A PhD candidate has managed to teach himself his own subject, assign himself a required paper, conduct his own examination and evaluate his own answer books. Such is the training of future scholars being offered by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University (AKTU).
The student in question is Devesh Ojha, a degree candidate in civil engineering and a teaching assistant at Lucknow’s Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). The matter came to light while the deputy examination controller was tabulating marks.
AKTU vice chancellor Vinay Pathak ordered the cancellation of Ojha’s enrolment in the PhD programme and referred the matter to the head of the civil engineering department, NB Singh.
“A serious lapse at the end of board of studies has led to this embarrassing situation. We have formed a three-member committee under Prof Bharti Dwivedi to investigate the matter,” said AS Vidyarthi, director, IET.
According to Vidyarthi, it is the responsibility of students to request an examiner from AKTU who will oversee and evaluate their work. In the case of Ojha, the university had failed to check for the documents the examiner is meant to submit. Without proper oversight, Ojha managed to evaluate himself.
The committee’s report found that Ojha’s case is a matter of “serious concern” due to “the lack of guidelines, lack of communication and procedural lapses at different levels,” including “ignorance at the departmental level”. It proposed “strong disciplinary action” for Ojha.
In a sign of the current state of affairs at AKTU, the committee deemed it necessary to state: “The departments should take academic activities such as conduction of Board of Studies meeting, recommending names of examiners and evaluators seriously and carefully”.
The committee also proposed more concrete changes. It said that the examination for the subject Ojha was studying, the durability of concrete, should be cancelled. In general, it recommended that the work of PhD candidates be limited to studying and teaching, and that their papers and exams be overseen by academics working at institutions outside AKTU.
The authority of the committee’s report, however, was put in doubt by Pathak, AKTU’s vice chancellor. He said that Vidyarthi, as the director of the IET, was not qualified to initiate inquiries like this one or to give any formal notice to a faculty member without the approval of the university’s executive council and academic council. “The director never briefed me about the matter and has never referred it to me,” said Pathak.
Vidyarthi acknowledged that his committee may lack formal power, but he insisted on the importance of beginning an investigation as soon as possible given the severity of the problems Ojha’s case has revealed.