Concerns Over Quality of Research in India: AISHE 2019 Survey and C.N.R Rao’s Comments

India today is cruising towards becoming the third-largest economy in the world, overtaking Germany and Japan. Recently Morgan Stanley estimates that India’s GDP is likely to more than double from current levels by 2031. We can only achieve this with a well-informed population with a scientific temper. It is only possible with scholars who can write, speak and debate on specific topics.

A recent survey of Higher education by AISHE 2019 revealed that the number of Ph.D. degrees has increased in the last five years, but the quality of this research is a significant concern. The 2013 Bharat Ratna awardee C.N.R Rao has raised similar concerns regarding the quality of research produced in India. It has been shown through several studies of publication trends that India’s share in the world research output hovers around 5%. However, the rate of citations, which is used as a proxy for quality, is much lower at 2-3%.

Ph.D. Programs: Need to Improve

The quality cannot be improved by just increasing the number of enrolments in Ph.Ds. It requires a change in the way Indians approach Ph.D. Pursuing Ph.D. in India can be challenging due to various reasons such as lack of funding and resources, limited opportunities for international collaborations, insufficient guidance and mentorship, limited career opportunities after completing a Ph.D., little recognition of Ph.D. degrees, low quality of research, a limited number of Ph.D. programs and long duration of completion. The major problem is that when a student enrolls in a Ph.D., he has already lost his most productive years.

The Ministry of Education has undertaken several institutional reforms to tackle these issues. Besides the changes made by National Education Policy 2020, UGC has made several revolutionary changes. The most applaudable among all those is the initiative to remove all latency towards enrolling in Ph.D.

Ph.D. after Bachelors

Students who have completed a four-year undergraduate program are eligible for direct admission to a doctoral program. To be eligible, the candidate must have obtained a minimum of 75% marks in aggregate or its equivalent grade on a point scale (if a grading system is followed). If a candidate does not have a minimum of 75% marks in their four-year undergraduate program, they are required to pursue a one-year master’s program and must obtain a minimum of 55% marks. The new rules have discontinued the M.Phil program altogether.

Internationalize our Research- Foreign Universities in India

Another major reform required is to bring our Ph. Ds to international standards. It does not mean we have to copy western methodologies. However, we have to make sure our PhDs have scientific temper and originality, and our scholars have exposure to international scholarships. To remove this gap, UGC has recently drafted a proposal to allow the top foreign Universities to open their campus in India. A foreign university ranked among the top 500 global universities or a reputable foreign educational institution in its home jurisdiction can apply to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to establish a campus in India. The government, through this initiative, plans to put the break on brain drain, costing India its precious Human resources.

Multidisciplinary Research

Universities should introduce a more multidisciplinary approach to diversify India’s research work. An interdisciplinary Ph.D. program allows students to pursue research in multiple disciplines or fields of study. This program is designed for students with a multidisciplinary research interest and who want to combine knowledge and skills from multiple areas of study. The curriculum and structure of interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs may vary depending on the institution offering the program.

At present Indian universities such as IITs, IISc, JNU, IIMs, and ISI offer multidisciplinary education, which combines multiple academic disciplines to provide a holistic approach to learning. Private universities are also actively taking part in this regard. Recently OP Jindal Global University launched a Global Jindal Centre for G20 Studies. This will internationalize our research and provide a blueprint for future such initiatives.

Finally, improving the quality of our research will require decolonizing our methodology and changing the lens our scholars use to look at their research. We must introduce our scholars to research in the most creative and exploratory part of their lives. Students should also learn to think critically and apply knowledge from different fields to solve complex problems.

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