The authority must treat the South Eastern University as a national university, as the so-called shameless Vice Chancellor, who obtained his position through fraudulent documents, continues to serve.
by Abdul Raheem
South Eastern University of Sri Lanka has had a very steady growth during the last two decades since its establishment. As a significant success story of the university, the establishment of Engineering Faculty can be considered. This university is producing thousands of graduates in a year. The products of this university comprise students from all parts of the Island with different ethnicities, cultures and languages. The existence of this diversity at the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka makes it as a national asset. The main pillar of the university has been the academic integrity maintained throughout the last two decades since establishment. Unfortunately, the recent reports from South Eastern University of Sri Lanka (SEUSL) is making shocking revelations regarding the current academic bankruptcy related to its academic members.
|The main entrance of the South Eastern University of Sri Lanka [Photo Credit: Shihaff Aqil ]|
The academic integrity and academic quality are the main components of a university or an educational institute. The overall quality of the graduates produced from these institutes mainly depend on these factors. When these factors are compromised due to various reasons, then the downfall of an institute can be inevitable and it can affect the undergraduates produced. This can challenge their employability too. There are obvious evidence to show the downfall in the academic integrity and academic quality at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka.
The contributing factors for the loss of academic integrity should be looked very carefully. The appointment of Professor M.M.M. Najim as the Vice Chancellor to this institute has been the starting point to the downfall in administration, academic quality and integrity. Professor Najim has been encouraging the number of publications and professorships throughout his period as the vice-chancellor. The numbers were astonishingly very high and the university had many hundreds of publications from the academic members. But Professor Najim has totally forgotten to maintain the quality of these publications.The evaluation of these publications and the professorships are giving evidences of significant poor quality in academic nature. It’s rational to raise a question; whether Professor Najim did this intentionally or he left these matters unnoticed. The harvests of these publication mafias can be seen at this university. There are many numbers of professors and academic staff at SEUSL without proper publication ethics and academic integrity. These staff members have been awarded Senate awards and Vice Chancellor awards during the period of Prof Najim being the vice chancellor. It’s astonishing to see where all those scrutinizing mechanisms gone away during his period! People with publications in predatory journals and false index metrics have been awarded as best researchers!! The similar scenarios are hardly to be seen in other universities and institutes. The same award-winning papers have been instrumental to become the professors for such academics at SEUSL. Many questions can be raised about the measures which were taken by Prof. Najim to maintain the academic integrity at SEUSL!He himself being a professor left things going unnoticed in front of his eyes where a publication mafia was operating within the institute. The term ‘publication mafia’ can be used properly to explain the situation existing at SEUSL. Significant number professorships offered during the period of Prof Najim is an evidence to this scenario. The current vice chancellor Rameez Aboobacker and another professor with MSc from SLIIT at the department of Management and Information Technology (MIT), SEUSL are main examples. They had boosted publication numbers within a year and have applied for the professorships during the next year. The professor at Department of MIT, SEUSL has published the maximum number of publications (nearly 20 indexed publications) during a period of one year and the next year he has become as a professor in Management and Information Technology, SEUSL. The academic community from other universities and the UGC, Sri Lanka might wonder how one individual can publish such a big number of indexed publications himself without involving at any major research projects. But the autopsy of these publications shows that there are various activities of fraudulences associated with these publications (this can be published as a separate investigative article). The SEUSL would be the only university in the whole Sri Lanka which was reluctant to provide the list of publications used by the existing professors to claim their professorships under the Right to Information Act!The Information Officer and the Designated Officers at SEUSL are purposefully violating the provisions in the Right to Information Act in many ways to hide the academic and administrative malpractices occurred within this institute.
The contribution done by Professor Najim in the loss of academic integrity and quality at SEUSL didn’t come to an end with his completion of two terms. The newly appointed vice chancellor, Professor A. Rameez is being another instrumental in bringing this institute to a standstill and to the graveyards. The readers may wonder why the vice chancellors are responsible to these downfalls. To explain precisely, they are the chief academic officers maintaining the academic quality and the smooth functioning of the university.
The story behind Professor A. Rameez is well known to the readers. He has been proven to be a research fraud and his academic integrity is in big question. But he is the chief executive officer of this institute. When his research fraudulence are looked at in detail, they give solid evidence for his unsuitability to continue as a vice chancellor and as an academic member. The undergraduates are not allowed to copy or plagiarize in their academic activities according to the examination rules. There are many examination rules and regulations in place to maintain the academic standard among undergraduates. But not a single regulation has been followed with regard to academics, especially in the case of A. Rameez. Professor. Prof. Najim promoted A. Rameez as a professor in sociology within a short period of time to prepare him for the vice chancellor’s chair. But Professor A. Rameez is making himself a greater example for various types of malpractices related to his academic achievements. One may wonder, whether the A. Rameez’s professorship application was properly evaluated at various levels! A question to ask is, whether a person with All these malpractices may focus on maintaining the academic standard of the programs offered at this institute. The answer is obvious; He cannot maintain the quality of the programs offered at SEUSL. Because he hasn’t had any feeling of guilty or inhibition in his fraudulence.
The history of downfall in academic integrity has started with Professor Najim and it has been accelerated with the appointment of Professor A. Rameez as the vice-chancellor. The appointment of Professor A. Rameez as the vice chancellor to SEUSL has occurred in a controversial manner. He has been in the third place in the selection list and he has bypassed the top two candidates in the list by doing nasty politics. It is still a big question, how A. Rameez got appointed while he is having these academic inefficiencies. Even after getting appointed as the vice chancellor, he never tried to restore the academic integrity. The ongoing scenarios are making the situation worse and worse at SEUSL. He is trying to promote various academics as professors with poor academic quality and academic inefficiencies. This may increase the number of professorships at SEUSL, but a significant number of them may fail to prove their academic integrity.
SEUSL is catering for the whole nation. Thousands of students from all parts of the country are doing their studies here. Their academic standard is crucial for their better future and betterment of the nation. Billions of revenuesare being invested here annually. If there is no proper system to investigate and monitor the functioning of this institute by the government, then the responsible authorities also contribute knowingly or unknowingly to this downfall. When this institute reach an irreparable situation, the problem may become a national issue in various ways.
But the University Grants Commission, Sri Lanka has initiated investigation about the academic and administrative practices regarding Prof A. Rameez and it has been evidence that the UGC has suggested the appointment of a Competing Authority to SEUSL while removing A. Rameez. Because, one cannot enquire an academic theft with administrative incapacity while he is serving in a big seat of the particular institution. The Minister of Education and H.E President have the main responsibility in this regard. This issue, if not attended to immediately by the Minister of Education and H.E President, this is going to affect many generations who are undergraduates here. The quality of the courses, degrees and research programs offered at SEUSL will be in a huge turmoil!
It’s evident that the UGC has recommended the measures to be taken to rectify the situation at SEUSL; the delay in implementing the decision by the Ministry of Education is raising questions whether the government of Sri Lanka is treating this university with partiality without considering it as a national university under any political circumstances or any other reasons.The Ministry of Education and the Government of Sri Lanka should implement an absolute decision immediately to rectify the academic fraudulency and administrative inefficiency at SEUSL to open a way for the investigation and rectification. The delay in implementing the decision by UGC is a greater betrayal to the whole country, where the Ministry of Education allows the fraudulent professors to enjoy the tax payers’ money during this miserable situation of the country!
Abdul Raheem is an investigative researcher based in Colombo