The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) directive asking all public universities to stop evening classes has created more confusion than clarity. The directive also asks the university authorities to take permission before the appointment of new faculty, introduction of a new department, any programme, before creating new posts or abolishing old ones. Public universities are autonomous bodies, and such directives would seriously curb their independence and go against the spirit of the 1973 University Act. We are surprised that at a time when it is not being able to perform its normal functions, the UGC would try to take on such additional responsibilities which, in effect, would be denying public universities their autonomy.
On the specific issue of evening classes, the basic criticism is that teachers are earning extra through them. But what is being overlooked is that, all over the world, it is standard practice to have evening classes in public universities as they are catered to professionals who can only make time for class after work. The main idea is for individuals to enhance their skills and qualifications which will give them greater opportunities in the job market or for the pursuit of knowledge. Therefore, the contention that conducting evening classes is ruining the image and characteristics of public universities is rather unconvincing, if not facetious. If the UGC is so concerned with the image of public universities, why is it not concerned with the alleged corruption in the administration of some universities, the unhindered “tender business” and terror of student cadres? Do not such anomalies tarnish the image of the universities?
If there is a concern regarding the evening classes, the best way to address it would be to sit with the respective university authorities and find a way to make the process of conducting them more transparent. We, therefore, feel that the UGC directive was an unthinking decision, imposed without due diligence. The most sanguine step would be to have talks with the university authorities and rethink this impractical directive.