The Ministry of Human Resource Development has accepted the University Grants Commission’s proposal to calculate reservations in teaching posts by department, instead of basing the quotas on the number of posts available at a university.

This could reduce the reservation for faculty from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities and Other Backward Classes at all central universities, according toThe Indian Express.

Here’s how: At present, the commission calculates SC, ST, and OBC faculty positions by treating the entire university as a unit – it groups all posts of a grade, such as assistant professor, in all departments of a university to calculate quota. Under the new formula, where every department will be considered one separate unit, there will be a lower chance of positions being set aside for quota as there may be fewer openings.

The University Grants Commission’s proposal for a new formula follows an Allahabad High Court judgment from April 2017, which struck down a circular on institution-wise reservations to fill vacant faculty positions. The court said there were departments with no teachers from SC/ST communities and criticised the commission’s policy of reservations as being implemented in a “blanket manner”. The Supreme Court upheld the High Court order later.

Officials said the new formula was a step back in terms of quotas. “In a department, there usually is a single vacancy, and reservation will not be possible for a single position,” PS Krishnan, a former secretary, told the Hindustan Times.

“It is because of this problem that the government decided to bunch together similar posts with similar pay scales and qualifications so reservation became possible,” he explained, adding that the move will reduce the number of posts for teachers from SC/ST communities and socially and educationally backward classes who are already “poorly represented everywhere”.

In 2016, only seven of every 100 teachers in colleges and universities were from the SC/ST and OBC categories, according to The Indian Express. Government data also shows that while there are 16,600 sanctioned posts for teachers in central universities, 5,928 posts are vacant, the Hindustan Times reported.