If universities adhere to the rules and requirements of UGC’s Shodhganga project, the research scenario will become more robust

Most of the universities in the country are found wanting in submitting the electronic version of thesis and dissertations by researchers to University Grants Commission’s (UGC) INFLIBNET (Information and Library Network) Centre. UGC’s Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil/Ph.D. Degree, Regulation, 2009, mandates universities to submit soft copies of the thesis and dissertations within a month of awarding of doctoral degrees for hosting the same in the INFLIBNET Centre so that the intellectual inputs are made accessible to the academic community worldwide.

Of the 90 universities/institutions that have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with INFLIBNET Centre to participate in its Shodhganga project (meaning a reservoir of Indian theses), 68 have started contributing theses. Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) tops the list of contributing universities with submission of 645 theses, followed by Mahatma Gandhi University (517), Pondicherry University (452), University of Hyderabad (416) and University of Pune (289). But contributions by several other universities are only in single digits. .

Check on plagiarism

The open access repository maintained by the INFLIBNET Centre is not only meant to act as a deterrent to plagiarism that destroys the research quality but also facilitate the launching of alerting and analytical services deploying data mining and other technology tools. Shodhganga is developing a semantic web-based interface to facilitate subject-based browsing, navigation and retrieval of content available in the repository.

The flaws

Here is where the quality of Ph.D. degrees in universities and capabilities of research supervisors come under scrutiny. While specifying the broad parameters, the UGC permits universities to lay down the criteria for the faculty to be recognised as eligible faculty supervisors.

There are apparent flaws in interpretation. For instance, the UGC norm states that a supervisor must not have more than eight Ph.D. scholars and five M.Phil scholars at any given point of time. But, there are instances of research supervisors guiding more number of Ph.D. and M.Phil scholars, since they assume that they could guide additional scholars in other universities.

Professors in Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi, say, admitting that barring a handful, the rest of the candidates admitted into Ph.D. programme lack the capability and aptitude for knowledge generation, though their admission is based on a test and interview as mandated by the UGC.

Topics chosen are not challenging ones since the utmost priority of candidates is to complete the Ph.D. at the earliest to qualify themselves for the teaching jobs in universities and colleges.

The UGC’s norm that a thesis must be examined by two external evaluators, one from outside the country and another from other States, is also deftly manipulated by research supervisors with the support of pliable acquaintances at the right places.

“Transformation has to happen from within (universities). Otherwise quality of research is bound to suffer, cautioned M. Ponnavaikko, Vice-Chancellor SRM University.

“The prime purpose of a university is to foster research. Teaching and extension come next. Hence, the situation calls for a centralised examination on the lines of NET/SLET for identifying the right candidates for research,” say professors on terms of anonymity.