Alphabet lesson trumps science master’s


New Delhi, May 21: “S” for “surgery” and “Sc” for science.

The Indian education bureaucracy’s rigid devotion to this formula – which might at first sight seem an alphabet lesson for two-year-olds – is threatening the future of hundreds of would-be scientists.

Several universities are refusing research posts to postgraduates who have cleared the five-year BS-MS or Bachelor of Science-Master of Science course, an American-style programme the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) began offering a decade ago.

None of these universities has questioned the content of the BS-MS course or the merit of the students – they have merely declined to recognise the degree because of the way it is named.

As if on cue, some government departments too have balked at accepting the BS-MS degree as valid while considering job applications.

Students say there were no problems for the first eight years since the course was launched in 2006. In 2014, the University Grants Commission, the higher education regulator, published its first comprehensive list of recognised degrees since the BS-MS had been launched.

An education official on Sunday explained to The Telegraph why the gazette notification left the BS-MS out.

Apparently, the commission had set up a committee to examine “confusing” degree nomenclatures. The experts ruled that “MS” has always meant “Master of Surgery”, and its use as “Master of Science” could be too perplexing for the bastions of higher education.

The commission’s list therefore recognises only “MSc” as a fit acronym for “Master of Science”.

An IISER director said the certificates issued by the institutes clearly mention the full name of the programme, leaving no room for confusion.

“Our certificates mention ‘Bachelor of Science-Master of Science’ in full. ‘BS-MS’ is how the course is popularly known: there should be no confusion,” he said.

Six months ago, then higher education…

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