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Monday, April 4, 2011

Dr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the state of education in Jharkhand

Well done, India. Theirs have been an exceptional performance. Beating all past WC winners convincingly. And while the credit in a team game must be shared by all team members, there is no doubt that the captain plays an extremely important role in executing the strategy and fine tuning it on the ground. The team members and the captain deserve every accolade, prize, gift, etc., that are being announced by one and all.

But there is one announcement that has bothered me. If news papers are to be believed, The Human Resources Minister of Jharkhand has announced that the state government will confer an honorary doctorate on MSD. To me, this is a clear indication, if any was needed, of the state of education in Jharkhand (which I suspect is not too different in many other states). A degree, whether honorary or not, is awarded by a university and not by a government. Each university has its own process for determining who qualifies for a degree, including an honorary degree. And government should have absolutely no role into this.

So the statement of the minister shows how much autonomy does a university have in the state of Jharkhand. The minister must be absolutely sure that he can just call up a vice chancellor and ask him/her to go through the motions, but none dare to oppose the motion, since the minister has already announced it publicly. Can education flourish in an environment where a university cannot even determine whom to give a degree.

(As an aside, even central government is culprit on this count, though not on the same scale. Central Government Institutions cannot award an honorary degree without approval of the central government. So they hold a veto power on an honorary degree. But thankfully, they don't force universities controlled by them to award an honorary degree.)


Amitabh Satyam said...

This is similar to Doctorate degrees awarded to several politicians.

In any case our country has gone overboard with this Cricket win.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Amitabh, You are right that many universities give honorary doctorates to politicians, and I am not against a doctorate to MSD. But normally, the way it works is that someone in the university system will think of appeasing a politician (or someone in politician's office will give a "hint" to VC that s/he is interested in it), and then one goes through the process of taking all due approvals, which a VC is able to manage in many cases, but is not able to manage in other cases. Before this, I haven't seen a politician publicly stating that a degree is some sort of a right of the government. And hence this represents a significant deterioration of university autonomy, in my opinion.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

The central HRD ministry had also made a similar "conferral" of an honorary doctorate on Vishwanathan Anand during the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Ankur, It was Univ of Hyderabad who decided to confer the honorary degree. But all honorary degrees are to be approved by Visitor (through MHRD), and MHRD delayed the decision sufficiently that it could not be given during the Int'l Congress.