UGC to review quality of PhD theses over 10 years

Concern over lack of quality

Published - May 28, 2019 09:33 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 27/07/2017: A view of University Grant Commission (UGC),  in New Delhi on Thursday.  Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

NEW DELHI, 27/07/2017: A view of University Grant Commission (UGC), in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

The University Grants Commission has launched a review of PhD theses in Indian universities — Central, State and private — over the last ten years, amid concerns that doctoral degrees are being granted to candidates whose theses lack originality and quality.

“The scope of study will involve the PhD theses in different disciplines in various Central universities, State universities, State private universities and deemed-to-be universities in the last 10 years,” said a UGC notification, calling for proposals to conduct the study, to be completed over the next six months. While the study is to cover the whole country, findings may be given at the national as well as State-level.

Global criteria

The evaluation of the theses would indicate the “quality aspects proposed by the interested parties,” said the notification.

“I hope they use global criteria, not invent their own parameters which are India-specific. R&D [or research and development] is global. We should be able to compete with the best,” said acclaimed geneticist Deepak Pental, a former Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University.

He listed published papers and books, patents and products as the major yardsticks to judge the quality of a PhD thesis, especially in the scientific field. “What journals are you publishing in? What patents can be registered from your work? This determines the kind of research being done,” he said. “If a PhD thesis is not even being published, what is the use? Mere thesis writing is of no value.”

Higher spending

Dr. Pental hoped that the results of the UGC survey would drive higher spending on research. “We are spending peanuts on R&D at universities. Many private universities and State universities are starved of Central research funds,” he said.

“Higher education in India has expanded a lot over the last decade. But with growth in quantity, keeping a tab on quality becomes a major concern,” said UGC member Sushma Yadav, explaining the rationale of the study. “Our output is quite large, but [Indian research] doesn’t figure anywhere on global rankings.”

Lack of guidance

She felt that many PhD scholars are not receiving sufficient guidance, orientation and training and partially blamed the lack of good teachers, given the slow pace of faculty recruitment in many major universities. “Many PhD scholars don’t know what they’re doing. If you sit over 15-20 books and then write something, that is not what research is. Without original thinking and innovation, they will not make any dent,” said Professor Yadav, who has been a professor of political science and public administration and recently took charge as the Vice-Chancellor of the Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya.

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