UGC's capacity-building programmes seek to help women in higher education overcome gender bias and take up academic leadership.

With the premise that higher education institutions are not gender neutral in their structure and functioning, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been focusing on capacity-building programmes to promote gender equality in higher education.

It has constantly been a matter of concern that though women are very much in the system as faculty members, they remain in those positions. The capacity-building is to enable women understand issues of power, governance and academic leadership, and enable them look afresh at themselves and the institutions in which they work. Capacity-building is done through workshops, conducted under the aegis of the UGC National Consultative Committee, throughout the country.

The focus of these workshops, which began in 2003, is two-fold — on the self and the institution. Speaking to The Hindu Education Plus on the sidelines of a workshop on ‘Capacity-Building for Women Managers in Higher Education' held at Avinashilingam University for Women, Susheela Kaushik, Co-Chair of the Committee, said it aimed at including more women in power and decision-making capacities.

“We have many women in higher education, but unfortunately not in administrative positions. In most cases it is the women who are to blame because for whatever reasons, they are not prepared to take up responsibilities. They should be trained to be empowered enough to take up, rather than, shirk positions. It is not right to merely blame the authorities or the system,” she said.

The Committee follows this methodology: There are a set of five manuals based on which the training is done.

There are three levels: SAM (Gender Sensitisation and Motivation) workshops, ToT (Train the Trainer) workshops, and MSEM (Management Skills' Enhancement Modules) which are spread over five to six days each.

Teachers with a certain level of experience — five to 10 years — are identified for the workshops.

Karuna Chanana, Core Group Resource Person of the scheme, South, said the response in Tamil Nadu for the programme was very good.

“The scheme is functioning in 10 regions covering all parts of the country. We started with the metros. Now we are moving towards the rural and interior parts of the country. Those who have completed the training have become managers or are on the way to becoming managers,” Ms. Chanana said.

K. Hemalatha, Regional Co-ordinator of the scheme, South, said the workshops serve as soul-searching forums where the participants not only share their professional insecurities, but also their personal problems based on gender bias. After discussing possibilities, solutions were offered.

“In the case of rotational leaderships as heads of departments, women are overlooked when their chance comes. Also, most of them are employed as temporary or on an ad-hoc basis. Even a Ph.D. holder earns a meagre Rs. 3,000 a month. These instances are more pronounced in the cases of women. During the workshops, such issues are brought out and the participants are made aware of the realities and how they should be dealt with in their institutions,” she said.

All three agree that the women who had completed the training and gone back to their institutions saw noticeable changes in themselves and in the way they functioned.

They had become better teachers — mentoring and being participative/interactive in classrooms, starting committees in colleges, taking active role in administrative work and so on.

The participants were active through networking on an exclusive website. Information, problems, and any matter that needed opinion or suggestion were shared.

Happy about the feedback and results of the scheme, the women behind the scheme are eager to take it forward with renewed vigour into the next Plan. With “total support from the UGC” they expect to introduce add-ons for addressing the problem of invisibility of women in higher education administration and management.

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Workshops & EducationMay 14, 2012