COIMBATORE: In a controversial action, the Bharathiar University in Coimbatore has unwittingly ‘blacked out’ African examiners from reviewing the PhD thesis of its research scholars fuelling allegations of an “academic apartheid”. The University’s modified regulations for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which came into effect during 2013-14 but hosted on its website now, prohibits research scholars from getting their thesis reviewed by African examiners, save those from the white-concentrated South Africa.
As per the University’s regulations, the panel of examiners to adjudicate the PhD thesis should comprise four foreign examiners. Section 19.6 of the Regulation says that for all PhD thesis (except Tamil), the panel of examiners consisting of four foreign examiners, preferably scientifically advanced countries “avoiding African countries (exception South Africa)”, four Indian examiners (from within Tamil Nadu but outside BU geographical area or from other states within south India) will be submitted by the guide in a sealed envelope.
In contrast, Section 13.6 of its previous regulation till 2012 did not impose any restriction on the nationality of the foreign examiners. Reacting strongly to the insensitive clause, Association of University Teachers vice president C Pichandy said it was tantamount to practising apartheid and implied racist tendencies. “This is against the foreign policy of the Government of India and the University should tender an apology to the nation. Both the Central and State governments should take action against the University authorities and take punitive action against the Vice Chancellor and remove him from his post,” he demanded.
“African literature is being recognised globally and even awarded the Nobel Prize. It is a great shame on the part of Bharathiar University to bar intellectuals from Africa from being examiners,” he added.
Vice Chancellor G James Pitchai, however, was caught off-guard on the issue. “The regulations should not be (worded) like this. We will verify and take corrective action. Currently, we allow examiners from all countries, including African nations to evaluate the PhD thesis,” he said. Senior professors at the University contended that the spirit of Section 19.6 was not to impose an academic apartheid but to ensure quality of the thesis submitted by scholars. “Many Tamils are working in African universities, which were started with World Bank funding. Some of them are simultaneously evaluating six or seven thesis and many research guides recommend these examiners to their students. The intention was to ban these examiners but unwittingly the clause has imposed a ban on the entire African countries,” said a professor.