1. Non-appointment of Vice-Chancellors
The Government of Telangana has been taking unduly very long-time in appointment of Vice-Chancellors. After formation of the State, the Government kept the Osmania, Kakatiya, JNTU, Mahatma Gandhi, Palamur, Telangana Universities and the Open University functioning for two years (2014 to 2016) without regular Vice-Chancellors. While in the case of JNFAU it took three years three months for the Government to appoint the Vice-Chancellor, the Government has not yet appointed the Vice-Chancellor to Sathavahana University though the term of the earlier Vice-Chancellor ended on 11.8.2015.
Presently, except two universities of the State, all the remaining universities are without Vice-Chancellors for more than 18 months. The Government has been appointing I.A.S. officer as I/C Vice-Chancellor whenever the term of the regular Vice-Chancellor comes to an end to look after the affairs of the State University. Even the Registrars of the Universities are not able to meet these I/C Vice-Chancellors even to get their signatures on important files. Most of the I/C Vice-Chancellors are not able to find time to visit the University under their control even for once during these 18 months. The Standing Committees of the Academic Senates, which are the highest academic policy making bodies, are meeting under the Chairmanship of the Registrars, who are only administrative heads. Many Registrars are bypassing the well established academic procedures and institutions and taking decisions to please the pressure groups, resulting in further deterioration of academic standards. In the absence of Vice-Chancellors and a weak State Council of Higher Education and a reluctant Principal Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Higher Education has become an extra constitutional authority and calling shots including revision of syllabus. If the situation continues for some more time, the damage to the University system would become irreparable (Annexure-I).
2. Executive Councils
Executive Councils are the highest policy making bodies of the Universities and are expected to provide guidance to realize the vision of the Universities. The State Government has scant regard for the Executive Councils. The Executives Council of a University is supposed to be reconstituted along with the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor. However, the State Government took about five years to reconstitute the Executive Councils of the State Universities. Further, while reconstituting the Executive Councils, it filled them with student leaders belonging to the ruling party. None of the Executive Councils of the State Universities have a person with proven eminence in any field of his/her specialization. The meetings of the Executive Councils have also become a routine affair and the government ex-officio nominees are dominating the proceedings with scant regard for academics.
3. Huge Number of Teaching and Non-Teaching Vacancies
Teachers are the backbone of the education system. It appears that the present Government of the State is interested more in breaking this backbone of the higher education system by not recruiting the teachers for years. It is a shame to note that not even a single recruitment has taken place in the higher education system after the formation of the State.
i) Vacancies in Universities
There are hundreds of vacant teaching positions at various levels in the Universities of the State. There is not even a single directly recruited Professor in hundred year old Osmania University which is also the fifth oldest university of the country. As per UGC regulations, only 10% of the regular professors can be promoted to the level of Senior Professors. It means that Osmania University cannot think of having even a single senior professor in the near future. While about 88 percent of the teaching positions are vacant in Palamur University, the vacancies are about 86 percent IIIT where the meritorious students pursue technical education. While about three fourths of teaching vacancies in Kakatiya University, Osmania University has two-third of its teaching positions vacant. The situation in other universities is no better. If one analyses the department-wise vacancy position, the picture is much more awful. For example, the Psychology department of Osmania University has only two assistant professors of which one is the Head of the Department and the other is the Chairman Board of Studies. So is the case with many departments of the University such as Geo-Chemistry, Geology, Statistics, Sociology, Public Administration etc. The situation of other departments is no better. So is the case with other universities of the State. The state government has also banned the appointment of teachers on contract basis in 2014. Further, it has issued an order ( G.O.MS.No.11, dt.18.4.2018) to pay differential salaries to contract lecturers teaching regular courses and self-financing courses, though the nature of the duties are the same. This is highly discriminatory and because of this order, the teachers recruited for self-financing courses are getting about 75% less than the contract teachers recruited in regular vacancies. This order need to be withdrawn immediately. In the absence of regular and contract teaching staff, the Universities are conducting the routine teaching activity with the help of part-time teachers. This has adversely affected the quality of teaching and research in State Universities, where about 80-90 percent of the intake comes from rural-first generation-downtrodden communities with huge expectations. Their expectations of these aspiring students are getting belied and their future is at stake. With the present state of affairs, none of the universities of the state can think of good rankings of any accreditation agency of the country, leave alone the international ranking agencies.
