Petition to the Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University to withdraw the API System and institute more rigorous standards for academic evaluation
To, The Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi – 110067. Dear Professor Sopory, We, the undersigned petition you to withdraw the point system (API) imposed on all Universities by the UGC despite reasoned and concerted resistance against the same by academics in JNU and other Universities. We oppose the API System on the following grounds: 1. The University’s autonomy has been compromised by the mechanically implementation of the UGC’s mandate without generating adequate opportunities from within the University to institute rigorous criteria for academic evaluation and mechanisms of improving academic standards rather than diminishing the same. 2. The UGC’s point system (API) introduces an audit culture, which equates quality with quantity, undermining academic standards. The language of indicators and targets leads to academic corruption rather than improved academic standards– for instance, seminars will be organised only to earn points whether these are productive or not and so on. Or the number of publications will be counted without any heed to their quality. 3. The API applies the principle of one-size fits all, even though academic work across, and between disciplines demands different kinds of evaluation and assessment. 4. The API uses ethnocentric criteria to rank academic performance by awarding more points to participation in international conferences and international publications further legitimising the epistemic divide between the Global North and Global South. 5. By and large academic work has been devalued since many other activities get same, or more points as publishing a book! 6. Not all research work is project based–yet all research is annexed to projects and all projects are evaluated in terms of amount of funding and policy outcomes [rather than academic outcomes]. 7. The current duration for promotion from an Assistant Professor to an Associate Professor under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) has been increased to 12 years (as opposed to the earlier 8 years); and for an open position in 8 years (as opposed to the prior 5 years). This not only violates the reasonable and legitimate expectations of already employed Assistant Professors but also deter talented young people from joining the academic fold. 8. It is well known that any changes in service rules should be based on a process of fair hearing by adversely affected interests. The Assistant Professors in JNU have not been provided any opportunity to reasonably discuss, negotiate, or reject/comment on the changes in service rules, thereby amounting to a denial of principles of natural justice. 9. The newly established criteria for promotion of Assistant Professors mandate certification of their domain knowledge through Refresher and Orientation courses at every stage of their promotion. There are no Refresher courses mandated for other academics, nor does the UGC offer refresher courses in many disciplines or emerging inter-disciplinary areas of research. Instead of offering an equivalence such as a PhD. or research output (or inaugurating a new area of research and teaching) Assistant Professors have no choice but to repeatedly opt for courses in the same domain subjects. We reject such point system, which is un-reflexive, anti-academic and likely to promote academic corruption in toto. We urge you to, instead, institute more rigorous and academically just standards of academic evaluation, which take into account the following issues: 1. The disciplinary benchmarks of the sciences, languages, humanities and social sciences are not comparable and need different models of standard setting. 2. Interdisciplinary research has its own emergent contexts and needs to be assessed as per its evolving requirements. 3. The evaluation of academic work should be qualitative and not quantitative. 4. Such a model of evaluation and assessment should not deepen academic hierarchy but must be applicable to all academics. 5. Universities should also review the standard of refresher courses offered by the UGC, create a mechanism to garner feedback from teachers on Academic Staff Colleges as well as insist on a system of equivalence where a teacher should be allowed to submit a publication or any other research/pedagogical output in lieu of such a course. Interdisciplinary courses should be introduced. 6. The aim of any system of evaluation and assessment should be to reduce academic corruption, institute rigorous standards for academic work, and ensure academic justice for teachers at all levels. The undersigned hope that the JNU administration will reject the API and organise a consultation on how to set more rigorous and fair standards for academic evaluation and assessment.