MHRD appoints Committee to review NET / Non-NET Fellowship Scheme

Amidst unprecedented agitation by students across the country, MHRD has decided to appoint a 5 Member Committee to look into various issues relating to NET / Non-NET based fellowship Schemes.

Background:

For over two decades, the All India National Eligibility Test (NET), a competitive examination conducted twice a year by the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been the basis for the Research Fellowships, currently almost nine thousand that enable students to pursue M.Phil and Ph.D programmes.

The Non-NET Fellowship Scheme was introduced by the UGC in 2006. It is presently limited only to fifty institutions including Central Universities and those with Potential for Excellence. Almost thirty five thousand students are presently availing of these Fellowships.

UGC in its 510th Meeting held on 07.10.2015 had considered the Report of the Expert Committee constituted to frame the Guidelines and enhancement of Fellowship Scheme to Non-NET students and decided to discontinue the NON-Net Fellowship Scheme prospectively, sparing the students, who were already getting the benefits under the Scheme.

Reaction to the Discontinuation:

The decision of discontinuation led to huge uproar in the student community in the Country with protest and demonstrations coming right on the doorsteps of UGC. It was also reported in Media that the protesting students were subjected to lathi-charge. Considering the gravity of the situation, MHRD intervened in the matter and announced to appoint a Review the entire Fellowship Scheme. As an Interim Measure to address the crisis, it stayed the decision of UGC to discontinue the Non-NET Fellowship Scheme.

MHRD Review Committee:

MHRD considering the imperative is the need to encourage and expand quality research in diverse field and with a view to improve access, quality, impact and equity in the Universities has decided to review the current research framework, efforts, opportunities, quality and output and has constituted a Committee headed by Shri Gautam Barua, Former Director, IIT Guwahati to consider various issues relating to NET / Non-NET Fellowship Scheme

The Committee will deliberate on various issues relating to the Scheme including feasibility of enhancing the number of merit based NET fellowships and bringing the benefits and opportunities of the Non-NET fellowship scheme to a larger number of Universities, including State Universities.

As the controversy is primarily related to Non-NET Fellowship, the Committee will also consider economic and other criteria for eligibility for non-NET fellowships and recommend guidelines for the selection, coverage, award, and administration of the non-NET fellowships.

Other members of the Committee include Prof. Syed Bari, Prof. Kuldeep Agnihotri and Dr. Meena Chandrawarkar. The Committee will submit the Report by December 2015.

EduLegal View:

The Agenda for the Meeting, in which the Non-NET Fellowship Scheme was discontinued, reads as “To consider the Report of the Expert Committee constituted to frame the guidelines and consider enhancement of Non-NET fellowship”, ironically, instead of enhancement, which was supposed to be discussed, the decision was taken to discontinue.

First Discontinue, then Stay the Discontinuation and then a Committee to review the Discontinuation, this is not a correct approach, specially dealing with the academic environment.

An old saying goes, “Prevention is better than Cure”!