phd: PhD mandate relaxation for assistant professor’s post may improve faculty quality

The debate is about whether a Ph.D. should be a prerequisite for an assistant professor position or whether this mandate should be revoked. The Center has amended the University Grants Committee (UGC) regulations to delay the mandatory requirements for a PhD until July 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the Assistant Professor position, a junior position across universities, can be filled by Master’s degree holders who are eligible for the National Eligibility Test (UGC NET). In 2018, the Center introduced the UGC Minimum Qualifications for Recruitment of Teachers and Other Faculty Members to Universities and Colleges and Procedures for Maintaining Standards in the Higher Education Regulations, which require all candidates for the position of Assistant Professor to have a Ph.D. Degree. It introduced a three-year period for a Ph.D., indicating that the mandatory requirement would be introduced from July 1, 2021 for the 2021-22 academic year. But then, the UGC has now delayed that mandate for another two years, giving potential candidates for assistant professor positions more time to complete their Ph.D. One of the obstacles to filling the vacant faculty positions has been the PhD requirement due to the fact that there are around 6000 sanctioned positions vacant at central universities alone.

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Yogesh Singh, Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi (DU), says, “Having a PhD for the position of associate professor is important for the quality of teaching and learning. But when appointing faculty, two aspects are taken into account – academic scholarships and teaching capabilities. It is not as if a Ph.D. is The only sign of academic success.In research-driven universities, a PhD is a must, but in colleges, a qualified candidate from UGC NET can also work. At DU, for example, we have already advertised assistant professor positions where they may NET-qualified candidates present a good opportunity as doctoral candidates. While the UGC NET has improved the overall quality of teachers in entry-level positions, there was a time when the UGC NET did not exist, yet good teachers were recruited into the university system.”

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Creating the right talent pool


BJ Rao, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad says a Ph.D. should be a basic qualification for teaching positions at PG and post-PG levels. Relaxation may affect the quality of research and teaching. However, institutions will always look to hire the best talent available, regardless of specific qualifications,” adds Rao. He explains that UGC NET-qualified master’s degree holders are worthy enough to be considered for assistant professor positions but in limited areas of educational activities. “It is important that meritorious applicants are selected.”

The current relaxation, he says, will expand the pool of applications, but that the burden of creating the right talent pool will depend on a wise selection process. “India is a country of oversupply of talents and therefore the degree criterion alone cannot evaluate a candidate. Qualities of academic excellence, proactivity, innovative thinking, perseverance, ability to direct etc. are also important.” A PhD must be mandatory for promotion regardless of the minimum qualifying service stipulated in the 2018 UGC regulations for associate professor and professor levels, Rao says.

PhD is not obligatory


A PhD as a prerequisite for an assistant professor position may be desirable, but not necessary, says Bhushan Patwardhan, former Vice President, University Grants Committee, and National Research Professor-Ayush, School of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Savitribhai Phul University. “It is unlikely to affect the quality of the teaching staff in higher education, and in fact, it may improve the quality of teachers by bringing in more people who are truly interested in the teaching profession. The requirement for a PhD to become a teacher has very weak logic. This mandatory requirement has resulted in to despair of obtaining a Ph.D., which in turn led to shops selling these degrees openly,” he adds.

A Ph.D., according to Patwardhan, is essentially a research degree. It should only be pursued by those who have research competencies and are keen to pursue academic research careers. These PhD holders can also be molded into good teachers because teaching and research go hand in hand in many disciplines especially at the PG level, he adds.

“Many teachers may already have enrolled in higher education institutions with a poor quality Ph.D. It is hoped that the government will not simply give up a Ph.D. as a prerequisite for filling assistant professor positions without setting up a robust mechanism to ensure that faculty members are selected based on pre-determined criteria – a standard based on Academic merit, scholarship, commitment, patriotism, and integrity.” He says.

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