Poor quality profs? Blame ghostwritten PhD theses

A doctoral degree is usually associated with years of re search that goes into a thesis -a crucial part of attaining a PhD. However, obtaining a doctorate tag has become less difficult due to an increasing number of student-researchers using ghostwriters to do the thesis work for them.

Experts say outsourcing thesis writing is not exactly a new phenomenon but it is important to understand why it is flourishing and the negative impact it has on academia. They say many teachers at professional colleges with PhDs, some even from prestigious universities, have poor language and communication skills. They may know the subject but do not know how to explain concepts -not having had to while producing a doctoral thesis.

Apar t from external agencies that provide help to write dissertations, faculty members of colleges often play ghostwriter too. Several candidates approach English or communication professors to pen their theses, the going rate for which is between `1 lakh and `2 lakh and even more, the professor of a reputed educational group said.

Former Anna University professor V Chandrasekhar, who admits that doctoral candidates have approached him to write their theses, says many teachers in various institutions struggle to speak or write English. “It has become a lucrative business, with some people charging large sums. But even money does not ensure quality . Many theses are full of grammatical errors or wrongly constructed sentences,” he said.

Sometimes, students are involved in the process indirectly. A science student of Ethiraj College says students do projects related to the thesis of teachers so the material they prepare contributes to teachers’ dissertations.”Usually, a student is given the option of choosing their topics. But sometimes, when they approach the teacher for suggestions on topic options, the teacher will suggest ideas that are part of a thesis that he is working on,” she says.

The demand for PhD holders to fill teaching positions in universities and colleges is fuelling the need for doctoral degrees and contributing directly to the increase in ghostwritten dissertations. The number of candidates who secured PhDs in the state was around 1,000 a year one decade ago; it has now increased fivefold, professors say .

Prof Manivannan of the RMK Group of institutions says faculty members in several colleges, especially in rural areas, lack communication skills. “This leads to outsourcing of dissertations,” he says. “Language skills are one aspect, but many candidates are also not ready to put in the work that goes into writing a PhD thesis.”

Former AICTE chairman and retired IIT-Madras director R Natarajan says there are only a few PhD holders of true quality today .

“A lot of fraudulent activities are taking place,” he says. “Many people take shortcuts to obtain a PhD rather than go through the rigour required. Many have a tendency to take shortcuts for everything. This ultimately reflects the standard of education.”

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