The University of Calicut is taking steps to encourage research, writes Abdul Latheef Naha
The University of Calicut has embarked on a series of measures aimed at revamping research. Underscoring the importance of research, the university will amend its Statute to enhance the quality and quantity of research undertaken in its learning portals.
The university has announced that everything possible will be done to raise the standards of research. A Directorate of Research, led by George Varghese, Head of the Department of Physics, has been set up in one of the early moves by Vice-Chancellor M. Abdul Salam to shore up research.
The directorate will sanction and monitor research centres, appoint guides and ease the rules and regulations for researchers to manage their funds. It is planning to revive the university’s research journal, which is expected to provide a platform for the researchers to showcase their studies.
Plans are afoot to grade the studies, Pro Vice-Chancellor K. Ravindranath says. The university has embarked on the revamp project to help people with research aptitude take up part-time or full-time studies.
To encourage potential researchers, the university is planning to reduce the minimum marks required to join a research programme from 55 per cent to 50 per cent. Although a section of teachers have opposed the idea, the university authorities point out that the University Grants Commission has stipulated minimum 55 per cent marks only for lectureship and not for doctoral research.
“Research should not be mistaken as something meant to become teachers. The purpose of research is different. Anyone with aptitude and capabilities to conduct quality studies should be promoted,” Dr. Ravindranath says.
After several years, the university has reintroduced part-time research registration for those employed. The university regime believes that research is not the prerogative of teachers. Neither is it meant to promote teaching as a means of employment. It should rather be a mechanism to generate a wealth of knowledge.
It is time to register for research at the university. “We have invited applications after a hiatus of 19 months,” Dr. Varghese says. Candidates can register till October 30. However, those having externally supported fellowships can seek admission any time. Those with an M.Phil. degree and project assistants too can seek admissions without attending the eligibility test conducted annually by the university. “Similarly, foreign nationals having minimum qualifications will be exempted from the eligibility test,” Dr. Varghese says.
The university will make use of the services of retired teachers for improving research standards. “Certainly we give high value to the knowledge, experience and expertise of retired research guides. They will also have more time to spare for their students,” Dr. Ravindranath says. The induction of retired hands will address the dearth of research guides.
Dr. Varghese says all scholars who have contributed to the growth of knowledge and have proven their credibility as active researchers will be recognised as research guides. Candidates for guideship should have at least two research papers published within two years.
The number of research scholars under a guide has been increased from five to eight. This number is likely to be further increased to 10 meeting the UGC guidelines.
The revamp guidelines indicate that the first six months of research will be a pre-Ph.D. course, during which the candidate will have to attend classes, seminars and other assignments on research methodology and on the respective area of study.
“This is mandatory under UGC guidelines,” Dr. Varghese says. The first batch will start on November 1.
The university has relaxed the rules for awarding guideship to teachers of affiliated colleges. College teachers having a Ph.D. and the required number of publications and proven credibility in research will be given guideship even if their department or college is not a recognised research centre. Such teachers can select another research centre for enrolling their students or approach the university department for recognition as guide.
Research centres too have been given more relaxation. Earlier, a postgraduate department in a college would be given the status only after five years of existence. This has been reduced to three. The number of recognised guides required has been reduced from three to two.
Academic watchers point out that the biggest gain of the research revamp will be for the university teachers who bring funds from outside for their research projects. Unlike other universities, the laws of the University of Calicut have been constricting the activities of such researchers.
A good number of researchers at the university have been reluctant to go for such funding fearing that they will be taxed in the name of local auditing. The funds allotted for research projects are added to the university account and given piecemeal to the project head. Almost all researchers who have brought funds for their projects have suffered because of the university laws.
And that fear factor remains a testimony to the abysmal amount of research funds currently available. Only 16 of the 200 faculty members at the university departments have projects funded by outside agencies. “This number is too low compared with any other university,” Dr. Varghese says.
The new regulations will ensure that the investigators have more freedom to manage the funds they bring in. The university will have to amend the Act and Statute for it.
The new scheme of things will offer several perks to good researchers. Those who bring more funds will get rewards. Awards will be instituted for the best performers, the best thesis and the best published work.
A progress evaluation committee will monitor the research work. It can even recommend cancellation of the registration or stopping the fellowship if the performance of the candidate is unsatisfactory. Researchers have another big hurdle. Publication of the research output in peer-reviewed standard journals is made mandatory before submission of the final thesis. “This is a UGC stipulation meant to ensure quality in research,” Dr. Varghese says.
Research papers published in a journal of high repute and high impact will be acknowledged with Vice-Chancellor’s medals every year.
Researchers can no longer prolong their studies beyond six years. The maximum time given for regular researchers is five years and for part-timers six. After six years, their registration will be cancelled. At present, the university has many researchers grappling with their projects for 10 to 15 years. As part of clearing this “backlog,” the university has given them time till December 31 to submit their theses. University authorities say that it will be their last chance. However, the university will permit submission of theses before the stipulated three years only in exceptional cases.