UGC regulations seek to attract more students towards research practices

Students with research aspirations will now find it easier, and more time saving, to contemplate careers in research. As per the revised PhD regulations notified by the University Grants Commission (UGC), students who have completed a 4-year undergraduate programme can get direct admission to a PhD programme. These students should have a minimum of 75% marks in “aggregate or its equivalent grade on a point scale wherever the grading system is followed”. Should the candidate fall short of the required percentage, he/she has to pursue a one-year master’s programme and score at least 55%.
Speaking to Education Times, vice-chancellor, DU, Yogesh Singh says, “In most of the IITs, students with a 4-year BTech degree can directly enrol for PhD programmes with 75% aggregate marks. It is an old practice that has now been opened for all other disciplines. While time will tell how many students will enrol for PhD after a 4-year UG degree, it is a positive step towards encouraging more students to join the research ecosystem.”
Catching them young
Furqan Qamar, professor, Department for Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia and formerly advisor (Education), Planning Commission of India, holds a similar view.
“PhD after a four-year UG degree is not a new idea. A few universities and institutions of national importance are already running this kind of PhD programme on the premise that this will enable institutions to ‘catch them young’ which would in turn improve the commitments and quality. The new guideline seeks to upscale the practice.”
But then even if this saves students the time and cost of doing a master’s degree, it will not significantly increase the number of research scholars in the country, professor Qamar says. “It may be a barrier to their career because the recruitment and promotion rules for teaching and research careers, including those notified by UGC itself, still insist on a master’s degree with 55% marks or an equivalent grade,” he adds.
Major relief
The guidelines further state that institutions can conduct their own entrance tests to admit students. “A draft guideline had sought to introduce that a minimum of 40% research scholars must be admitted through a university’s own entrance test. That appeared unfair to those who had taken the trouble to prepare, appear and qualify JRF/NET examination. But the final guidelines do not insist on what was proposed in the draft guideline, which will come as a relief to many students,” Qamar says.
Part-time PhD to aid industry
The commission has also permitted candidates to pursue a PhD through part-time mode. For this, the institute will require a ‘No Objection Certificate (NOC)’ from the authority concerned in the organisation where the candidate is employed. The NOC should specify that he/she is permitted to pursue studies on a part-time basis and that “his/her official duties permit him/her to devote sufficient time for research; if required, he/she will be relieved from the duty to complete the course work”.
“The part-time PhDs will give working professionals an opportunity to pursue a career in academics. In the research-intensive areas, such as VLSI design, preference is being given to PhD candidates,” says Singh, pointing to the fact that many of the industries do not have their own R&D centres, which makes it necessary for them to survive on borrowed technology. “They can now invest in innovation and research where working professionals with PhDs can contribute significantly,” Singh adds.
Till 2010, it was normal to have part-time PhDs. The guidelines post that emphasised PhD being the highest/second-highest qualification, needs to be pursued on a full-time basis to ensure research excellence. The present guideline has gone back to the earlier practice, Qamar says. Most non-NET/Non-JRF candidates, according to him, would now want to pursue PhD on a part-time basis and getting a NOC from the employer would not be a problem. “Moreover, even non-working people may be able to get such a certificate,” he cautions.
Prior publication not a must
The UGC regulations have also removed the mandatory clause of PhD regulations of 2016 that states PhD scholars “must publish at least one (1) research paper in a refereed journal and make two paper presentations in conferences/seminars before the submission of the dissertation/thesis for adjudication”. But then, this does not mean PhD scholars need to stop engaging in the exercise altogether.
“Doing away with the requirements of quality publication may lead to the ease of doing a PhD but it will dilute the quality. The argument that the publication requirement was leading to unethical practices such as plagiarism, proxy publishing and publishing in predatory journals may not hold ground in all cases,” Qamar adds.
Good publications in recognised avenues should be an outcome of PhD research, says Krishnashree Achuthan, dean of PG Programs, School of Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. “Non-acceptance of publications in such journals can be made mandatory instead of ruling out any publication altogether. Awareness sessions within institutes can also go a long way as a preventative measure,” she adds.