In April, University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh finalised a document comprising uniform rules for recruitment and promotion/upgradation of teachers of public universities. In its preamble, it has been said that the uniform rules have been prepared in pursuance of the complexities arising out of university teachers’ grade in the 8th pay scale and following discussion among UGC, Secretaries, Federation of University Teachers Associations and chief executives of the teachers associations of public universities.
In fact, a direction from the Prime Minister was also there following the meeting of the Prime Minister and the Federation leaders during the movement of university teachers against the discrepancies in the 8th Pay Scale.
It transpires from the preamble that it has been formulated to have uniform and consistent rules for recruitment and promotion policies for all the public universities for ensuring quality of the teachers so that they can produce quality students. So far, however, the public universities have been following their own rules.
Though it was finalised by UGC towards the end of April, it has recently been sent to the universities. After being publicised among the university teachers, it has created reactions and a kind of resentment. The young teachers of the public universities have been particularly critical of the stringent rules incorporated in the document. The document was said to be finalised following consensus among the key stakeholders.
However, leaders of teachers associations now say that there are differences between the agreements reached and the published document.
Interestingly, the Federation is yet to come out with a clear statement regarding the issue and its standpoint on the document. It has been learned that a number of teachers associations have already rejected the new rules and some are said to be on the way to taking similar decision. So, the issue might create unease at public universities.
Though the promotion rules have been made stringent, the recruitment rules seem to have been relaxed as compared to the rules of various universities. For example, the minimum requirements for candidates in the science, business, and social science and law faculties are easier than the requirements set by various universities. This might create more pressure for the university authorities as more and more candidates will now have the opportunity to be in the fray turning the selection process all the more difficult.
Though Grade 1 and Grade 2 for university professors were previously not regarded as promotions, the UGC document says that those will now be treated as promotions and new conditions have been set for climbing those grades. According to the uniform rules, grade 2 professors will now have to have 2 articles in impact factor journals to reach grade 1 in addition to previous conditions and grade 3 professors will have to have 3 new articles in recognised journals.
In the SRO, circulated by the Finance Ministry on 4th April, 2016, however, there were not conditions for publications for reaching grade 1 and number of articles for reaching grade 2 was 1. In fact, the conditions set for grade 1 and 2 deserve to be given insightful look and proper weight as it relates to the image of professors. Though publication in impact factor journals is rather a hard job, this should be taken positively by the professors other than those belonging to the faculties of arts and humanities.
What is most important and sensitive part of the new document is that it contains new and tough conditions for the young teachers (I prefer the term young as against junior). That is why the issue needs to be handled diligently. The young teachers are the future of public universities.
Though there should be positive pressure for their continuous development, there should be not such strict rules that might demoralise them. In fact, young teachers of various public universities have remained particularly active in the social media.
Some of them are even talking about forming associations comprising lecturers, assistant professors and associate professors. In the social media, a complaint is pretty intense that the teachers who have already become professors are reticent about the issue as they have already passed the previous stages. They seem to be very critical of Federation leaders and teachers association leaders who were involved in the dialogues of UGC and Federation. Such incriminations of the young teachers cannot be ignored.
In fact, the conditions of service tenure at various categories (lecturer, assistant professor and associate professor) and publications in impact factor journals will dent the promotion prospects of the young teachers and slow down the promotion process considerably thus creating frustration among them. The concept of impact factor journal is still vague along with the authenticity of such journals. The issue of research fund required for publishing in genuine impact factor journals is also a matter that needs to be taken into account.
Though the document has a number of positive elements, a notable aspect of the document is that Grade 3 professors will be able to reach grade 2 on their due date provided that they have 3 publications in recognised journals. In fact, this very rule should have been included for all the positions thus obviating nasty promotion politics prevalent at various universities. In absence of such a rule, promotion politics is an order of the day at various universities creating an environment of favouritism and victimisation.
Though the teachers are said to be the architects and conscience of the nation, some members of this community are very much involved in this activity of favouritism and victimisation turning their speeches mere lip services and ludicrous. Some teachers are very active against the new rules in the social media. They have, however, not been that active against the favouritism and victimisation taking place inside the universities. On principle, university teachers are expected to raise their voice against all sorts of inconsistencies.
In fine, the issue of uniform rules should be addressed intelligently. Reckless actions might send wrong messages to the government and bring disrepute to the community. There may be solid suggestions for revising the conditions, especially for the young teachers. The professors have the moral obligation to dispel the allegation of being selfish. Otherwise, they will fail to command respect of the young teachers. There should also be all-out efforts for self-evaluation, soul-searching and continuous enrichment in academic as well as moral standing of the university teachers across the board.
The writer is a Professor, Dept. of Public Administration, Chittagong University and Ex-General Secretary, Chittagong University Teachers Association.