The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has suspended its doctoral programs and postgraduate courses in wildlife science and heritage conservation and management after its affiliation with Rajkot-based University of Saurashtra was withdrawn.
The University of Saurashtra in Gujarat withdrew its affiliation earlier this year, citing a 2008 University Grants Commission circular that said no off-campus study or outreach centers should be established by the university in outside the state’s territorial jurisdiction, according to a WII official, who declined to be named.
“We are not affiliated with any other university now,” said the head of the autonomous institute under the Union’s environment ministry.
WII Director Dhananjai Mohan said, “Masters and PhD programs have been suspended due to serious issues reported by the Office of the Director General of Audits. We are doing our best to get an affiliation in Uttarakhand.
Environmentalists and WII alumni are concerned about the sudden suspension. “The jewel in the crown of WII’s academic programs is one of the oldest and most successful masters courses in wildlife science in India. Its national and international impacts can be assessed by examining the number and contribution of environmentalists and conservation leaders who have been trained at WII, ”wrote the alumni in an online petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 18th. September.
WII is a unique institution in Asia, where scientists, researchers, Indian Forest Service officers and policy makers work closely together, enabling effective translation of research into policy, the alumni said.
WII has been a center of excellence for the University of Saurashtra since 1987.
“We have doctoral programs under the Forestry Research Institute, which is a reputable university, and (also) under the University of Saurashtra. Those at the University of Saurashtra had to be suspended due to a Supreme Court order that states that state universities cannot establish off-campus centers beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the state concerned. A UGC circular also says the same, ”a conservation scientist told WII.
“This was brought to the attention of the administration during an internal audit a few years ago. The administration should have acted immediately to obtain a new affiliation, which did not happen, ”the scientist said on condition of anonymity. “Last year they tried to get an affiliation from Doon University, but it didn’t materialize. Thus, the master’s and doctoral programs had to be suspended.
“We are aware of the problem. They also have funding problems, ”an Environment Ministry official said, but declined to be named. “We will discuss the matter with them. “
WII alumni, who are leading an online campaign to demand the resumption of these programs, tweeted last week: “So far we have received 134 #signatures supporting the petition which includes @UniofOxford and @Cambridge_Uni. Consider urging @ wiiofficial1 supporters and alumni you know to support us. Delayed master’s and doctoral courses = # wildlife courses refused during # wildlife courses refused during the # pandemic. “