A subject as dense as psychology is best left to professional psychologists and academics in terms of formulation of the course content for the under-graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral levels. Yet as the overarching authority in matters academic, the University Grants Commission, a quasi-bureaucratic entity, appears to have arrogated to itself the right to frame the courses in the discipline. It is hard not to wonder whether it is proceeding from conclusion to premise when it cavils that the courses across the colleges and universities are “not rooted in the national ethos”. The compulsion of “national ethos” is yet to be defined.

Nor for that matter has the commission explained how the psychology courses have failed to mirror the “national ethos”. Does the discipline have to reflect the flavour of the season, specifically the spirit of nationalism, as propagated by the government of the day? Will the exercise envisage a bout of detoxification that the social science disciplines have to contend with almost with every change of dispensation? Towards that skewed objective, the UGC claims to have crafted what it calls “model undergraduate, master’s and doctoral syllabi”… which it now wants all universities to follow.

Rightly has the imprimatur been stoutly condemned by the academic circuit not least because the regulatory entity cannot intrude into the academic domain. Notably, the initiative flies in the face of campus autonomy. Mere funding doesn’t afford the right to advance a diktat on the syllabi. Just as there can be no scope for “manufactured history”, as a distinguished historian once told the Indian History Congress, the subject of psychology lends no scope for meddling by a government entity. The discipline is much too intricate and specialised for bureaucratic intervention.

It would be less than accurate to contend, in the manner of the UGC, that the “Indian context” is ignored in the framing of the syllabus. In point of fact, there are papers on Indian psychology in every university. It is quite another story whether this particular paper needs to have an overdose of “Indian nationalism”. The study of the discipline must of necessity be more comprehensive than an undue stress on a single aspect.

Psychology courses are by and large uniform across the universities and they do reflect the societal agenda. One must give it to the Union HRD minister, Prakash Javadekar, that he has promptly binned the other recommendation of UGC ~ to drop “Hindu” and “Muslim” from the names of Benaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University.