Ivory Walls of Academia

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Inbreeding and Nepotism in Institutions of Higher Learning

By Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi

HIGHER education is at the top of education pyramid and is considered as the backbone of any society. Universities, Institutes of technology, colleges, seminaries, academies are the institutions where higher learning or tertiary level of learning takes place. The main purpose of these institutions is not merely impart in-depth knowledge. They are places where apart from knowledge transmission/dissemination, knowledge creation takes place.

Even though higher education in India had been showing a rise, both, in terms of expansion as well as students opting to go for higher education due to saturation and non-employability at secondary levels; recent rankings of institutions of higher learning have shown mostly decline from the previously assigned rankings. This indeed is worrisome.

Intellectual class and academicians consider inbreeding and nepotism as the main causes of their degrading academic productivity and quality.

Inbreeding or more precisely “academic inbreeding” is the practice wherein the universities or more specifically their departments give preference to home trained candidates while recruiting teaching faculty that is those who have completed their PG degree or terminal degree usually a PhD at the same university in preference to those candidates who have completed such degrees from other universities even when the later are better qualified or skilled. They remain there throughout their careers. Menace of inbreeding has not only made institutions of higher learning bereft of academic growth, productivity and mobility but also has led to a rise of “Yes-Man” culture in these institutions. Those candidates who have the ability of making good connections with faculty members after securing admission in their respective PG courses get top ranks/Gold medals and also make sure there are no hurdles when they apply for research programmes irrespective of their worth.

In rare cases, inbreeding maybe beneficial to academic institutions but in society like ours where having any “channel” can do wonders for you, benefits of academic inbreeding are almost negligible.

Another practice — rather a menace —— that is marring our academic institutions is nepotism. Throughout our academic journeys, we all have experienced nepotism in one form or another. Nepotism is the practice of people in high positions or possessing power to favour their own friends and family instead of those who may be more qualified or talented. Institutions of higher learning, especially universities, where recruitments for faculty positions are done by respective university boards, meritocracy becomes the main casualty. Various independent studies have shown that people in power have adjusted their immediate family members or friends on top posts irrespective of their ability or worth for that very post due to ever increasing menace of nepotism thereby guaranteeing their career advancement regardless of their merit. At times even eligibility criteria is modified so as to give edge to their kinship.

Let us try to understand this by a case study where in a candidate despite having qualified NET/JRF got less points than the person having NET and SET only in a particular subject. Rules were modified in such a manner that for NET with JRF only 7 points were earmarked while as for SET 3 points and for NET 5 points which meant that a candidate with NET & SET will secure 8 points while a candidate with NET/JRF only 7 points despite the fact that a person after qualifying NET/JRF does not apply rather need not to apply/qualify SET. This willful edition/modification meant that NET/JRF candidate got less aggregate points. After thr final selection list was out, later concluded that eligibility norms were unethically changed so as to the adjust other candidate despite both having similar set of qualifications/degrees and publications.

Similarly, most of the research seats are also allotted to aspirants on the basis of academic nepotism and favoritism which has led to the emergence of such dynasties which can be deemed as “Academic dynasties.” They are later awarded PhDs irrespective of the quality of research done or their ablility to defend their thesis. Competency remains just a slogan in such a scenario. Upon being hired, they become loyal to their so called "supervisors " and this illegitimate and unethical practice continues for generations to establish hierarchy of such lobbyists. On certain occasions some posts have been exclusively created in academic council meetings to adjust their siblings or immediate family members by relaxing usual rules and norms.

These practices not only raise questions on the organizational or institutional integrity but also breeds distrust among other co-learners and outside learners of similar learning stages, and dampens their motivation ultimately quality and productivity. Likewise, if some candidates somehow manage to secure their placements on merit, cronyism becomes their enemy which means close friends and family members of politicians are given preference against merit system. Despite giving sermons of upholding merit, governments/authorities at the helm of affairs have failed to discourage such illegitimate and unethical practices in these academic institutions thereby deflating motivation among skilled/talented and deserving pass outs.

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

PULL QUOTE:Those candidates who have the ability of making good connections with faculty members after securing admission in their respective PG courses get top ranks/Gold medals and also make sure there are no hurdles when they apply for research programmes irrespective of their worth

Feature Image : For Representational Purposes Only/ Getty Images


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