Assistant Professors Sultana Akter and Rajib Mondol are at the centre of a controversy
Allegations of anomalies have tarnished the achievements of two teachers from Jahangirnagar University and Jagannath University, who were recently conferred PhD degrees for their research.
Assistant Professors Sultana Akter and Rajib Mondol—of the history department of Jahangirnagar University and Bangla department of Jagannath University, respectively—are at the centre of a controversy over accusations they did not follow mandatory academic regulations.
Dhaka Tribune has learned that history department Assistant Professor Sultana Akter of Jahangirnagar University conducted research under the supervision of Professor M Nurul Islam, president of the higher education committee of that department.
Her research was titled “Tajuddin Ahmed er Rajniti o Bangladesh er Ovyuddoy,” which translates as “The Politics of Tajuddin Ahmed and the Rise of Bangladesh.” The delay between Prof Sultana’s research seminars was only two months and twelve days.
Meanwhile, Bangla department Assistant Professor Rajib Mondol of Jagannath University conducted research under the supervision of Professor Prithwila Naznin, president of the department’s higher education committee.
His research was titled “Avijit Sen er Kothasahityo: Itihas o Bhugol Paromporjo,” which translates as “The Literary Works of Avijit Sen: A Correlation between History and Geography.”
The delay between Prof Rajib’s research seminars was four months and seven days.
Mandatory regulations for achieving a PhD degree dictate that a researcher must hold at least two seminars on his/her research topic, with a minimum interval of six months between them. The rule was not followed by the higher education committees of the above-mentioned universities.
This act is a violation of the public university Examination Ordinance and Policy.
According to sources from the administration, recommendations were made to confer PhD degrees to Prof Sultana and Prof Rajib, at the Academic Council meeting held on March 24 this year. The recommendation was approved at a syndicate meeting on April 5.
Some present at the meeting objected the decision, bringing attention to the fact that a mandatory delay between seminars was not followed, violating the regulation.
After some debate among the council members, PhD degrees were conferred to both teachers.
‘No special consideration’
Responding to a query, Jahangirnagar University Vice-Chancellor and Academic Council President Farzana Islam said: “During the Academic Council meeting, no one brought up the alleged violation of regulations by Prof Sultana Akter.
“Meanwhile, Rajib Mondol’s PhD degree was pending for a long time. There was no special consideration.”
According to sources from the administration, both Sultana and Rajib joined Jahangirnagar University and Jagannath University, respectively, as part-time researchers. Their tenure concluded on June 30 last year, but they had yet to achieve their degrees.
The university syndicate extended their tenure till December, 2018, but the duo was yet again unsuccessful in getting their PhDs. Academic Council President Farzana Islam then further extended the deadline to January 25, 2019.
Prof Sultana Akter’s first research seminar was held on October 31 last year, and the second was held on January 13 this year. The delay between the seminars was two months and twelve days.
Prof Sultana submitted her thesis on January 24, a day before the end of her tenure. The committee recommended that a PhD be conferred to Prof Sultana, after taking her viva exam on March 3.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Prof Sultana said: “The delay between seminars was allowed because my tenure was about to end. I worked very hard on my research, so the department took the matter under consideration.”
Echoing the opinion, joint research supervisor and history department Prof ATM Atiqur Rahman said: “We reconsidered the mandatory delay between two seminars, to allow the researcher to achieve her degree.
“We were lenient, because the research was good.”
On the other hand, Prof Rajib Mondol’s supervisor and Jagannath University Bangla department Prof Prithwila Naznin said: “At the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, we do not take the regulation regarding delay between research seminars too seriously.
“Strict adherence to the above-mentioned regulation demoralizes researchers, so we acted leniently to encourage them.”
Giving his response regarding the matter, Prof Rajib Mondol said: “I requested that my tenure be extended for humanitarian considerations. The department and the university administration granted my request.
“The delay between two research seminars was lessened, so that I could obtain my PhD before the end of my tenure.”
Admitting that the two researchers were granted leniency, Jahangirnagar University Vice-Chancellor Farzana Islam said: “We extended their tenures so that they could achieve their PhDs. The regulation about delays between seminars might not have been followed properly.
“If the two researchers did it deliberately, with ill intentions, there is an option to bring the matter under scrutiny at any time.”