Academic atmosphere in Kerala’s universities unfavourable for research, finds study

Many research scholars complained before a Kerala State Higher Education Council panel that they have often been sidelined and denied use of academic facilities.

Research scholars have rued the lack of a conducive atmosphere for quality research in State universities. Many also complained before a Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) panel that they have often been sidelined and denied use of academic facilities.

The shortage of research supervisors, which has led to dwindling opportunities and reduced quality, has also been a bane for research in Kerala. The undue delay in the evaluation process of thesis has also been affecting the career prospects of several researchers.

Several such deterrents were recorded by a six-member committee chaired KSHEC executive body member J. Rajan that was constituted to examine the problems of researchers in State universities and colleges. The report was formally approved by the council governing body on Thursday.

The panel was welcomed by an outpouring of complaints when it visited various universities across the State to take stock of the research scenario.

Among the oft-repeated demands raised by the stakeholders was the call for an attitudinal change by administrative officers in universities. Many researchers raised allegations of being treated in an inferior manner by the administrative staff. Some also blamed universities of adopting ‘illogical’ administrative steps that were detrimental to research activities.

“Bureaucratic hurdles have often posed great difficulties for researchers in universities. There have also been instances when they have been made to plead for their research fellowships,” Dr. Rajan said.

Following discussions, KSHEC officials had with Vice-Chancellors, universities have begun to establish Research Directorates that are helmed by faculty members who act as a point of contact to resolve researchers’ grievances.

The study also found a scarcity of hostel facilities as well as basic infrastructure that were key for a good research environment. Besides complaints of M.Phil and Ph.D programmes not being given due importance, many also called for steps to enhance post-doctoral opportunities and post-research employability especially in critical disciplines such as applied sciences.

The lack of inter-departmental coordination among research departments within universities was found to have taken a toll on interdisciplinary research. Research scholars have also found information and research support had to come by from the “unfriendly” government departments.

Research supervisors demanded an institutional mechanism to acknowledge good research work through a provision of incentives. In addition to measures to protect academic freedom for research activities on campuses, guides in affiliated colleges have also urged authorities to reduce their workload to enable them to devote more time on research.

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