The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Social research takes a backseat in CU

Studies on social problems are on the verge of closure in Calcutta University (CU), with the authorities noticing a drastic drop in the number of sociology post-graduates showing any interest in research.

Though the downward trend began a few years ago, officials admit that nothing can really be lower than the 2003 figure; only one sociology post-graduate has enrolled for the university’s Ph.D programme this year, highlighting the continuing flight of the better sociology students to greener pastures.

“We are passing through a period when more researches on sociological issues are necessary. We are worried at the manner in which fewer and fewer students in sociology are showing interest in joining our Ph.D programmes. This is a matter of grave concern for us,” said head of CU’s sociology department and convener of the university’s Ph.D committee Swapan Pramanik.

The CU brass will soon try to find out what measures can be taken to reverse the trend, officials said. “Research is the backbone of a post-graduate department and if there isn’t any research, there isn’t really any reason for a department to exist,” one of them said.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) recently asked the university to find out if its students could be engaged in research-oriented activities related to relevant social problems outside the campus. “We could, for example, engage our students to conduct a study on how to stop the witch-hunting menace that is still a major problem in some parts of Bengal,” a sociology department teacher explained. But if the students continued to remain disinterested in research, such ideas would remain just that — ideas, he felt.

A preliminary study held by the university has revealed that CU’s loss has been Delhi and Pune’s gain; many of the university’s high-performers are now fleeing Calcutta for institutes in Delhi and Pune to pursue M.Phil or Ph.D, say officials, explaining that this is one of the most important reasons for the paucity of researchers in the city.

Senior teachers of the department say lapses on the part of CU, like its dated syllabi, the long-drawn-out process (it could be a euphemism for harassment) followed for submitting theses and the delay in announcing the doctorate degrees, are some of the reasons driving students elsewhere. Pramanik, however, felt the reason could be fewer openings in academics.

This year’s development of only one researcher in the department has officials worried about something else; the allotment of funds to CU from the UGC may suffer because of this, they explain. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) gave a high rating to the sociology department for its superior-quality infrastructure and faculty-strength during the last inspection that came off in 2002. That NAAC rating, in turn, prompted a higher UGC allocation in the 10th five-year plan. All that may end soon, fear officials.

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