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MASTER OR ELSE

It is always difficult to establish equivalence or even comparative guidelines in matters of intellect and ideas. To ease the problem somewhat, academic institutions have accepted marks and degrees as benchmarks of comparison and even of equivalence. This does not really solve the problem since anyone connected with education and academics knows that there are some universities and institutions whose standing in the republic of ideas is considered to be higher than that of others. Things become even more complicated when in certain absolutely top-class universities, a masterís degree is awarded without the candidate actually sitting for an examination, provided the candidate has completed his bachelorís degree and then fulfilled certain conditions. In India, most, if not all, universities have structured postgraduate programmes lasting for two years that lead to an MA degree. It stands to reason that if a candidate from a foreign university that offers a structured MA programme is to be considered an equal (in formal terms) to an MA from an Indian university, that candidate should have studied two years for his MA degree. A course lasting one year and a course lasting two years cannot, almost by definition, be held to be equal in comparison.

These simple principles are at the heart of the matter involving a candidate from the University of Liverpool who did a one-year MA course and now finds that his degree is not good enough in India. There can be sadness at the plight of the young man and reports also suggest that authorities representing the education department of the United Kingdom are making special pleas to recognize one-year MA courses. But the government of India ó or in this case, the human resource development ministry ó should not buckle under pressure or get persuaded by spurious arguments. The argument that universities of other countries accept one-year MA degrees from the UK is one such. Precedence or the citing of contrary examples is not logic. The fact of the matter is that an Indian MA degree is of two yearsí duration and it follows three years of undergraduate studies. Equivalence must proceed from this criterion. It is evident that the MA degree from Liverpool does not fulfil this simple condition. On many counts, authorities have downgraded their own degrees and their own institutions. But here is a case where logic is on their side and they should stand firm. A master of arts should go through an agreed process and course of study which cannot be abbreviated by bureaucrats.