UGC has done away with mandatory publication of a research paper before the final submission of PhD thesis by scholars. Another major reform is allowing students to join PhD programmes upon completion of their four-year undergraduate degree. Dispelling apprehensions about these regulations adversely affecting the quality of research work being done currently, educators insist that these steps will help improve the standard of PhD research.
Improving quality is main
Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, chairperson, UGC, says, “Some people erroneously think that mandatory publication of a research paper before the submission of a PhD thesis decides its quality. On the contrary, high-quality PhD thesis work leads to quality publications.”
In a recently conducted study featuring 2,573 research scholars across central universities and IITs, UGC has found that mandatory publication has not helped universities maintain research quality, as about 75% of the submissions are not in quality Scopus indexed journals.
India is amongst the top few nations in terms of the number of research papers we publish annually, says BJ Rao, vice-chancellor, University of Hyderabad (UoH). “However, the quality of work being done or the journals where these papers get published is not at par with global standards,” he adds.
Kumar says that since publication of a research paper is a time-consuming process, making it mandatory to publish a research paper puts undue pressure on students. “If the quality of research work is monitored properly, students can start writing papers well before the submission of PhD thesis. By the time the student submits the PhD thesis, a couple of papers may get accepted.”
Support by HEIs
Uma Shanker Pandey, research supervisor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Calcutta, says, “During graduation, students are given an orientation in conducting research, correct methodology, and related tools. However, now colleges will have to impart a more structured format of introducing students to their journey as a PhD scholar.”
Imparting soft skills such as writing research papers is also a major responsibility for institutes, adds Rao. “Research guides and committees will now be responsible to ensure that the topic of research that is chosen by scholars is unique and has the potential to get published in quality journals,” he adds.
Kumar explains that to improve the quality of PhD work, the current process of getting the PhD thesis approved needs to be strengthened. “PhD work starts with mentoring, which makes a supervisor and student partners in maintaining quality. Also, every semester, students make presentations to the Research Advisory Committee to get feedback on research quality. Next, the PhD thesis is sent to two external examiners who send feedback suggesting corrections. Finally, the student must defend the work before a viva-voce board,” he says. At every stage, checking and maintaining quality is now going to be the main focus.
Increase in research
With students being given the option to take up a PhD immediately after graduation, there may be an increase in the number. “A change in mindset is needed to understand that cutting down the number of pre-PhD years will not adversely affect a scholar’s ability to do quality research. Research is an interest-driven activity, which will be enhanced if students are given the right guidance at every step,” says Rao.