[AMU] New enigma of Ph.D Ordinance/Regulations (Naved Ashrafi)

New Ordinance/Regulation for Ph.D. program (2017-18) is both tough and weird for the time being.

Though rules and regulations by any organization are framed so that those could be followed by its units and personnel to boost efficiency in the organization yet those very rules are easily defied and undermined to serve vested interests of many. This is quite common with any organization; be it religious or secular one. Unfortunately, AMU is no exception to the trend with few instances as testimony like this one.

Nonetheless, let us talk about ordinance/regulation recently released by the Office of Controller of Examination (AMU) for admission to Ph.D. program for the session 2017-18.

Cunningness in the Draft

From 2015 onwards, the ordinance/regulation document is being uploaded on the official website with no information on what ‘amendments’ have been made with respect to the previous draft.

In 2014, it was the last such document (see above) in which three columns were there to inform the reader on:

  1. What was the structure in previous session?
  2. What amendments have been suggested by the expert committee appointed by the Vice-Chancellor? And if those amendments have been accepted or rejected?
  3. What shall be the final structure for the current session after rejection/acceptance of amendments, if any?

Since 2015 to this day, authorities are not willing to bear pain for such kind of work for which they had set benchmark in earlier drafts. With very prompt and responsive RTI affairs and fairly transparent admission processes at AMU, authorities should not be lethargic only at this very juncture. They should not deny the reader their right to full information on ‘what existed’ and ‘what exists’.

Research Methodology or the Subject of Specialization ?

To many aspirants, recent ordinance has become a new challenge. As per the clause 5.1 (I) and clause 5.1 (II) of the regulation 2017, the entrance examination has two stages,

(a) written examination (80 marks)

(b) presentation-cum-interview (20 marks).

Written examination has been divided in to two sections. Section A shall have multiple choice questions (MCQs) popularly known as ‘objective type questions’ that will account for 50 marks out of total 80 marks in the written examination. Remaining 30 marks shall be allotted to Section B in which three subjective type question shall be asked with 10 marks each.

Substantial changes has been made in Section A in which questions from Research Methodology shall be asked accounting 60 percent (i.e. 30 in number) of all objective type questions. Previously, this considerable part of sixty percent of all MCQs was allotted to the subject of specialisation i.e. the subject in which the candidate has passed their Masters degree.  Alternatively, it can be said that zero question shall be asked from the subject and 30 question, in place of the subject, shall be asked from Research Methodology.

This time, replacement of questions from subject of specialisation with that of research methodology has become headache of many who aspire to take this examination this year. This particular move by AMU authorities seems both bogus and funny.

Firstly, Research Methodology is not taught as compulsory paper at masters level and it should not be taught in future. It should remain an ‘optional’ paper. Many people who obtain a masters degree just to secure a job in teaching at school level, or in government/private agency, should not be burdened with ‘compulsory’ research methodology.

Secondly, replacing 60 percent of the masters subject in MCQs is funny as it devalue all what a person has studied at masters level. It simply means a candidate is being gauged of their capabilities on what they have not studied seriously at PG level.

Thirdly, if these changes are being made under UGC guidelines (if there exists any) as rumour exists, then UGC and AMU both should think why there is provision for Research Methodology Course Work during Ph.D. program itself. If AMU or UGC expect the aspirant to be well conversant with the research methods right before admission to Ph.D. program, why they are wasting spondulicks on research pedagogy during Ph.D. Course Work, organising examinations or semester papers. Moreover, why tens of thousands rupees are wasted on research workshops conducted by the ICSSR and other bodies.

Fourthly, at masters level, one cannot and ought not to be an expert of all the fields. For instance, a person pursuing masters in political science can not have equal expertise in research methodology as they possess in political thought, international relations, indian polity and constitution etc. Quantum of expertise is essentially different and it is usually minimum in  research methodology. And with this background, asking a lion’s share of questions from research methodology will not help in selecting ‘right researchers’ for the research. This move is totally absurd and grossly idiotic.

