The All India Forum to Save Public Education, an umbrella organisation comprising student representatives from various outfits like Students'' Federation of India, Chhatra RJD and JNUSU, has started this petition. By 11.45 pm on Saturday, the petition had gained 1,204 signatures.
The petition said the UGC''s blended mode of education would "widen the existing structural differences, reduce the objective of educational institutions to profit-making, and implement a bureaucratic surveillance network that would help the government curb opposing voices in higher educational institutions".
Without any evidence to vouch for the effectiveness of online classes, continuing in this mode affects the quality of academia as it cannot substitute the learning that takes place in classrooms, the petition stated.
"Moreover, any advantage that might arise from the blended mode comes at a greater cost of exclusion of students from marginalized communities from getting higher education," it said.
Higher education institutions may soon be allowed to teach up to 40 per cent of any course through online mode with an expert committee set up by the UGC drafting a concept note on "blended mode of teaching and learning" in varsities and colleges.
The petition also welcomed the prime minister''s announcement of nationwide free vaccination and requested that a clear plan of "centralised and free vaccination drive for all the members of educational institutions should be taken up, including faculties, non-teaching and administrative staffs and students".
"This will help in the speedy reopening of educational institutions and help us to bring educational institutions back to normalcy," it said.
The petition also demanded immediate disbursal of fellowships and extensions, and a special package for families of students from marginalised communities.
"We also request the government to ensure that students who apply for higher education face no discrimination due to differential policy of board examination and university specific exams due to the ongoing pandemic,” the petition stated.
"We hope the government will ensure that students, especially the ones coming from marginalised communities are not pushed away from attaining higher education," it said.