The University Grants Commission (UGC) plans to do away with the mandatory requirement of publishing research papers in peer reviewed journals for the submission of PhD thesis, officials said. The commission will allow higher education institutions to formulate their own rules and regulations on the matter. The reason for doing so is because many PhD students were resorting to publishing their articles in so-called predatory journals — basically those that publish articles in return for a fee, without adequate due-diligence of the sort academic publications are expected to ensure.
The commission is currently making amendments to the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedures for Award of Ph.D Degree) Regulations, 2016. Under the 2016 regulations, it was mandatory for PhD scholars to publish at least one research paper in a UGC refereed or peer reviewed journal before the submission of the dissertation/thesis for adjudication.
Under the new, 2022 regulations, the commission will replace the term mandatory with “strongly recommended”. The quality assessment of Phd degrees will be a responsibility of the universities and they are free to come up with their own guidelines in this regard
“This mandatory requirement led to a “journal business” in India. Making anything mandatory does not improve the quality of research. Therefore, UGC is now considering doing away with this requirement while strongly recommending research scholars to publish the research outcomes of their PhD in peer reviewed journals, apply for patents, and present in conferences,” UGC chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar told HT.
Kumar said that the commission may now ask the universities to frame their own guidelines regarding publication in research journals. “The higher education institutions may be allowed to decide if they want to keep this as a mandatory requirement or not, while maintaining the quality of research.”
HT reported on March 17 that the draft UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of Ph.D. Degree) Regulations, 2022, proposed several changes including making undergraduates who have been the four-year programme and with a minimum CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) of 7.5 eligible for PhD admissions. The draft was made public in March seeking suggestions from stakeholders. UGC is now compiling the suggestions and finalizing the regulations.
Members of the academic fraternity expressed concerns over UGC’s proposal.
Moushumi Basu, an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that the commission should have more checks and balances regarding publication instead of doing away with the requirement altogether.
“Firstly, the commission made the provision of allowing postgraduate and now graduate students to take admission in PhD programmes directly, Now, it is also removing the mandatory requirement of having the research paper published before the submission of thesis. This will eventually compromise the quality of research. Leaving it up to the Universities to decide will not work because no University would like to take the responsibility for this,” she said.
Rajesh Jha, a professor at Delhi University (DU), said that the constant changes in PhD requirements affect the overall quality of research. “During our time, this requirement of publishing research papers in peer reviewed journals was not there. UGC brought this change to improve the research quality. But, it failed to provide the required funds to keep up to the expectations (because of late release of scholarships and fellowships). It is now again planning to do away with this requirement. These continuous changes will confuse the research scholars and eventually affect the quality of their work,” he said.
MK Sridhar, member of the National Education Policy (2020) draft committee, disagreed.
“All these years, almost everything was very centralised and the UGC was specifying everything. But now, under the NEP 2020, the idea is to strengthen the universities and colleges. If you don’t strengthen them then they will not get into accreditation, subsequently autonomy. The NEP 2020 system says that the affiliation system has to go, and that will only be possible if you start strengthening the institutions. The idea is to let the institutions take the call. Over a period of time, every university will start taking responsibility, and that’s what the NEP 2020 advocates.”
“Secondly, this kind of unified approach all over the country has encouraged a lot of predatory journals. The move will help discourage that also,” he added.
All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) chairperson Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe said the move will help improve the quality of research. “Whenever anything becomes mandatory the quality of work deteriorates. People tend to put their research thesis in predatory journals. That’s why the quality of research started slipping over the years,” he said.