Restructuring Higher Education - Eastern Mirror
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Editorial

Restructuring Higher Education

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 20, 2023 11:35 pm

The University Grant Commission (UGC) recently declared that a PhD degree was not mandatory to apply for the post of Assistant Professor in central universities. The reaction to this decision was unsurprisingly polarised. One of the major apprehensions against this decision relates to the effect that it may have on research as it could discourage young scholars from pursuing research. This line of criticism, while well intentioned, remains short sighted and ignores the structural problems that have plagued higher education in India for years.

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the fact that research and teaching are both activities that require complex and specific skills that don’t necessarily translate to each line of work. In fact many in the academic community have argued that making PhD a mandatory requirement for employment caused a decline in the standard of research as many candidates pursued research pre-maturely. In essence under the prior arrangement a PhD was reduced to being just another degree required to apply for a job rather than being considered as a specialised endeavour in itself. Secondly the mandatory PhD requirement also allowed for the prevalence of temporary/ ad-hoc hiring practices. This allowed various institutions to hire young scholars and pay them much lower salaries. This points to a very concerning situation where many have circumvented the rules by initiating exploitative hiring which is truly detrimental to young scholars. It is hoped that the removal of mandatory PhD requirements will help stop these practices.

Under these conditions, the decision to do away with the mandatory PhD requirement could be considered a step in the right direction. In the coming days it will be essential for UGC to substantiate this decision by making certain structural changes. Currently, there exists only one exam for determining teaching and scholarship eligibility, which is, the National Eligibility Test (NET). This has emerged as the single largest roadblock for young researchers as the NET exam requires one to have holistic knowledge of a subject which becomes contradictory to the needs of a PhD which demands context specific knowledge. In essence a student pursuing research on the history of the Indian judiciary would be forced to study international relations to become eligible for UGC scholarship.

To ensure better quality of teaching and research in higher education it is essential that we look at teaching and research as two different skills and devise different methods/exams to determine the eligibility of candidates. Along with this a course similar to B.Ed could be instituted to help post-graduate degree holders’ transition into teaching. Similarly, the government should continue with its endeavour to create autonomous universities by allowing these universities to provide scholarships to candidates who they deem promising. The government should also consider private/ foreign investment into the research sector as it would provide much needed flexibility to research candidates. For any improvement to take place in the higher education sector, the society needs to be open to change and simultaneously be patient as structural change requires time.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 20, 2023 11:35:41 pm
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