New Delhi: The share of students opting PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) course in India stood below 0.4%, means 4 out of 1000 students in the age group of 18-23 years opting PhD programmes. A total of 1.17 lakh students were enrolled in PhD programmes across institutes, universities and colleges in 2014-15.
Over the last couple of months, major changes are taking place in the admission process and quality of education at the PhD level. The most significant is the notification of the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD Degrees) Regulations 2016, which has been notified in July 2016 by the University Grants Commission (UGC). There are some important points and features which could force the university to streamline the PhD admission process and promote quality of education both at the teaching and research infrastructure levels.
No PhD programme through Distance Mode: The new PhD regulations have made it clear that no institute can provide PhD pgrogrammes via distance education mode. University, institution, deemed to be a university and college shall not conduct MPhil and PhD Programmes through distance education mode. However, the regulations mentioned that part-time PhD will be allowed provided all the conditions mentioned in the extant PhD Regulations are met.
Introduction of entrance test for PhD Admission: All Universities and Institutions Deemed to be Universities now will have to admit PhD students through an Entrance Test conducted at the level of Individual University/Institution Deemed to be a University. However, they may decide separate terms and conditions for PhD Entrance Test for those students who qualify UGC-NET (including JRF)/UGC-CSIR NET (including JRF)/SLET/GATE/teacher fellowship holder or have passed MPhil programme. The entire admission will have broadly two stage process: Entrance Test & Interview.
Here it can be mentioned major universities have already introduced PhD entrance Test or Research Entrance Test for admission into PhD courses. These universities include: JNU, BHU, IGNOU, BITS Pilani, Pondicherry University, Himachal Pradesh University, etc.
Fixing the eligibility criteria for PhD admission: The new PhD/Mphil regulations have streamlined the eligibility conditions for PhD admission. Candidates for admission to the PhD programme shall have a Master’s degree with at least 55% marks in aggregate or its equivalent grade ‘B’ in the UGC 7-point scale Further, a relaxation of 5% of marks, from 55% to 50%, or an equivalent relaxation of grade, is allowed for those belonging to SC/ST/OBC (non-creamy layer)/Differently-Abled and other categories of candidates as per the decision of the Commission from time to time. This minimum criteria has become the basis framework for the PhD guidelines of the universities.
New academic, administrative and infrastructure requirements to be fulfilled by Colleges for getting recognition for offering PhD programmes: Colleges may be considered eligible to offer MPhil/PhD programmes only if they satisfy the availability of eligible Research Supervisors, required infrastructure and supporting administrative and research promotion facilities as per these Regulations.
Post-graduate Departments of Colleges, Research laboratories of Government of India/State Government with at least two PhD qualified teachers/scientists/other academic staff in the Department concerned along with required infrastructure, supporting administrative and research promotion facilities as per these Regulations, stipulated under sub-clause 10.3, shall be considered eligible to offer M.Phil/PhD programmes. Colleges should additionally have the necessary recognition by the Institution under which they operate to offer M.Phil/Ph.D. programme.
Evaluation and Assessment Methods for award of the PhD degree: The new PhD regulations have provided basic template for evaluation and assessment methods for the PhD. The overall minimum credit requirement, including credit for the course work, for the award of MPhil degree shall not be less than 24 credits. Upon satisfactory completion of course work, the MPhil/PhD scholar shall be required to undertake research work.
As per the new UGC Regulations, the PhD thesis submitted by a research scholar shall be evaluated by his/her Research Supervisor and at least two external examiners, who are not in employment of the Institution/College, of whom one examiner may be from outside the country. The viva-voce examination, based among other things, on the critiques given in the evaluation report, shall be conducted by the Research Supervisor and at least one of the two external examiners, and shall be open to be attended by Members of the Research Advisory Committee, all faculty members of the Department, other research scholars and other interested experts/researchers.
In the student-friendly measures, the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD Degrees) Regulations 2016 mandated that the institutions shall develop appropriate methods so as to complete the entire process of evaluation of PhD thesis within a period of six months from the date of submission of the dissertation/thesis.
Course Duration: The PhD regulations have clearly spelt out the duration of the PhD programmes by mentioning minimum and maximum duration for completion of the course. PhD programme shall be for a minimum duration of three years, including course work and a maximum of six years since admission (i.e. enrolment). With an aim to increase enrolment of female candidates into PhD programmes, the UGC has relaxed a little in this provision. The women candidates and Persons with Disability (more than 40% disability) are allowed a relaxation of two years for PhD in the maximum duration. In addition, the women candidates may be provided Maternity Leave/Child Care Leave once in the entire duration of PhD for up to 240 days.
Maintaining PhD students data base annually: As per the new PhD regulations, the university will have to maintain the list of all the PhD registered students on its website on year-wise basis. The data base should include the name of the registered candidate, topic of his/her research, name of his/her supervisor/co-supervisor, date of enrolment/registration.
It has been observed that prominent universities have started uploading the PhD students data base on their websites.