Amid Row Over 'PhD On National Priorities' Order, Kerala Professor Quits

Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi on Sunday took a jab at Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar over the circular on research topics in PhD.


Meena Pillai resigned from the Board of Studies of English and Comparative Literature.



  1. Meena T Pillai quit board of studies of Central University of Kerala
  2. Note said scholars to be taken only for topics of "national priorities"
  3. Central University of Kerala comes under Education Ministry

A professor from Kerala, Meena T Pillai, has quit the Board of Studies of Central University of Kerala in protest against a circular from the university asking the departments to admit students for PhD only if they have subjects related to "national priorities".

The circular dated March 13 reads: "All the Heads of the Department are hereby directed to convene the meeting of faculties and to prepare a shelf of projects to be taken for research study pertaining to their subject considering national priorities. The student can opt from the shelf of projects."

It also states "...discourage research in irrelevant areas. When fellows are being admitted for PhDs, the topic for PhDs should be in accordance to national priorities. Allotting privilege topics to students should be dispensed with."

"I was absolutely shocked when I read this circular. How can a circular like this be passed to all departments, and remain unnoticed. The only thing I could do is resign from board. I thought it was a very insignificant act on my behalf, but the only thing I could do. Who decides what are national priorities? And why should research be restricted to just that?" Professor Pillai, who resigned from the Board of Studies of English and Comparative Literature, told NDTV.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday took a jab at Education Minister Prakash Javadekar over the circular on research topics in PhD.

Mr Gandhi shared a report on Facebook about the HRD ministry's order on PhDs. "Now, self-attested wise minister (Javadekar) of a very wise Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) will tell the intellectuals of the country how they should do their work. It has been rightly said that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'," he posted in Hindi.

Congress member of parliament from Thiruvananthpuram Shashi Tharoor on Twitter asked people to join her protest: "Disgraceful HRD instruction that researchers can pursue PhDs only on topics of 'national interest' prompts Kerala professor to quit. The rest of us can join her protest by voting the  troglodytes out!" he tweeted. 

The Central University of Kerala comes under the Ministry of Human Resource Development but it's not clear on whose direction the circular was issued. The circular was signed by the university registrar.

However, after the professor's resignation, the university issued a clarification saying: "It came to the notice of the Central University of Kerala administration that a circular issued by the University dated 13.03.2019 is highly misinterpreted in some of the media."

The usage of "National Priority" in the circular pertains to the topics that would benefit the economic, social and technological advancement of the nation and society, the university said. 

The research areas may include latest developments in nano technology, nano medicine, artificial intelligence, space research, nuclear science, sustainable development, climate change, organic farming among others, it added. 

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