Research first: On the UGC move on research papers by Ph.D. scholars

Source– The post is based on the article “Research first: On the UGC move on research papers by Ph.D. scholars” published in The Hindu on 12th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to development and management of education

News- The article explains the recent move by UGC for removing the mandatory requirement of publishing papers for Ph.D. students.

Must read: Not mandatory to publish in journals before final PhD thesis: UGC
What is the rationale behind this move?

This move is aimed at stemming the unhealthy practice of many scholars paying substandard, predatory journals to publish their papers without sufficient review. It has weakened the quality of India’s doctoral education.

The majority of doctoral students publish their papers in such journals. They do not go through the more time-consuming process of submitting their drafts to reputed journals, awaiting review and revising. Insufficiency of scholarship and stipends also compels the students to do so.

The removal of a compulsory requirement is also in line with global regulatory standards.

The removal of the mandatory requirement is also an acknowledgement of the diversity in academic disciplines. In some branches of the humanities, the publication of a monograph is a more accepted method of communicating with academic peers than journal papers.

UGC hopes that by removing the mandatory requirement, it can help create a more conducive atmosphere for self-motivated research by students and universities.

What are the concerns related to this step of UGC?  

Publishing papers is certainly considered essential for any top researcher. The UGC has also emphasised that it would be advisable for scholars to publish papers in high-quality journals for their own sake. It would add value to their PhD for any post-doctoral opportunities.

The removal of mandatory requirements may result in a further dilution of quality, as the worth of a researcher and a university is judged on the basis of papers published and cited. Funding is also dependent on such benchmarks.

Discontinuing MPhils, along with the introduction of four-year BA course and 2-year MA course with multiple exits will hurt socially disadvantaged groups. As they may not be able to pay for longer-duration courses and may have to exit earlier, which will put them at a disadvantage in the job market.

Also, diminishing scholarships and fellowships to support PhD scholars as well as severe shortage of teachers, impacting the number of research supervisors available.

What is the way forward?

To encourage students to publish their paper in mandatory journals, put the onus on university research advisory council and doctoral supervisors.

Higher levels of funding are urgently needed to ensure that the UGC’s move does not backfire.

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