Open University Jokes

There’s only one course of studies that I pursued out of my own interest: literature.  All the rest were either imposed on me by someone or pursued by me out of fancy.  At the age of 51 I decided to pursue a post-graduate course in psychology partly out of fancy and partly interest.  It’s now turning out to be a big joke for me.

The most popular Open University in India which has hundreds of study centres all over India (including J&K and the North-east) as well as abroad started a post-graduate course in psychology in 2010.  I joined it assuming that it would be a thrilling experience in the autumn of my life.  The University, however, chose to make it a funny experience.  I’m enjoying the joke now.  Let me share it with you.

In the first year of the two-year course there are seven papers.  I cleared six of them and could not appear for one because the notes sent by the University failed to make sense to the most knowledgeable people in the field.  The paper is called Statistics in Psychology.  The Printer’s Devil turned out to be a ghost that haunted relentlessly every page – nay, every line – in the notes sent by the University.  It confounded me beyond my imagination.  I’m reproducing just one example in the picture given here.

part of a page of the study material

Ok, the Printer’s Devil got into one paper which was typeset by someone who had no idea of mathematical precision than an administrator has of the value of quality.  I let it pass.

Today, (Sunday being the only day when the Open University opens its study centres), I went to the study centre to find out what has happened to my application for the revaluation of two of my assignments.  I gave them for revaluation because the examiner had chosen to give me much less marks than I had got for the written examination.  I had written the examination relying solely on my waning memory and intellect while I had written the assignments depending on the notes sent by the University as well as a few books I had bought for precious monies which my employers (too many of them wearing the chef’s cap spoiling the broth) pay me grudgingly (as Bill Gates donates to the AIDS victims in South Africa) after each month’s sloggery that they extract from me.

the marks awarded (in red)

My complaint was quite precise.  My answers were not evaluated according to the criteria provided in the question paper at all.  For example, in one question I was awarded 11 marks out of 10.  That was the first question.  After that the examiner’s generosity dwindled until the marks went down to 2 or 2½.   [See the pics.]  Finally the marks totalled to 53 while in the same paper I secured 66 percent in the annual examination conducted by the University.  I presented the matter to the Coordinator of the Study Centre who told me to give a written application.  I followed the counsel.  Today I went to collect the result.  I was told bluntly that I had to deal with the particular teacher who checked the assignment since he claimed that he had given the marks I deserved.  I asked who the teacher was.  The Coordinator gave me the name.  The name was enough to put me off from going to him. 

the marking criteria

He was the same Professor of a historical university in Delhi which enjoys certain minority status, the same Professor who took the viva voce exam of my practical paper.  The first question he asked me was, “What is intelligence?”

Do I look like a high school student, I wondered.  But I mustered up my common sense and said, “Intelligence is the ability to deal with one’s given environment.”

“No, you are absolutely wrong,” said the Prof.  “After all, what do open university students know?  They just do some course thinking they can improve their lot…” he gave me a big lecture which I was condemned to listen to just as I have been condemned to listen to a lot of balderdash in my workplaces from many persons who call themselves administrators. 

“Have you heard of Galton?” asked the Prof when his diatribe against distance learning was over.  His question reminded me of the opening question in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?”


I confessed ignorance.  When I came home I consulted my ultimate fallback on psychology which said this about Galton: “Sir Francis Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and was strongly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution…”  I understood that the Prof was a radical who knew how to pull out a student by the roots and kill him.  What an eminent teacher!

The Prof looked slyly at the gentleman who sat near him [I’ve never managed to find out who he was/is] as if to say: ‘See how I make a fool of this fellow too…’ and asked me: “Who do you think would be a theorist of intelligence: Freud or Binet?”  I liked the way he pronounced Binet though my familiarity with the French language is confined to knowing that the last consonant is not pronounced except c, f, l and r.  But his pronunciation rang a bell in me.  I said, “Sir, Sigmund Freud was more concerned with the unconscious and all the dark, embittered, feelings buried in that terrible crypt of the human mind.  Alfred Binet was one of the first to develop an intelligence test…”

“Enough of that,” the Prof cut me short.  “What was the age of the subject of your experiment?”

