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Should Ph. D. be Mandatory for Assistant Professors in the University?


For a person in academia as a teacher, a Ph.D. is essential as it expands our knowledge base and keeps the learning loop continue unhindered. Ph. D. is not just a degree. While doing Ph. D. one learns how to address problems, how to behave with colleagues and how to remain calm in odd situations. Making Ph.D. mandatory for the post of Assistant Professor will only reinforce the fact that teaching is not an easy job and only dedicated candidates must enter the field. However, we should first check the mushrooming of fake Ph.D. degrees for quality assurance.

Over the last two decades, higher education across the world has changed rapidly due to advancements in Information and Communication Technology and the influx of the knowledge economy. Research is a major and significant component in any higher education system. Higher education, too, needs to be updated as well as equipped with research components that make them stand out from others. Three criteria in the new revised accreditation framework focus on Research, Innovation, and Extension. In order to motivate the Institutions to develop and facilitate them to know where they stand in terms of research component and culture, the industry needs to inculcate the research culture and also motivate their faculty to carry out research work and extend IT services to the community and society at large. Higher education institutions also need to provide support, like materials and resources, to the faculty to promote research culture. Research activities need to be organized at various levels such as at the Departmental level, the State level, the National level, and the International level, to channelize the energy of young academicians towards creating new knowledge and enhancing their research skills so that a culture of research and a research ecosystem is created in the University. 

As per UGC’s latest recommendation, a Ph.D. degree shall be the mandatory eligibility for those who wish to join the University departments as Assistant Professors from 2023 onwards. A debate was triggered earlier this month when Union Education Minister said that making PhD degree mandatory for the post of Assistant Professor at universities is “not favourable” in the current education system.

The statement directly contradicted the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) decision to make Ph.D. degree a mandatory qualification for direct recruitment to the post of Assistant Professor in Departments of Universities. The rule was to be implemented this year but the date of applicability was extended from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2023 “because of the COVID-19 pandemic”. Consequently, those who want to join as an Assistant Professor from 2023 onwards will have to mandatorily possess a Ph.D. degree.

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For a person in academia as a teacher, a Ph.D. is essential as it expands our knowledge base and keeps the learning loop continue unhindered.

In the new National Education Policy 2020, it has been highlighted that the higher education system shall have multidisciplinary institutions of higher learning that offer undergraduate and graduate programmes, with high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement. All HEIs will move towards becoming large multidisciplinary institutions, with programmes across disciplines and fields – offered either in their institutions or through HEI clusters. It is envisioned that over a period of time all existing HEIs and new HEIs will evolve into research-intensive universities (RUs), teaching universities (TUs), and autonomous degree-granting colleges (ACs). This would require mapping existing HEIs in a rationalized manner to achieve the new institutional architecture for higher education. All universities may identify their domain strength and decide to evolve into RUs or TUs. Whereas RUs will largely focus on research, TUs while placing greater emphasis on teaching would also conduct significant research. All colleges shall eventually become ACs, which are large multidisciplinary institutions of higher learning primarily focused on undergraduate teaching. A college should therefore either be an autonomous degree-granting institution, or a constituent college of a University – in the latter case, it would be fully a part of the University.

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Recently, I circulated a question in the social media - should PhD be mandatory for the the appointment of assistant professor in the universities? 
To my surprise I received different opinions from scholars, teachers and professors. After analysing their views, I found that most of the comments are genuine. One of the major criticism about research is that it does not produce genuine PhDs and various fake PhD degrees are available in plenty. If the Ph.D degree becomes mandatory there shall be lot of exploitation of research scholars and vice versa. It has also been observed that many times even the research scholars try to exploit the research supervisors. I am not sure if such is the case. There is no statistical data available about the percentage of research scholars exploiting the research supervisors or the supervisors exploiting the research scholars. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed for ensuring a healthy research ambience within the University. 
To my mind, as I said earlier, research is a basic requirement of any University and thus needs to be differentiated from  simply a degree awarding college. Although a teacher, who is appointed in the University has the basic function to teach, yet he has to engage himself in innovative research too as research is an equally important component of his duties. If only NET qualified candidates are recruited who do not possess a Ph.D. degree, this basic component is bound to get adversely affected.  

