level. It would be renewable at the end of the term until the posts against which he/she is serving is filled up on permanent basis through government/UGC approved selection process.

As is evident from above, the practice of hiring teachers on ad-hoc basis not only has the legal force in DU as per the EC Resolution 2007 but should also be viewed as a constitutional and ethical act by the well-meaning teachers of DU who brought the ad-hoc system in the university to ensure that the marginalised sections get their due and ample opportunities to better their lot.

Ever since India adopted neoliberal policies in 1991, education has been the prime focus of the corporate sector. 

While school education has already triumphed over and the higher education is the next target, signing of global trade agreements like the WTO GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) does not augur well for the marginalised fractions of the Indian population who have just started to mainstream themselves through access to public-funded higher education. 

Since under the present regime, higher education is treated as a tradable commodity, unaffordability of education will not only be the prime challenge before the masses including SC/ST/OBC/EWS/women. Thus, the social and ethical concerns for the struggling masses will be left out completely.

Thus, the looming danger of losing jobs by several thousand ad-hoc teachers in DU is not an exclusive incident but a danger which will sooner affect everyone in the higher education sector. The collective struggle of the DU teachers in 2007 who paved the way for ad-hocism in DU needs another run so that one can not only save ad-hoc teachers from demotion but also public-funded higher education from extinction.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Vivekananda College, DU)

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