New Delhi: A bureaucratic oversight may have resulted in the confusion surrounding an order issued by Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) regarding topics that students looking to earn PhD degrees should focus on.
Sources in the HRD ministry told ThePrint that the words “national priorities” were inserted by a junior bureaucrat into the official minutes of the meeting, held on the issue in December, and faulted him for the confusion.
The issue hit headlines last week after a Kerala professor, Meena T. Pillai, quit the Board of Studies at the Central University of Kerala in protest against a circular that the university had issued on 13 March urging departments to only admit students for PhDs if their choice of subjects related to “national priorities”.
Sources in the ministry, however, said neither a discussion on PhD topics on “national priorities”, the way it was made out to be, took place nor was such a circular sent by the government. An official note released by the ministry also confirms this.
“There was a meeting of vice-chancellors in December last year where various issues related to academics were discussed. In that meeting, someone pointed out that many irrelevant PhDs are being done these days, which actually have no contribution to society and nation building,” a senior ministry official aware of the developments told ThePrint.
“Everyone agreed to this and it was decided that better PhDs should be done, that are of some relevance to the nation.”
The official blamed this for the “confusion”.
“This meeting was minuted and some junior officer of the under-secretary level inserted the word national priorities in the minutes,” the official said. “It could have just been PhDs of importance or some other word. None of us paid attention to that particular term and it went ahead as it is.
“The minutes were circulated to all central universities but no one else seems to have paid attention to the term except Kerala University, which went ahead and issued a circular asking people to chose topics of national priorities and the entire matter took a controversial turn,” the official added.
No public mention of such PhD topics
Sources told ThePrint that it was after the minutes of the meeting was circulated to all universities, that Kerala University took out its circular based on the meeting.
While the minutes of the meeting, accessed by ThePrint, mention the words “national priority”, the government never issued a circular nor an official order directing universities to comply with it. HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar too hasn’t mentioned in any public appearance or through a press note that PhD topics should be of national priorities.
The move attracted massive criticism from academics as well as opposition parties. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had even called Javadekar, a “self-attested wise of the intelligent Prime Minister, who will tell scholars what to do”.