Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Telegraph: " 'Touch-and-Pass' Secret of PhD Theses"

'Touch-and-Pass' Secret of PhD Theses
- Payment paltry, it's 'highly possible' evaluators skim over papers: Veteran
by Basant Mohanty | The Telegraph | Monday, November 2, 2015

New Delhi, Nov. 1: The paltry Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500 that India's universities pay to experts evaluating PhD theses may be prompting some of them to approve the theses perfunctorily, a veteran academic has suggested.
Bimal Kanti Sen, a former scientist with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, has said that teachers may be following "the rule of touch and pass" in nine out of 10 cases since the payment is a pittance. A university sends a PhD thesis for evaluation to an expert in the subject. Since faculty members tend to be preoccupied with academic work and research, retired teachers are preferred for thesis evaluation. In an article published last week in University News, a weekly published by the Association of Indian Universities, Sen wrote that proper evaluation of a thesis takes at least 15 working days. He cited how a serving professor earns a salary of Rs 80,000 a month while a retired teacher can hope to be paid at best Rs 2,500 for 15 days' slog evaluating a thesis. "There is high possibility that the evaluator will follow the rule of touch and pass," Sen told The Telegraph. He explained that this meant overlooking the references, statistical tables and literature reviews in the thesis and approving it after going through the research objectives and methodology.
A university teacher in Delhi said a Germany-based evaluator had recently written to the institution that the transaction charges he had had to pay his bank to cash his cheque outstripped the payment. Sen said Jadavpur University had recently revised the payment for the evaluators to Rs 2,500 while many universities paid just Rs 1,000. He said Calcutta University had raised the payment from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 a month ago while Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University paid Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,500, respectively.
Sen said there were irregularities in the way many universities conducted their PhD programmes and that he had mentioned some of these to Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani during a recent meeting. "I have requested the minister to set up a panel to review the quality of research in universities and how students are suffering at the hands of guides," Sen said. He said many guides tended to sit on thesis papers for months and needed much persuasion to clear them for external evaluation. Also, many guides took on more than the eight scholars allowed per teacher by University Grants Commission norms.
N. Raghuram, a professor of biotechnology at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University here, said few universities selected the external thesis evaluator rigorously. Instead, they often appointed retired teachers of questionable expertise who coveted the meagre payment and had friends within the campus, he alleged. "It's a racket. The thesis paper is not sent to genuine experts in most cases. In most universities, a panel of evaluators is prepared merely on the basis of suggestions from senior teachers and without due diligence," Raghuram said. Besides, he said, many universities have abandoned the practice of having research scholars make a presentation on their thesis, defending it and explaining how it differs from existing work in the subject.
University Grants Commission sources said the higher education regulator had asked all the universities for details of how many PhD scholars each of their guides was overseeing. Once the information arrives, the commission will review it and take corrective action, they said.

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