Students protest against BU's part-time PhD programme

 Bharathiar University, which is in the midst of a series of controversies, facing allegations of sexual harassment and fraudulent PhD viva voce, has a fresh problem on its hands: Violation of UGC norms for PhD for seven years.

The university’s category-‘B’ PhD programme, is against the UGC Regulations 2009, questioning the credibility of the PhDs awarded so far under the programme. On Wednesday morning, more than 200 research scholars undertaking the university’s regular PhD programme, staged a protest at the university gates from 9.30am. This is the second time within a week that the scholars staged a protest for the category-‘B’ PhD programme to be scrapped.

Category- ‘B’ PhD is a type of distance education programme where a candidate is eligible to pursue PhD under a professor of any institution in India. This is against the UGC Regulations, 2009 that has set minimum standards for universities to award M Phil and PhD degrees. The regulation states that only a permanent faculty of the university or of an affiliated college is eligible to supervise a PhD candidate.

The university registrar, K G Senthivasan, said that the category-‘B’ PhD programme has been terminated with immediate effect and there will be no further registrations under this programme. However, the university vice-chancellor, G James Pitchai, who assumed office in 2012, did not attempt to scrap the category-‘B’ PhD programme in the university, despite it being against the UGC regulations. There are around 22,000 candidates registered under category-‘B’ PhD, with close to 4,300 supervisors across the country. Despite repeated attempts to contact him, Pitchai was not available for comment.

While the university may have decided not to register any further candidates under the category, it leaves a question mark on those who have completed their PhD, and those pursuing it? A former vice-chancellor of the state university suggests that candidates recently registered under category-‘B’ PhD could be re-allotted supervisors as per the UGC regulations.

This category-‘B’ PhD was introduced in 2008 when G Thiruvasagam was the vice-chancellor of Bharathiar University. He said, “In 2008, to become a lecturer or an assistant professor, a person had to either, complete postgraduate studies and pass the National Eligibility Test (NET) or State Level Eligibility Test (SLET), or should have completed PhD. To teach certain subjects, PhD was the only option to become an assistant professor. Thus they decided to introduce the B category.

He was succeeded by C Swaminathan, who was in office from 2009 to 2012, and did not attempt to close the programme. Since it was an existing programme, he did not feel the need to scrap it, he said.

UGC vice-chairman, H Devaraj, said, “We had notified the university about the violations. A public notice was issued on July 3, reiterating the minimum standards for M Phil and PhD as per UGC Regulations, 2009.” Regarding the plight of students who have been awarded PhD under category-‘B’, Devaraj said that senior officials would take a decision on this issue.

Source: The Times of India

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