Recently the High Court has directed the Dhaka University (DU) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) to finalise a law and submit it within four weeks after discussing with those concerned to prevent PhD fraud, according to a new report. It is very unfortunate that our researchers (teachers) not only from Dhaka University, but also from other universities are practicing fraud during the preparation and submission of their thesis for their degrees. As a former Professor of a public University and Former Vice Chancellor of a Public University, I feel extremely disappointed to witness this type of news. It is very disgraceful to all of us associated with higher education institutes in the country. It is also not desirable in the higher education systems in our country. I cannot understand why our honourable teachers are submitting fraudulent thesis for their degrees. With my extensive experience in supervising more than 100 research students’ theses including a dozen of Ph.D. students from home and abroad and publishing more than 225 research papers in different national and international journals, I feel that any student conducting fair research should not have to resort to fraudulent means to gain their degree.
Research activities are a part of higher education, especially M.S. and Ph.D. research and degrees, not only in our country but also throughout the whole world. Fundamental research activities are the heart of the university education system and contribute to the development of society. There is no place for this type of behaviour during a Ph.D. research campaign.
1. As a prerequisite, university authorities must appoint teachers with good academic background to ensure their talent as a researcher.
2. The research facilities and funds must be provided to the researchers by the universities.
3. There must be a central research cell of the university and each department should have a research cell to look after the whole research activities closely. There must be coordination between both the research cells.
4. Basic training on how to write a good thesis (especially writing review of literature, collection and citations of references, statistics etc) must be given by a competent person from the senior teachers of the Department or from suitably experienced researchers from other institutes.
5. There must be an advisory committee composed of experts from the respective field of study from other educational and research institutes and members of the Department to look after the whole program of the research students.
7. Following acceptance by the advisory committee and endorsement by the departmental relevant committees, the student will start the program with continuous guidance from the supervisor.
8. The supervisor and the departmental Head will look after his /her day-to-day research activities and provide all the required support.
9. The researcher will submit their progress report to his/her head of department every three months with the approval of his/ her supervisor.
10. The researchers should give a presentation with the progress of his/her research activities before the advisory committee after one year of study and the progress reports must be approved by the committee to continue his/ her research for the second year. The researcher should submit the work plan for the second year.
11. The researcher should submit second year reports to the advisory committee at the end of second year for completion of his/her proposed research program allocated for the second year.
12. The proposed activities of the second year should be approved by the advisory committee with a presentation to continue his/her research for the third year. The researcher should submit the work plan for the third year.
13. After completion of third year research activities the researchers should submit a final report for approval by the advisory committee to submit his/her final thesis.
14. Every step of the report submission and indeed the final Ph.D. thesis should be vetted for plagiarism.
15. The supporting document (raw data, statistical analysis, supporting reprints etc) related to the thesis works must be available during the final submission of the thesis.
16. It is essential for the researchers to be provided with the knowledge and guidance on how to publish his/her research in reputable journals at home and aboard (Preferability in Impact Factor Journals). The number and quality of the publications must be determined by the advisory committee before the researcher submits his/her thesis. The supervisor and the student should engage in this manner from the very beginning of the research activities.
17. The researchers should only be rewarded for his/her degree during his/her promotion, not during the increments, apart from noteworthy publications (the required quality must be determined by the University Central Research Cell). The number of publications, and the quality of publication must be determined by the University Grants Commission in collaboration with the university authorities for the promotion of the teachers in all levels. Special care must be taken during promotion.
I hope that the appropriate rules and law will be put in place taking the above points into consideration. I firmly believe that this will help in doing a fruitful research and submission of a fair Ph.D. thesis to prevent the generation of fraudulent PhD thesis and protect academic integrity.
One important point not very relevant in this context is that the teachers may be given higher salaries after a certain period of service because of increasing cost of living and perhaps larger families to support. However, length of service, age, and a few low-quality publications in local journals without Impact Factors do not mean that they are due a salary increase and promotion to the higher posts. It must be acquired by publishing a good number of quality papers in Impact Factors Journals. There must be rules and regulations to determine the suitability of the publications for the promotion as determined by the university and UGC.
A homogeneous set of rules and regulations for promotion and benefits from publications should be formulated and set out for teachers for all the universities under the banner of UGC. The selection of teachers in different universities may also be taken centrally under the UGC. To ensure fair and appropriate selection of teachers to the universities, would it be possible to select the lecturers at all universities like the Public Service Commission under the banner of UGC in a separate division of UGC to ease the pressure of all the Vice Chancellor of the country? There must be a commission to formulate the rules and regulations, if the Ministry of Education, UGC and the universities agree on this approach. This is just a suggestion, but it could be fine-tuned through several meetings to formulate the possible rules and regulations.
Additionally, the research activities may be strengthened in private universities and research programs could also be introduced to the university colleges, Govt. and non-govt. Hons. colleges in the country for their promotion and other facilities.
The writer is Former Professor, C.U. and Ex-Vice Chancellor, PUST