“Sixteen-and-a-half,” I said.  ‘Subject’ meant the person I had used for my psychological experiment in the practical examination.

“How much?”

“Sixteen years and six months, sir.”

He looked at my answer sheets once more and said, “You can go.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Today when I narrated the fate of my assignments to another student who looked as old as me, he said, “What do you expect?  They don’t even read your answers.  They just look at your name or your face.  If they can recognise either, they’ll give you good grades.  Otherwise it’s your destiny.”

I laughed.  I was learning new lessons in psychology.  Lessons I learn without paying any fee!

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16 Responses to Open University Jokes

  1. Sir, you seem to have a jolly good time around clowns at and outside your workplace, enjoyed reading it …

  2. You are right…Forget about Open Universities like IGNOU, Similar situation is here in Mumbai University. Teachers don’t even check REPEAT exam papers and give same results to repeater students. Only way to clear the exam is pay bribe to them. Per subject Rs. 4,000/- is the minimum cost/bribe per subject….Pathetic.

  3. Oh My God. Unbelievable. Has it become this bad?

  4. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Not very good, matheikal, as closed or open, all universities are alike

    We had a history teacher at IIT Madras (one of the humanities compulsory optional – interpret that, if you can – courses) and he was very short. So he was named unit vetcor. And his evaluation of our histroy answer sheets was not much different than what you expereinced – indeed more hillarious!

    A nice read.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      That’s quite consoling, Raghuram 🙂

      I would certainly expect a little more accountability from the people committed to causes of education. This is my first experience of the kind though I have studied in 4 different Universities.

  5. Sir,As per my 6 and half semesters in college.i found the key to survival..IN India if anything works that is calledJUGAAD.(*the abilty to make connectons and get your work done).Nothing else works here.

    • matheikal says:

      Manish, thanks for that observation. I was beginning to FEEL it in my veins and you’ve just reinforced it.

      • Sir, In my College too i ve faced many such situations.Well many PHD. students are getting the degree who dont even deserve to.There was one guy who failed In his masters but was awarded PHD within few years of that..That is the scenario of the education system.The same PHD who dont even know what a proper presentation is takes presentation every week.
        There is one Proff. who teaches the lesson of Lord Hanuman instead of the course and concludes by sayin what course he ll be teachin in next class.later on i reealised that he meant:”By the next class u should finish studyin this much portion get the exercises done”.

  6. aram says:

    Hi Sir,
    A wonderful and delightful read….
    It made me think of all the teachers I had faced ….
    One such teacher tried the same trick that was applied to u but luckily I was able to ask him another question which bowled him over and he asked me to leave …..
    The education system is getting rotten because the teachers in universities r increasingly part of the crowd who joins teaching because they have no other choice and the other matter is that they r not qualified…
    In my own college, every year the are doctorates given to the loyals of the director and the eminent scholars are made to wait for a decade !!
    I always loved teaching and thought I would pursue it for my passion !!
    But with the system rotting it seems that will be a far fledged dream !!
    Maybe if some day i get a chance to teach and learn to detach myself from the surroundings I might opt for it !!


  7. matheikal says:

    I knew about the doctorates, Aram. I know people who “sold” themselves to their guides for a doctorate degree.

    Don’t take up teaching as a profession, I’d advise you. The profession has been reduced into some kind of prostitution by administrators who think that management is more important than anything else. You are capable of much more…

  8. Zephyr says:

    I had a similar experience with another university distance education programme and this was two decades ago. I enrolled for the Library Sc. course and found the notes so obsolete and so bad that I hoped the contact classes would be better. They were worse and finally I dropped out. I got a migration certificate with a mark sheet that gave me 0 for every paper I DIDN’T appear for. 🙂

    • matheikal says:

      Zephyr, I’m beginning to think that university degrees are meant only for the mediocre who want to push ahead of the really gifted in the job market. The really gifted don’t need any certificate. The messiahs never had certificates. The architect of the Taj Mahal was not a degree holder….

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