Research Emphasis in colleges: A case of Misplaced Priorities

With the pressure mounting on the college teachers to accumulate points under Career Advancement Scheme; the joy of teaching seems to have been lost. The teachers are being haunted by API (Academic Performance Indicators) based PBMS (Performance Based Appraisal system). Teaching, where the focus should be, has taken a back seat as a result of ‘research mania’ gripping the college faculty. It is not because of the passion for research that the college teachers are presenting papers in seminars and writing research papers in large numbers but it is the API that has driven the teachers into forced  ‘research mode’.

With the emphasis on research activities, UGC might have been able to bring about a sort of ‘research revolution’ in the country in terms of number of seminars being held, research papers being presented and published.  But what is the quality of the research? The degree of research in many of the cases does not go beyond ‘cut’ and ‘paste.’ There is no dearth of sham research to acquire the requisite points. In fact, the scale of research activity required to fulfill the promotion requirement belies all logic and undermines serious research.

An important fall out of the emphasis on research activity is the popularity of seminars these days Instead of organizing various competitions for the students such as debates, declamations quizzes etc. now the focus is on seminars which have pushed the student centric activities to the background.. Colleges add feathers to their cap by hosting seminars and the participating teachers get API points. Despite the investment in time, energy and resources on seminars, the end product of many of the grand seminars may be near zero. Sadly, the fancy brochures, high sounding title and captivating topics of the seminars do not generally get translated into worthwhile outcome. Some speakers may be brilliant, their content original, but many are wide off the mark, dishing out ‘recycled’ matter in an insipid manner. Seminar frenzy in colleges has reduced seminars into an exercise in futility. Earlier there might have been some significance when experts were expected to deliberate on important issues but ever since seminars have become more or less a compulsion, standards have drastically come down. Presenting a paper or participation in a seminar is just a formality. Neither the audience is interested nor has the paper presenter much to offer. The interest of the participating delegates is limited to getting the certificate. There is a booming seminar industry. Fee is charged from participants and even certificates may be issued in absentia.

It is a flawed logic that research can be promoted by making every teacher present and write research paper, nay papers. Genuine research comes through passion. No worthwhile results can be achieved by making research activity mandatory. Universities being the nurseries  for the budding researchers, it is quite understandable that the university teachers spend significant part of their time in carrying out research but it is bizarre to expect every college teacher to undertake serious research work where no research facilities are available. Equally weird is the research based API score requirement for the college principals. Truly speaking, headship has more to do with administrative acumen rather than research orientation.

The weightage given to research in career progression of the college faculty is flawed on another account .It deviates the attention of the teachers from teaching, which should be focus area for the teachers ,to self promotion through presenting and writing so called research papers. In the mad race for accumulation of points, time is wasted and the classes are neglected in carrying out the supposed research. Instead of organizing various competitions for the students such as debates, declamations, quizzes etc., now the focus is on seminars which have pushed the student centric activities to the background.

Thanks to the misplaced priorities, research activities have come to occupy the centre stage and teaching seems to have been relegated to the background in the colleges. It is time for the authorities to ponder over the utility/ futility of research emphasis in the Career Advancement Scheme for the college faculty. The aim of UGC should be to promote quality teaching and encourage genuine research. The universities should be promoted as the centres of research and the focus in colleges should be on quality teaching. Let the genuine research be encouraged through incentives rather than forcing it down upon the teachers who have hardly any inclination towards the same.


(Published in The Tribune Jobs and Career  12Oct 2016 )

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