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Pay-cut plan for off-campus doctorates

Guwahati, April 4: Assam education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today said the government would reduce salaries and stop promotions of college teachers having “off-campus” PhD degrees.

Responding to the issue of fake universities offering PhD degrees in the state, Sarma told the Assembly during zero hour that off-campus PhD degrees would not be recognised during recruitment and promotion of faculty members.

“According to the rules and guidelines of the University Grants Commission, an off-campus PhD degree is per se illegal. In the past few years, we have seen a rising trend of research scholars opting for universities where the rules are relaxed and there is less academic pressure. In many cases, an attempt to find details about such universities is a work of research in itself,” Sarma said.

He said such scholars were not capable of proper research and when confronted, they ask to be excused in the name of “humanity” and even threaten suicide at times. “If we do not take steps against such blackmail, the education scenario will only worsen and future generations of students will suffer,” the minister said.

“There are reports that 75 per cent of appointments of college teachers were done by accepting off-campus degrees in recent years. These teachers will now face reduction in their salaries and demotion. In case of serious irregularities, they might even be sacked. It will no doubt create some issues but we are following UGC rules,” Sarma said.

He said the state government would constitute a committee comprising former vice-chancellors to prepare a list of teachers having off-campus PhDs after contacting principals of all colleges. After the education department receives the list, notices will be served to the teachers and the government will initiate appropriate action.

“Even all on-campus PhD degrees may not be accepted if the state government is in doubt over credibility of such institutes. We may not accept on-campus degrees acquired from universities given C grade by the National Assessment & Accreditation Council. The government will discuss the legal implications and consult the UGC before taking a final decision on the issue,” Sarma said.

He said the government did not see any reason for students to opt for off-campus degrees when the state had the likes of Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, Tezpur University, Assam University and Srimanta Sankaradeva University of Health Sciences.

The reactions to Sarma’s announcement, however, were mixed.

Biswajit Bhuyan, general secretary of Assam College Teachers’ Association told The Telegraph that the government had to accept off-campus degrees if the university concerned was recognised by the UGC. “If UGC allows a university to open another campus or a distance centre and offer off-campus degrees, the government cannot reject its degrees,” he said.

Prominent student leader Samujjal Bhattacharyya, who is also a PhD degree holder from North Bengal University, said AASU was concerned about the public allegation that some outside universities were offering off-campus degrees by violating UGC norms. “We want appointment college teachers purely on merit. So there should not be any compromise on UGC norms in acquiring PhD degree,” he said.

A college teacher said, “I got my doctorate off-campus by following all UGC norms. It will be an injustice if the government now considers my degree invalid.”