Bending rules

The scandal-prone Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), which had tweaked the rules for the PhD entrance examination to favour a few influential candidates to take up the research programme, has done well to reverse its earlier decision following public criticism.

The KSOU management which met on Monday decided to put on hold the changes made to the rules as it had clearly violated not only the sanctity of academic discipline, but also gone against the stringent regulations of the University Grants Commission.

The scandal became public after it was revealed that the state Kannada and Culture minister Umashri and another former minister C T Ravi among others were to be the beneficiaries of the university’s largesse.

In Umashri’s case, it is said, the minimum eligibility marks to qualify for viva voce of PhD entrance test was reduced from 50 to 40 arbitrarily as the minister had obtained only 43 marks.

Another violation of the rules was that while the UGC regulation requires PhD candidates to have completed both graduation and post graduation, Umashri and Ravi had only obtained PG from the open university.

KSOU vice chancellor M G Krishnan’s defence, that not merely two political leaders, but a large number of other students would have benefited from the relaxation of rules, clearly lacks conviction as he has also admitted that the candidates invariably bring political pressure to gain admission to the PhD programme.

Going by the experience of other universities in the state as well as around the country, KSOU’s dilemma is not unique as the so-called research in most instances is a sham and India’s record in producing valuable theses in various fields has long been questionable, needing a drastic overhaul of the system of selection of candidates and the process of evaluation of the papers presented.

No doubt, as the ellor has maintained, there is a case for open universities to encourage people without formal education or degrees to pursue PhDs as research should not fall into a straight-jacketed approach.

But, for that to happen, the UGC itself should come up with well-defined guidelines which are uniformally enforced and not the result of ad hocism to meet the whims and fancies of individuals with vested interest.

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