Universities may soon offer maternity leave to undergrad students

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New Delhi:

Women pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in India may soon be entitled to 240 days of maternity and child care leave, similar to research scholars, once universities frame rules on directions by the country’s higher education regulator.

All higher education institutions have been requested to frame appropriate rules through a letter sent on Tuesday by Rajnish Jain, secretary of the University Grants Commission.

Women research scholars can take 240 days of maternity leave, according to the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil./Ph.D degrees) Regulations, 2016. “…the women candidates may be provided Maternity Leave/Child Care Leave once in the entire duration of M.Phil/Ph.D. for up to 240 days,” reads part of clause 4.4 of the regulation.

“In addition to above (clause 4.4), all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are requested to frame appropriate rules/norms with regard to granting Maternity Leave to the women students enrolled in their respective institution / affiliated Colleges and also provide all relaxations/exemptions relating to attendance, extension in date for submitting examination forms or any other facility deemed necessary for women students pursuing Undergraduate and postgraduate programmes,” Jain wrote in his letter.

Women enrolled in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes do not currently enjoy such benefits.

“The provision is only available for MPhil and PhD students presently,” said Balaram Pani, dean of collages at Delhi University. “However, it looks like the reform has been introduced in line with the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, since it provides multiple exit and entry options to students. We are yet to seek more clarity over the communication.”

Seema Das, a member of the university’s executive council and professor of political science at Hindu College, and the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) member Abha Dev Habib welcomed the move, while demanding similar provisions should be extended for the women working as guest teachers.

“This is more beneficial for female students living in rural areas or areas where cases of early marriages are rampant because the age of marriage in urban areas has considerably increased over the years,” Das said. “However, the UGC should also take steps to extend maternity benefits to women working as guest teachers.”

“Some universities on their own are already providing some maternity and child care benefits to undergraduate and postgraduate female students,” an UGc official said on condition of anonymity. “But now the UGC has written to all universities to frame norms and extend the maternity benefits to these students along with those enrolled in research programmes. There are many female students, especially in rural areas, who do not get an opportunity to complete their education in the absence of such a provision.”

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