India: UGC Eliminates Mandatory Publication in Journal Before Final Thesis for PhD Students

India’s higher education regulator has eliminated a requirement requiring PhD candidates to submit an article in a peer-reviewed journal in order to qualify for a doctoral degree as part of significant revisions to eligibility criteria, admissions, and evaluation processes for doctoral degrees.

Prior to submitting their research thesis, PhD candidates were obliged by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to present two papers at conferences or seminars and publish at least one article. Scholars will no longer be needed to do this under the most recent regulations controlling minimum requirements and procedures for the award of PhD degrees, which were released on November 7th.

According to the prominent Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), where there has never been a publishing need for PhDs, the UGC anticipates that the removal of this requirement will result in a less demanding research environment for students and universities.

UGC Chairperson Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has made an effort to calm concerns that the quality of research might suffer if the rule were to be repealed. Even though it is not required, concentrating on high-quality research will result in publications in reputable journals. When graduates apply for jobs or post-doctoral positions, it will be useful, he said.

Mandatory Publishing Inducing Substandard Research

Since publishing a paper prior to earning a PhD is not required in the majority of nations, some academics have noted that eliminating the requirement is consistent with international standards. But doing so is thought to be necessary for every competent researcher.

Some academics and students believe that the most recent modification would end the practice of researchers paying to have their papers published in subpar and supposedly “predatory” journals, sometimes known as “cash for trash.”

Recently, it was discovered that India was one of the world’s biggest consumers of predatory or subpar periodicals. A 2018 study by University of Pune professor Bhushan Patwardhan revealed that 88% of a list of journals recommended by universities and approved by the UGC were subpar or “dubious.”

A recent UGC study, which included 2,573 research scholars from IITs and centrally funded universities throughout India, reported that mandatory publication has not been effective in preserving the standard of academic research because about three-quarters of submissions are not accepted by reputable, Scopus-indexed journals.

Some academics contend that publications and citations are what determine a researcher’s and a university’s reputation. Additionally, funding is dependent on metrics of publication and citation. Without the requirement, doctorate supervisors and university research advisory committees are now responsible for encouraging research scholars to publish papers in reputable publications.

However, Rajesh Jha, a former Delhi University Executive Council member, questioned how the elimination of research article publications would improve the quality of the PhD. He stated that the UGC “allows online classes for course work” and “has removed the residency period as well,” both of which might potentially reduce standards.

New Admission Criteria

The UGC also announced modifications to the qualifying requirements for admissions as well as the introduction of part-time PhD programs targeted towards working people. Additionally, the UGC changed the regulations to permit anyone receiving a four-year bachelor’s degree to enroll for a PhD.

According to the new regulations, anyone who has completed a four-year bachelor’s program with a minimum cumulative grade of 75% or an equivalent grade will be qualified to apply for a PhD. Until recently, candidates for doctoral degrees needed a master’s degree with at least a 55% overall average.

Academics warned that the option to pursue a PhD right away after earning a four-year bachelor’s degree could increase the number of research scholars in need of supervision.

According to the All India Survey on Higher Education’s most recent report, the number of PhD students enrolled in India increased from 126,451 in 2015–16 to 202,550 in 2019–20.

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