Open defence mandatory for PhD: UGC chairperson

An open defence is an invitation to experts from outside the university who are permitted to question the researcher on the subject of his or her work.

PhD aspirants in public universities across the country will now have to face an open defence after submission of their draft thesis. Earlier, M Jagadesh Kumar, chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC), said, based on the evaluation report of the external examiners participating in the open defence, the aspirant will make additions, deletions or incorporate changes, following which the final thesis will be submitted to the university and PhD guide and the degree is awarded.

An open defence is an invitation to experts from outside the university who are permitted to question the researcher on the subject of his or her work.

The mandatory open defence follows new regulations for doctoral programs announced last week. UGC scrapped the mandatory requirement of getting research papers published in peer-reviewed journals before the final submission of a PhD thesis.

While research scholars have criticised the decision saying the quality of PhD holders will suffer, Kumar clarified that students can now pursue a PhD in a stress-free environment, and instead participate in a public viva voce.

In 2010, UGC made it mandatory that PhD thesis must be published in peer-reviewed journals. “In a recent study, we found that during these 12 years, nearly 75% of students were tempted to publish in poor quality or predatory journals,” said Kumar.

The new rule will be applicable to all courses including humanities and management. Some courses at the University of Mumbai’s School of Engineering have begun having public viva-voces.

When discussing the quality of PhDs, Kumar stated that, following the UGC consultation, the university must now play a critical role in setting PhD rules and hiring or appointing the best faculty or experts in the field to guide PhD students.

The UGC has relaxed the “mandatory” publication rule, but this does not prevent scholars from publishing their work, said Kumar.

When asked about student concerns about a part-time PhD, he stated that the concept is not new in the country. Part-time PhDs are already available at IITs and other educational institutions. This helps the working class to upgrade their academics, he said.

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