Eleven faculty members of the Centre for Economic Studies & Planning (CESP) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have written to its Chairperson, asking him to withdraw a notice regarding the choice of research topic and allocation of supervisors for MPhil students. They have said the notice was “illegal”.
The January 24 notice asks students to list “three topics” they’re interested in — a break from the norm, where a student submitted one research proposal based on their area of interest.
“MPhil first-year students are requested to submit three topics, in order of preference, by February 15, for allotment of supervisors, as required by the UGC regulations,” read the notice.
The faculty members, including senior economists Jayati Ghosh and C P Chandrashekhar, in their letter to Chairperson Pradipta K Chaudhury, said asking students to do so was a “mockery of research”. They added that such a decision, if at all, could only be taken by the Faculty Committee — a meeting of which, they alleged, has not been held since March 2018.
In their letter dated January 30, the faculty members wrote, “The allocation of supervisors must be done by the Faculty Meeting of CESP, as per regulations. Students cannot be allocated supervisors arbitrarily by the Chairperson/ Acting Chairperson without discussion in the Faculty Meeting. No meeting has been held in CESP since March 2018, when you took over as Acting Chairperson.”
Terming the notice “illegal”, they said, “It is unheard of and unacceptable to ask students for ‘three topics in order of preference’, which makes a complete mockery of all research and betrays no understanding of how research interests are developed…
Therefore, the reference to ‘UGC regulations’ is wrong and misleading, and appears to be a mischievous attempt to claim legitimacy for an invalid decision.”
They demanded that the notice be “withdrawn immediately” and that the faculty meeting be held as soon as possible.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Professor Vikas Rawal, who is one of the signatories, said, “Earlier, students would give one proposal based on their research interest and they would be allotted a supervisor accordingly. When you ask them to indicate three topics, you’re basically saying you (Chaudhury) will decide who will work on what topic, and also allot them supervisors according to your wish. Research isn’t done like this.” He said no other Centre asked students for three topics.
Kriti Roy, a first-year MPhil student, said: “He (Chaudhury) tried to appoint supervisors according to his whim last semester also. I, for example, wanted to work on gender or macroeconomics, but he did not allow me to work with the supervisor I wanted.”
Chaudhury did not respond to calls and texts by The Indian Express.