72.7% varsities yet to appoint officer for grievance panels
The commission has set September 30 as the deadline for all higher education institutions to appoint an ombudsperson
Four months after the higher education regulator directed all universities to appoint an ombudsperson to redress student grievances, 72.7% of them are yet to comply, officials of the University Grants Commission said on Monday.
The commission has set September 30 as the deadline for all higher education institutions to comply, failing which it would take “punitive action” against them, officials said, seeking anonymity.
Under the UGC (Redressal of Grievances of Students) Regulations, 2023, notified by the regulator in April, every university has to appoint an ombudsperson for redressal of student grievances of the university and colleges or institutions affiliated to them. The ombudsperson will have to be a retired vice-chancellor or a retired professor with 10 years of experience or a former district judge.
If students fail to get relief from the institution’s student grievance redressal committees, they can appeal to the ombudsperson, the guidelines state. The institutions had to comply with the provisions of the regulations within 30 days. However, according to the official data, of the 1,091 universities in the country, only 297, or 27.2%, have appointed an ombudsperson as on August 25.
While 40 out of 45 central universities have complied with the directions, only 79 out of 474 state-run universities, 90 out of 447 private universities and 88 out of 125 deemed universities have so far appointed an ombudsperson.
“It has been observed that despite repeated reminders, many HEls (higher education institutions) have not yet complied with the Regulations,” the commission said in a letter dated August 28. “The matter is serious, especially in view of various court cases concerning the timely redressal of student grievances and appointment of ombudsperson(s).”
The move came days after the commission pulled up Jadavpur University in Kolkata for not being clear on the steps being taken by it to curb cases of harassment in its report submitted on the death of a student that has sparked allegations of ragging on the campus.
The commission has also written to the authorities in states and union territories seeking support, commission chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar said. “The UGC has been writing and conducting meetings with heads of institutions to appoint ombudsperson and form student grievance redressal committees. A large number of universities have complied and with others UGC is following up. The commission will take appropriate action if the universities will not comply with the directions,” he said.
Many universities are facing challenges in finding suitable people, an official of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education said.
“The universities want to comply with the UGC regulations at the earliest. Majority of the universities have already appointed the students grievance redressal committees. However, it will take some time in finding suitable candidates to be appointed as ombudsperson,” said the official who wished not to be identified.