'Dr' Sarkar minus thesis

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  • Published 21.07.04

July 20: The former vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, Pabitra Sarkar, did not submit his dissertation — let alone obtain a PhD degree from the University of Chicago — in 1975, since when he has been claiming to be a doctorate in linguistics, The Telegraph can reveal.

After trawling the records of Chicago University, it has been found that Sarkar submitted his dissertation 29 years after he was presumed to have obtained his degree and after questions were raised about his claim.

The records show that “Pabitra Bhushan Sarkar’s dissertation titled Segmental Phonology of Standard Colloquial Bengali was submitted to the Dissertation Office on 13th of July, 2004”.

Sarkar had successfully defended his thesis in 1975 but for some reason, which he will not reveal himself, did not submit it. He has, however, been known as Dr Pabitra Sarkar, a description he has not contested.

Today, Sarkar initially refused to comment on the revelation that he had not been awarded a PhD degree by Chicago University. Later, however, he said: “If the university is saying so, it must be true.”

But he refused to say when he had submitted his dissertation to the university’s Dissertation Office.

He, however, claimed that the fact that his dissertation had not been submitted to the Dissertation Office was “nothing new”. “I have said so before.”

What was not known, however, was that he could not rightfully call himself a doctorate and will possibly be able to do so come August.

University records reveal that “the dissertation draft, margins, spacing, pagination and other format issues are in good order and hence the student, Pabitra Bhushan Sarkar, will be awarded the degree in August 2004 or he will be conferred this degree during the summer convocation on August 27, 2004”.

Meanwhile, Sarkar’s official academic career — and he has held important posts — is over. He has retired.

Sarkar has been insisting that he has met all requirements and that his only omission has been that he “has not physically collected the degree”.

He has also produced a certificate, dated November 11, 2003, from the then chairman of the linguistics department of the University of Chicago, Jerrold M. Saddock, that he had “completed all academic requirements” for a PhD degree in linguistics.

Showing a copying of the examiners’ recommendation that his thesis had been cleared by them, Sarkar had claimed that this was a “provisional degree” issued by the university.

This by itself does not constitute award of a degree. Asked on what basis he has been using “Dr” before his name, Sarkar said: “I have the right to use that prefix since I have cleared the academic part of the thesis.”

Without submitting the dissertation?

According to the university, often, even after a thesis has been accepted by a candidate’s doctoral committee and been successfully defended by him, he cannot claim to be a doctorate unless several other steps have been fulfilled. Nor can he call the examiners’ recommendation a “provisional degree”.

The university’s records state: “As a condition for receipt for the doctorate, all doctoral dissertations produced by students at the university are bound and placed in the circulating collections of the university library”. In Sarkar’s case, the dissertation was not even submitted to the Dissertation Office, let alone being placed in the library, a step which follows.