The situation regarding the vacancy position of non-teaching staff in Universities is equally bad. For example, for about a sanctioned strength of 7000, the number of employees on the rolls in Osmania University is only about 1700 including the employees on time-scale. The teachers of basic sciences and engineering require non-teaching technical support to conduct practical classes in the lab. The student experiments both for learning and research are seriously hampered because of non-recruitment of the technical staff. Important organs of the universities such as examination branch, administration and academic wings etc. have been weakened because of large scale retirements and non-filling of vacancies (Annexure II).
ii) Vacancy position in Government Degree and Junior Colleges
The presence of Government in Under-Graduate education has not made any visible improvement after formation of the Telangana State. The Government Degree colleges account for only one-tenth of the total Undergraduate Colleges in the State. About 70% of the sanctioned teaching strength of these Government Colleges is vacant. Going by the latest UG first year online admission data of “DOST '' of the State Government, about 46200 students are admitted into I Semester UG courses in about 120 odd Government Colleges. If the third and fifth semester student strength is added to this, the total number of students in Government colleges works out to about 1,00,000 and the teacher-student ratio in these colleges with the existing regular teachers is about 1:80 as against the UGC norm of 1:20. Even if the contract teachers are added to the regular teachers, the ratio would improve to about only 1:50, which is a gross violation of the UGC norms. The Government has been behaving in a high handed manner and increasing the sections in Government Colleges without corresponding increase in the number of teachers, without any permission from the affiliating university. This is only to save on the fee reimbursement amount. For instance, for six sections in the Commerce Department of Begumpet Womens’ college there are only seven teachers including teachers on contract basis. They have to handle 18 sections for all I, III and V semesters together, which is humanly impossible. It is a common knowledge that the students seeking admissions in Government Colleges come from deprived and low income groups and the Government has been putting their future at risk by imparting low quality higher education and making them permanently unemployable.
The situation in Government Junior Colleges is equally worse. About 75% of the teaching positions in these colleges are vacant. The Government has not been making any effort to fill up these vacancies. There are hundreds of well qualified Post-Graduates who have been eagerly waiting for employment notifications from the State Public Service Commission for filling up of the vacancies in the Higher Educational Institutions of the State for the past seven years without any respite.
4. Private Universities
Instead of adopting a professional and scientific approach in sanctioning private universities for strengthening the higher education in the state, the Government has been guided by unprofessional, extraneous and political considerations while sanctioning permission to Private Universities. For example, courses in agriculture sciences are given without the required approval from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The new private universities are exhibiting their commercial orientation from the start by offering even Ph.D. programs without the required teaching and infrastructural support. Ultimately, they may become degree selling institutions and will cause a lot of damage to the higher education sector in the State.
5. State Council of Higher Education
The State Council of Higher Education, an apex body to provide direction to higher education in the State, has become a corrupt body and failed in all respects. Its role is confined only to conduct Common Entrance Examinations and Degree online admissions. The Government is extending the services of the present incumbents without making any effort to appoint people with eminence to head the Council.
6. Infrastructure and student support facilities
University students of the State played a key role in attaining separate statehood with the hope of betterment in various aspects but their hopes are doused by the Government. There is no addition to infrastructure facilities in any of the State Universities after the State is bifurcated. Block grants provided by the Government to Universities are not sufficient even to pay salaries to even the depleted teaching and non-teaching staff. The student hostels are in a miserable state and overcrowded. There are no funds for maintenance of buildings. For example, the heritage and iconic Arts College building is leaking and the roof is in a dilapidated condition for want of maintenance. Reading halls in universities are overcrowded and no new facilities are developed for want of funds.
7. Fee Reimbursement
The Government is showing more interest in enhancing the student tuition fees payable to educational institutions, particularly engineering colleges, without corresponding increase in the reimbursement amount. The reimbursement amount is stagnated at Rs.35000 for BC and OC students, in spite of their low economic status, if their rank is below 10000. The poor students with a rank above 10000 are not able to join these courses because of the differential amount of about Rs.50000 per annum. Even the truncated fees reimbursement is not done years together and this is resulting in colleges applying pressure on students for payment of the amount not reimbursed by the government.
In view of the above, we request you kindly to intervene in the matter and impress upon the government to shed its negligent and unprofessional attitude with regard to the above mentioned facts and rectify the situation before it becomes irreparable. Your kind intervention will go a long way in improving the status of higher education in the state and help the first generation students belonging to rural and downtrodden sections of the society and help in preparing the higher education in the State to rise up to the expectations of the New Education Policy 2020.