Fifthly, teaching of research methodology is not much sophisticated at masters level in the universities including AMU. Also, there may be different medium of teaching research methods in different departments that are not in sync with the medium of Ph.D. entrance paper. For instance, a candidate from Arabic is well versed with Manahij-ul-Behes but they maynot attempt with ease the thirty great question asked in Ph.D. test.

Subjective Part

Section B of written stage is solely a subjective part. Subjective in the sense that question would be attempted in long-answer type fashion. It accounts for 30 marks. The section shall have three questions of 10 marks each. Questions shall be asked from the subject of specialisation studied at the masters level. There are following concerns with this:

First, asking only three question from the whole two year masters curriculum will not make a ‘representative’ test paper. The test paper should be made a microcosm of subject of specialisation as much as possible. After elimination of all objective question from the subject, test paper shall not be a representative paper. It shall not be an organic paper.

Secondly, section B shall be evaluated at the respective department of studies. Answer sheets shall be evaluated manually by teachers and a lot of subjectivity would prevail there. This subjectivity may also provide inroads to ‘nepotism’ that may further snowball at interview stage. One can say that an aspirant is fifty percent susceptible to ‘subjectivity’.

English Language

In the Section A, ten questions shall be asked from English language. These question generally include fields like correct form of the verbs, narrations, determiners, conjunction and basic composition. My grievances with this section are not much pronounced; still I don’t find these ten questions much useful for AMU students particularly at the research level. AMU has provision of Compulsory English at the bachelors level. Also, all courses at masters level are taught and written in English medium. Moreover, the very Ph.D. entrance paper is in English medium; one has to answer all subjective questions only in English; one has to read all MCQs only in English. With this background one can affirm that there is no serious need of this section. After bachelors and masters studies if AMU is asking questions on English composition, it is simply doubtful of its pedagogy at bachelor and masters level. However, AMU can defend their case by saying that English section gauge the capabilities of those aspirants who come from state universities like MJP Rohilkhand University or Agra University where medium of instruction is generally state language.

General Awareness

The term ‘general awareness’ in itself is quite general and vague. In this particular section one may ask the name of the choreographer in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani. Or one may ask the number of seats in Karnataka assembly. Or one may inquire about the level of rainfall in xerophytic areas. Or it may be asked, from where Sir Syed brought stones to build MAO College building. In general awareness section of Diploma Engineering entrance examination, AMU once asked the name of the batsman who secured a six on last ball, thus wining the match against the British team at Aligarh.

If five questions out of ten are asked from Indian Polity, there would be a win-win situation to those who studied political science at masters while an aspirant from Hindi or Urdu would pray for some question on Sahitya Akademi awards, some novels etc.

Negative Marking of 25%

Clause of 25% negative marking is a plot where AMU authorities are playing all gamble. It is not sure who shall win the game: aspirants or authorities? but it is quite possible that the purpose of research may be defeated. Along with 25% negative marking, a candidate is required to achieve at least 40 marks (out of 80) at stage one. If they fail to do so, they shall not be called for presentation-cum-interview.

Last year, this cap was fixed at only 35 marks (out of 80) and that too in those days when thirty question were not from Research Methodology but from the Subject. With this much ease, many seats in various department remained vacant last year. In Department of Political Science, no candidate could qualify for the two seats in Public Administration because nobody could actually obtain at least 35 marks.

How one can expect of 40 marks, with 25% negetive marking, with thirty MCQs from Research Methodology, with zero MCQ from the subject !!!

Conclusion

While the sections of General Awareness and English Language can be entertained up to certain extent but section of Research Methodology is quite irrational and idiotic. It must be done away with at any cost. This will disproportionately affect the regular studies at PG level in future days.

Naved Ashrafi

Naved Ashrafi

Naved Ashrafi earned his Botany Honors and was awarded Gold Medal in Masters in Public Administration at the Aligarh Muslim University. He is doctoral fellow in Public Administration at the Department of Political Science, AMU.