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The University system is mostly centred around examinations these days – Undergraduate and Postgraduate and Ph.D. entrance tests, followed by NET/JEE, and then finally the Ph.D. examination. One steps into the arena of Higher Education at the age of 18 and gets his Ph.D. at the age of 27. If he/she is fortunate to land up as an Assistant Professor, he/she starts teaching. Fortunately, during the Ph.D. work, the scholar is also allowed to teach and thereby gets valuable teaching experience. That is a great advantage to both the candidate as well as the institution.

Ph. D. is not just a degree. While doing Ph. D. one learns how to address problems, how to behave with colleagues and how to remain calm in odd situations.

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I can narrate one of my own experiences. In 1982 I was in West Germany as a Humboldt Fellow. I was working at Justus Liebig University, Germany. In my laboratory, there were many research students who were pursuing their Ph.D. programs. After working for two years in Germany I came back to the Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and in 2001 when I again revisited the laboratory at Justus Liebig University, some of the research scholars, who were working there in 1982, came to meet me. I happened to ask one of them about his present position and he said that he was working as a General Manager in one of the cement factories in Germany. I was utterly surprised and asked that having done a Ph.D. in Radiation Biology, how come he found the job of a general manager in a Cement factory to be suitable for him?  He told me that in factories, they actually need a person having a Ph.D. degree. I asked what was the objective of such a strange regulation and he said that when we join a Ph.D. program, we have an objective, we make a proposal to work on a particular program and for working on that particular program we always review the literature before commencing with your research,  we then have a research methodology: so we plan our experiment, ultimately we have the results. On the completion of the thesis, we defend/justify our project/Ph.D. work. This is indeed required in any establishment. If one goes to Japan, he shall find a slogan written on various industries “Research Makes a Difference”. Several projects in the Universities are being funded by the Industries. Research has a significant role in building up the carrier of an individual. In my opinion, a Ph.D. qualification should be mandatory for the appointment of an Assistant Professor in the University. Making Ph.D. mandatory will only reinforce the fact that teaching is not an easy job and only dedicated candidates must enter the field. However, we should first check the mushrooming of fake Ph.D. degrees for quality assurance.

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In my opinion, as per the current standards, applicants should qualify the teacher eligibility test in the State Eligibility Test (SET), State Level Eligibility Test (SLET), or NET along with a  Ph.D. degree and having Research Papers published in peer-reviewed journals (listed in UGC) for getting appointed as Assistant Professors in Universities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author solely. TheRise.co.in neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

About the author

Prof. Ashok Kumar is former Vice-Chancellor of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya University, Gorakhpur (U.P.) & CSJM University, Kanpur, (U.P.), Nirwan University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, and Shri Kallaji Vedic University, Nimbahera, Rajasthan. He is President of the Social Research Foundation, International Society of Life Sciences.


Ashok Kumar

Prof. Ashok Kumar is former Vice-Chancellor of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya University, Gorakhpur (U.P.) & CSJM University, Kanpur, (U.P.), Nirwan University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, and Shri Kallaji Vedic University, Nimbahera, Rajasthan. He is President of the Social Research Foundation, International Society of Life Sciences.

3 thoughts on “Should Ph. D. be Mandatory for Assistant Professors in the University?

  • siddhartha dubey

    the university grants commission exists in a country where the education system is largely broken and, or compromised by politicians … Are the ‘powers to be’ even educated enough to make such a blanket decision ? JOKE!

    Reply
  • Prof. Furqan Qamar

    A thought provoking article on a debatable issue. For the past so many decades, we have been experiment with the minimum eligibility conditions for the appointment and promotion of teacher but non seems to be working. All of us who have sat on selection know it very well that we come across PhD holders who are so poor in their subject and at the same time we also come across JRF and NET qualified who are even worse. We therefore can’t say that a PhD is bette than NET or vice versa.
    On the top of it the selection of candidates for teaching positions is often vitiated by seriously compromising the merit as other factors dominate. The engagement of guest and part time faculty and later regularising them makes the situation even worse.
    So long as these continue, it hardly matters whether PhD becomes a mandatory qualification or not. Once we address these issues, then I think the PhD should be the entry level qualification but the quality of PhD level programme must also be strengthened. …Furqan Qamar

    Reply
  • I agree with the remarks of Prof Furqan Qamar , one should not compromise with the merit . This is true for all the selection process . The first and most important issue for the University is to have an eminent person as the Vice Chancellor . There should be timely appointment of the head of the institution. It has been observed that even after the completion of search committee process it takes 5-6 months to appoint . The success of any teaching institution / university is proportionally depended on quality of governance and best of teaching faculty .

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