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CHENNAI: In a significant development, University of Madras has unearthed the operation of a ‘mafia’ of foreign PhD examiners in countries like Singapore and Ethiopia, some of who evaluate multiple theses of the varsity’s research scholars at a time, and blacklisted those identified
A senior professor of University of Madras during a recent viva examination, where a candidate had to defend a PhD thesis, found the reports of the foreign examiner and local examiner identical with the signature being the only difference. “When I refused to be part of the viva process, I got calls from politicians and other people,” said Rita John, a professor from the basic sciences department, at the university’s Senate meeting on Saturday.
University regulations mandate that one of the three subject experts evaluating a research thesis be a foreigner from a reputed institute. The university has now found widespread irregularities in the process involving foreign experts and identified bogus examiners from Singapore, one of who gave identical reports to 19 Ph D candidates, Nigeria and Ethiopia. They don’t have the required qualifications but are involved in the process by the university and its affiliated colleges, it found. Sources say a few professors in Delhi examine 150-200 PhD thesis from University of Madras every year.
The Vice-Chancellor, given names of three foreign examiners, three outside TN experts and three within TN, is to pick three. Sources say many retired professors from the university and affiliated institutions work in these countries where getting theses evaluated is convenient.
As the senate took up the adoption of UGC PhD and MPhil guidelines 2016, there was stiff opposition from a section of members as the registrar had sent a letter on October 20 proposing to make norms for PhD examiners selection more stringent.
For instance, the University wants the examiners to be preferably from institutes with a NAAC ‘A’ grade or those who are in the top 100 of NIRF rankings. The VC also wanted that the examiners should have at least three publications in UGC listed journals or books of reputed publishers in the last five years in related topics.
S Manivasakan, director of Centre of South-East Asian studies, said the rules should go through the Board of Research Studies, syndicate and academic council. “The controller of examination’s office should verify the genuineness of the foreign examiner,” he said.
Faced with opposition, vice-chancellor P Duraisamy said the new regulations must be adopted to ensure the quality of research and revealed the crackdown on dubious foreign examiners. “There are some examiners who evaluate a thesis in a day,” he said.
Eventually, the Senate passed a resolution that the PhD examiners should be from accredited institutions and should have at least two papers in related fields in the last five years published in UGC recognised journals.