Interference in varsities needless

The academic life in universities and their independence have been under various kinds of attack from centres of power in recent past. Their administrations have also been under pressure. Central universities like the University of Hyderabad and the Jawaharlal Nehru University and centres of higher learning like the IITs have suffered from high-handed and political interference by the government in their affairs. Institutions like the Aligarh Muslim University are facing threats. A state government has gone a step further and prescribed PhD topics for the students of its universities while the Central government hasprescribed courses for the IITs. The BJP-run Gujarat government has given a list of 82 “preferred” topics to universities which students can pursue for their research that leads to the PhD degree. Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has requested the IITs to include Sanskrit as a course of study for engineering students. Both proposals will not do any good, and can do harm.

The prescription of PhD topics by a government for research scholars is unheard of. The general practice is topics for research are identified by students and their research guides on the basis of factors like the students’ interests, aptitude and skills in particular areas, the guides’ knowledge of that field and the availability of resources. The topics are chosen after much discussion. But the offer of a ready-made menu for a PhD thesis devalues research and serious academic pursuit. The topics which have been offered make it worse. The list includes Central and state government programmes like the Swachh Bharat mission, state government schemes for girls, good governance in Gujarat etc. The states’ universities have accepted the recommendations and defended them, saying that the students’ research will shed more light on the working of the programmes. But it is not for students to evaluate the programmes of governments. There are better equipped agencies to do that work.

The problem is that such research will become propaganda work for the government.Students will take up such topics because they will think that such favoured topics will make their PhDs easier to get. They may not critically study the topic because they will not want to antagonise the government. The result will be a fall in standards of research work which, as it is, is not high. It shows how poor an understanding the government has got about the needs of higher education and research. The move to offer Sanskrit in IITs is driven by the wish to showcase the scientific and engineering knowledge hidden in the language to students. That knowledge includes genetic science and cosmetic surgery.  

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry