INDIA: New performance and promotion system

Career advancement prospects in Indian universities became more difficult last week with the University Grants Commission adopting a performance-based points system. From now on, lecturers will be graded annually on their performance and will be eligible for promotions based on their teaching, research and publication quality - not on seniority.

This is a move away from the earlier seniority-based promotions most universities relied on. The commission's plans met with stiff resistance by many unions in the last two years but have finally been accepted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, with the agreement of almost all the lecturers' representative bodies.

But loopholes exist in the new system that lecturers believe will give rise to nepotism and dissent. The Federation of College and University Teachers Association said the regulation would deflect the attention of academics from their primary responsibility.

Federation President AN Mishra said: "The UGC committee has given weight to activities such as campus development, institutional governance and consultancy projects which are not under the control of teachers and which solely depend on administrative discretion."

Under the new directives, 75% of the points will be allocated to teaching, learning and evaluation activities. These include tutorials, lectures and practicals while 15% will be accorded to "co-curricular activities extension and professional development-related activities".

Academic participation in seminars, conferences and short-term training courses will be taken into account while scores are also proposed for research and academic contributions.

For example, publishing in refereed journals will earn 15 points per publication and 10 points in a non-refereed publication. Research reports in books and chapters in books will also earn points.

The Delhi University Teachers Association had earlier opposed the move but is now hopeful of better working conditions. An association spokesperson said the new regulations would make for fair play.

"Earlier we had opposed some of the clauses which we felt were actually detrimental to the teachers' cause," the spokesperson said. "But with the final revisions these regulations are a step in the right direction."

One clause that had evoked strong opposition was evaluation of academics by students and this was finally dropped. Most objectors felt that, given the politics on campuses, this would be a disastrous move.

The grants commission has asked the state governments to amend their relevant acts within six months so as to implement the new rules. It has also asked colleges to assign research time to academics and provide them with the necessary infrastructure.

Universities are expected to establish 'internal quality assessment cells' to maintain an annual database for individual and institutional performances.

Although the move seems headed in the right direction, what remains to be seen is how the regulations are finally played out at the ground level.