Bengaluru: Women’s studies as a course in Indian universities is likely to be extinct soon. Most of the 163 Women’s Study Centres in universities and colleges across the country are in danger of being wound up after September 2017, as the University Grants Commission (UGC), which funded the centres, is unlikely to continue the support. The implication is that from the academic year 2017-18, many universities and colleges are not likely to offer the course.
The Women’s Study Centres (WSC) were set up and run with the support/grants from the UGC under Plan Schemes during the 10th and 11th Five-Year Plans. Most of the centres are almost completely dependent on such support from UGC for their continued existence. In Bengaluru, the Bangalore University runs a Women’s Studies department and many colleges including NMKRV offer Women’s Studies as a course.
Although the future of WSCs is clouded at the end of the 12 Plan, a temporary lifeline was given by the UGC on March 29 this year, when the UGC issued a public notice stating that all existing Plan schemes would continue from fiscal year 2017-18.
But on June 16, the UGC published a revised notice dated June 9 that ongoing schemes under the Plan head would continue and expenditure would be accepted only up to September 2017.
WSCs are facing a problem. Any further continuance of the support would depend on review by UGC, a procedure which is virtually impossible to complete by September.
Interestingly, while the March notice was based on a resolution of the UGC, the June notice is based on an order of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) order to the UGC. The implication is that the majority of which will close down if UGC support is withdrawn or suspended. The studies, research, and jobs of hundreds of students and teachers presently associated/engaged in these centres are hanging in balance.
According to a letter by Ms Indrani Mukherjee, general secretary of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies’ (IAWS) to its members, “This is an emergency situation for women's studies centres, the majority of which will close down if UGC support is withdrawn/suspended. The studies, research, and jobs of hundreds of students and teachers presently associated/engaged in these centres are hanging in balance. They now need active support from the entire women's studies community and other friends and allies.”
Ms Sudeshna Mukherjee of the Department of Women’s Studies, Bangalore University, says that there is confusion as the UGC is now becoming the Human Resource Development Centre (HRDC).
According to her, “Women’s studies centres and universities themselves have failed to regularise women’s studies’ into a departmental-level course. Though the UGC has given an extension till September, the fate of many of these women’s studies’ centres all over India is not clear as the universities they are affiliated too have failed to regularize the course.”