So the UGC NET examination will be held on 8 July this year. The admit cards were made available for download on 21 June. But even as another NET exam arrives, the long-standing demands of students and teachers have not been addressed — nor have the questions about its benefits to the overall knowledge-production.
The NET (National Eligibility Test) is conducted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to determine the eligibility for lectureship and for award of Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) to Indian nationals.
Current Eligibility Criteria
The UGC NET is conducted for Humanities (including languages), Social Sciences, Forensic Science, Environmental Sciences, Computer Science and Applications and Electronic Science, by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The eligibility criteria for UGC NET for candidates from General (Unreserved) category is scoring at least 55% marks in Master’s Degree or equivalent examination from institutions recognised by UGC. The eligibility criteria for candidates belonging to Reserved (SC/ST/OBC-NCL/Pwd/Transgender) categories is 50%. The subject-wise cut-offs for Transgender category is supposed to be the lowest among those for OBC–NCL /SC/ST/PwD categories in the corresponding subject.
In order to be considered for ‘Both JRF and Eligibility for Assistant Professorship’ and for ‘Eligibility for Assistant Professorship only’, the candidate must have appeared in both the papers and secured at least 40% aggregate marks in both the papers taken together for General category candidates and at least 35% for all candidates belonging to the reserved categories (viz., SC, ST, OBC-NCL & PWD) and Transgender candidates.
Change In Pattern
The Examination pattern of UGC NET was changed in a notification released by CBSE on February 1st this year itself, for the upcoming July 8 examination. The same was released to the Press on March 12. Accordingly, the changes are as follows:
“The first two papers continue to be of objective type with multiple choice questions. The first paper of General Awareness consists of 50 compulsory questions of two marks each. The choice of 10 questions in Paper-I has been done away with. The duration of Paper-I has been reduced from 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour. The paper continues to be of 100 marks.”
“Paper-II and Paper-III which were both of the same discipline have been merged together to be termed as Paper-II containing 100 compulsory objective type questions of two marks each from the subject selected by the candidate with two hours duration.”
“The upper age limit for appearing in JRF has been raised by two years, i.e. from the existing upper age limit of 28 years to 30 years. There is five years relaxation in age for candidates belonging to Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe/ Persons with Disabilities/ Other Backward Class (Non-Creamy Layer) categories and for women candidates.”
As before, there will be no age limit to apply for the post of assistant professors in universities and colleges. Further, the UGC has informed that UGC-NET examination will be conducted twice a year.
In November 2017, UGC had also changed the qualifying criteria from the top 15% of those obtaining the minimum required marks in all papers in each subject and category, to the top 6% of the total candidates who appear in all papers of the examination, after a decision by Kerala High Court. The total slots shall be allocated to different categories as per the reservation policy of Government of India. Concerned Students and Teachers have said this move clearly intends to reduce the amount of scholarships being awarded to students, especially those from reserved categories.
READ MORE | New Norms of Post-matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes are Anti-Dalit
Figure 1-Image Courtesy: The Telegraph
Demand To Move From Objective To Subjective
Delhi University teacher Rajesh Jha, who is also a member its executive council, the varsity’s highest decision-making body, told The Telegraph that the single change required to improve the NET was the introduction of subjective-type questions.
“The UGC is changing the pattern frequently. But the cosmetic changes mean nothing. Every candidate is different. Their difference in terms of teaching skills and subject knowledge is not captured in the objective-type test,” said Jha.
The UGC NET is an objective-type paper. Making it subjective-type has been a long-standing demand of teachers and students. Sadly, this demand has not been met till now; rather things appear to be moving the opposite way.
Moreover, passing the examination currently requires candidates to memorise facts and formulae quite unrelated to the subject to be taught, and is also irrelevant to the students’ knowledge.
This fundamentally affects the type of teachers that get selected, the type of instruction that is given to the students, and the overall quality and direction of higher education in the country’s colleges and universities.
The ‘FEDCUTA Document on Pay Review’ points out an interesting phenomenon.
“The FEDCUTA [Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations] further emphasizes that not only the qualifications required for a teaching position (at least 55% at Master’s level) are higher as compared to the qualifications for positions in civil services in the Government of India, a candidate has to qualify National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by the UGC to satisfy the condition of eligibility for teaching profession. Besides, in most cases a higher degree in the form of M.Phil. / Ph.D. is required for a person to be selected. Hence, the average age of entry in teaching profession today is about 30 years and a teacher normally obtains permanent employment at the age of 32-33 years [If at all! For instance, more than 60% of teachers in Delhi University are ad-hoc].”
The UGC NET has been very unreliable regarding holding exams regularly, sometimes conducting the examination only once a year, and other times conducting it twice a year. Often, notifications come months late, and as in 2017, the exam to be held in July was postponed to November that year. This sparked outrage and protests by students’ organisations as well as teachers.
Another concern is the recent UGC regulation (coming into effect from 2021) making Ph.D. mandatory for direct recruitment as, and promotion to, Assistant Professor in Universities. Moreover, only direct recruitment as Assistant Professor in Colleges retains the criteria of a Masters’ Degree and NET qualification (or a Ph.D.), as a promotion to become Assistant professor in Colleges will also require a Ph.D.
READ MORE | Another Blow to the Higher Education System: UGC Regulations Make Ph.D. a Mandatory Qualification for Assistant Professors