The central government through Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday (September 30) conveyed the decision that it had put a temporary halt on the mandatory Postdoctoral or Ph.D. Degree for the post of Assistant Professor.
Talking to the media, Pradhan said, “We were receiving a lot of requests from candidates who wanted to apply for the post of assistant professor but were unable to fulfill their Ph.D. requirement,”
In 2018, the government had issued the order that that specified that in order to be hired at the assistant professor posts, candidates will need a Ph.D. and NET will not be the only criteria for recruitment. The reasoning cited at the time by the then Education Minister was “it will improve the quality of higher education to attract and retain the best talent in the country”.
This was announced under the University Grants Commission (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2018.
With more than 40% teaching positions across 44 central universities were vacant as of 1 April, according to Pradhan, the move to scrap the Ph.D. requirement will also help fill the vacancies and plug the gap in the education sector.
The Ph.D. Mafia culture
It is indeed laudable that the government has done away with the compulsion to have a Ph.D. degree, for there is a fledgling Ph.D. mafia culture across the country, whether it be in big, premier institutes or ideologically driven institutes such as JNU or TISS – slowing down the process of churning high-quality researchers and depriving India of bright, furnace cooked intellectual minds.
More often than not, the students, writing their thesis or conducting their research are made to bend in a certain direction by their supposed mentors, who want to indoctrinate them with their worldview.
Unconscious gender bias and stereotypes
Moreover, several researches have been conducted over the years that show that gender bias is still a gargantuan problem that the fairer sex faces on the higher education level, predominantly. Gender stereotypes are broadly shared and reflect differences between women and men in their perspective and manner of behavior.
Importantly, gender stereotypes also impact the way men and women define themselves and are treated by others, which in turn, contributes to and perpetuates such stereotypes.
While there is a dearth of studies in the Indian context, a 2016 study published in Econ Journal Watch stated that in the disciplines of the social sciences, it was found that there were 11.5 Democrats for every Republican teacher in the 40 premier institutes of the US. The difference will not be much when a similar microscope is used when gauging the numbers at Indian universities.
It’s the folklore, a running joke one might say that majority of the professors are left-leaning or communists in the country scurrying around the institutions with a weary, worn-out satchel, sandals with socks on, and a copy of the communist manifesto in their hands.
Each one of us that has been part of the education system, in any capacity has seen the implicit and explicit behavior of the professors. Going against the tide can often lead to disastrous consequences.
The plight of Ph.D. students
Ph.D. students are widely seen by academics as a cheap workforce. They are made to work with limited funding, limited access to the resources all the while their intellectual mentors gobble the major piece of the pie.
A major problem that is a common thread amongst the plight of the Ph.D. students is the apathetic behavior of the supervisors. The supervisors and their responsibilities are rarely clearly defined and because supervisors are not accountable to anyone for carrying them out, they rule with impunity, without any fear of being chastened for their behavior.
Collegium system and Ph.D. mafia culture
The modus operandi of the supervisors is eerily reminiscent to that of the collegium system of the judiciary, prevalent in our country. Post-1993, higher judiciary judges are being selected by the collegium system. Judges of the Supreme Court are now appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a collegium headed by the CJI and comprising four of his senior-most colleagues.
The collegium is the real judge-maker. Our limited purpose of examination is that in the last 71 years, which includes 43 years of executive dominance and almost 28 years of the collegium system, no woman judge has been able to get appointed as the Chief Justice of India.
While comparing the Ph.D. mafia culture with the collegium system might be downright naïve – the workings of both systems have an uncanny similarity. Both tend to be a closed, private group where transparency and clarity go out the window.
Rummaging around in themselves, the top judges can cherry-pick their dummy candidates at the premier posts while the coteries of Ph.D. teachers can hold off a potentially deserving candidate, just because his/her political spectrum ideology is different from theirs.
Where is the accountability?
Accountability is the sine qua non of any vibrant democracy. Every institution possessing and exercising the powers enshrined in the constitution and other laws must be accountable at large. Judiciary is no exception.
The courts perform the critical function of dispensing justice. However, it is appalling that even after more than 70 years of independence, we do not have any legislation dealing with the accountability of the judiciary.
Similarly, professors trying to plaster their biases and closeted beliefs as a general practice is something that needs to called out. Even if an individual is inclined in the direction of their peers, it doesn’t augur well for the work when it is evaluated by certain friendly peers. Critique forms the cornerstone of research work and if one has to bend to please their teachers, then the research loses its sanctity and sets itself up for failure.