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Making PhD optional for Assistant Professorship regressive or progressive?

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The University Grants Commission (UGC) in a bold and sweeping move has amended the UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualification for appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education 2018. Now under the new amended regulation candidates who will qualify National Eligibility Test (NET), State Eligibility Test (SET), State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) will be eligible to apply for the Assistant Professorship posts in universities and colleges from July 1, 2023 following the Gazette notification. Earlier PhD was mandatory for applying for assistant professorship, now it is only optional. However, PhD will still be needed for promotion to associate professor level.

Now this is a sweeping reform with a cascading effect. Thousands of hopefuls would enroll in PhD programs and earn the doctorate for entering into teaching into HEIs. So, this amendment actually takes away the occupation and will of many prospective master level students to get into research. Instead, now they will concentrate on cracking NET/SET/SLET. A lot of those enrolled in PhD programs will also feel demotivate somewhat. In this backdrop, it looks regressive step.

But at the same time, HEIs across disciplines are short in faculty and recruiting the entry level assistant professor with a PhD is actually a hurdle for many as the number and quality of PhD scholars are both an issue. Also, several dubious and questionable PhD dishing universities and agents are further deteriorating the situation. PhD thesis is on a small limited theme/subject and doesn’t necessarily aid in the proficiency of teaching a subject. So easing the recruitment criteria can actually bring in merit and quality besides saving time for many a students who do PhDs just for the sake of applying for this job.

Having made both the arguments, there are concerns that have been raised by educationists and scholars and need to be contextualized.  “With having PHD as one of the criteria for the post, adjustments were happening in the process of interview. Now it will be very convenient for giving appointments for those whom the management wants to. What is meaning of giving PHD’s with fellowship then?” tweeted Prof Lokesh Tripathi.  Ravi Gedela says there are many candidates with PhD + NET who are Jobless or working with any private university/college on a compromised salary. Transparency in the recruitment process is the need of hour with a screening test organised by external agency for all institutions an external agency like NTA can be given the responsibility to conduct screening test during the recruitment process on demand by any educational institution. Interview can be conducted by external panel formed and monitored by UGC.

“Kudos to UGC. You have upheld the importance of NET this time. The value of NET was getting degraded over the years. Also, sanctity of a good Phd degree will be protected this way,” says another educationist.

To conclude, it will be the implementation that will largely decide which way the new reform will go.

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