Controversy on AICTE’s order to make select e-journals mandatory

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All India Council for Technical EducationAccording to a news report in Hindu Businessline, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulatory body for technical education in India is facing criticism over its decision to make certain e-journals compulsory. The AICTE, however, has refuted the criticism.

The Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI) has written to Union Minister of HRD Mr. Kapil Sibal claiming that AICTE requirement for mandatory subscription to E-journals from select publishers is arbitrary. According to the society this will increase purchase costs for the institutes and also restrict their bargaining power with e-journal providers. The letter also claims that some publishers have been favored who will increase their business in India by a significant amount and there is no basis for the arbitrary selection. It also asks why the stakeholders like institutes and academicians were not consulted

Dr S.S. Mantha, Acting Chairman, AICTE, told Hindu Business Line that the allegations were ‘in very bad taste and absolutely wrong’.

“Research in this country is abysmally low. To encourage research and improve the quality of information, we have mandated some world-class journals. The teachers should know what is happening outside and students should have access to internationally acclaimed journals. We all know that even after 60 years the country has not produced a single paper,” said Dr Mantha.

A committee had been appointed and a list was drawn from the existing journals with the best prices, he said.

“If somebody can give a lesser price, tell us, we’ll take that,” he said.

The requirement is mentioned in the AICTE’s ‘Approval Process for 2012-2013’ document, which makes it mandatory for all professional education institutions accredited to subscribe to mandated e-Journals.

The main concern being raised is that the current requirement is completely opposite from last year when subscribing to e-Journals was optional while print journals were mandatory. The cost for most mandatory e-journals is high as they are of foreign origin and are billed in dollars. Additionally even the subscription costs have been specified in the above mentioned document.

The document requires institutes offering management courses to purchase online journals from EBSCO for an annual subscription of $3,500, for pharmacy courses to purchase online journals from Bentham and Elsevier for $5,500 per annum, engineering courses to purchase from IEEE (computer engineering) at the rate of $4,980, ASME (mechanical engineering) at the rate of $2,156, ASCE (civil engineering) at the rate of $2,520, McGill (General) for $1,969, Elsevier for $ 6,500, ASTM Digital for $1,100 and so on.

EPSI has also asked AICTE to form a consortium of institutes for sharing of costs to reduce costs for individual institutes.

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