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Sunday, December 3, 2023

UGC Expert Panel to Review Higher Ed for Marginalized After SC

Following a Supreme Court judgement, an expert team will review legislation and program for marginalized communities in higher education. The panel was constituted by the University Grants Commission to ensure a non-discriminatory environment for students from scheduled castes, tribes, other backward classes, persons with disabilities, and minority communities. Discrimination is already prohibited by existing legislation, and new guidelines have been created to address student concerns and mental health.

An expert panel of the higher education regulator will review regulations and schemes for marginalized communities, the education ministry informed Parliament after the Supreme Court in July requested a status report on steps the University Grants Commission was taking to protect the interests of scheduled castes and tribes, other backward classes, persons with disabilities, and minorities.

The committee was constituted in response to a question submitted in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, and it was formed in accordance with the Supreme Court’s July 6 ruling, which directed the commission to produce such a report.

“In pursuance of this order, the UGC has constituted an expert committee on 21-07-2023 for revisiting the UGC Regulations/Schemes concerning the SC/ST/OBC/PwD and minority communities in Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) and suggesting further remedial measures if required to make non-discriminatory environment for SC/ST Students in HEIs,” the minister said in response to a question from DMK MP M Shanmugam.

Under the present UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutes) Regulations, 2012, all higher educational institutions must ensure that no discrimination against students from the SC and ST communities occurs in admissions.

Institutions must also ban, prevent, and punish individuals and authorities who harass or victimize any student on the basis of caste, creed, religion, language, ethnicity, gender, or disability.

In April, the regulator revised its 2019 regulations and issued the UGC (Redressal of Grievances of Students) Regulations, 2023, which made it mandatory for educational institutions to form student grievance redressal committees that included one member from a marginalized caste or tribe and one woman.

The instructions were issued at a time when a series of student suicides at prestigious educational institutions, particularly the Indian Institutes of Technology, sparked a debate about the pressures and challenges that students confront on these campuses. The February death of an 18-year-old Dalit student at IIT Bombay sparked outrage.

Sarkar said that the commission gave advisories to address the issue of mental health and well-being during and after the epidemic, and that in January, it distributed the national suicide prevention strategy developed by the health and family welfare ministry.

“In addition to this, students’ specialized psychological counselling helplines, students’ wellness centers, buddy support systems, and various other measures have been implemented in IITs and other Institutions, for early detection of cases of psychological stress,” the minister stated.

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