The Mad Rush to increase ‘Research Output’ in Indian Higher Educational Institutions – Part 1

Part 1

It is often lamented that no Indian University or Institution figures in the list of top 100 universities ranked by the three leading agencies namely The Times Higher education; Shanghai Ranking and QS Ranking. It is further pointed out that this is due to the low level of research activity (both quantitatively as well as qualitatively) in Indian universities. During the past 10 years or so, the statutory bodies (UGC, AICTE, MHRD, NAAC NBA, etc) are trying to increase the research output of Indian Universities and institutions. The carrot & stick approach is being followed. The incentives offered include four/three advance increments for getting a Ph.D. degree, extended study leave, postdoctoral leave, sabbatical and liberal grant for field study, all ending conferences, seminars, etc. The stick includes the following:

  • A Ph.D. degree is a must for being promoted to the level of Associate professor and beyond.
  • A minimum numbers of publications a must in refereed, journal before submitting the Ph.D. thesis;
  • Course work is compulsory for all at the time of getting enrolled in Ph.D. (except those having M.Phil degree) and that too must be done on a full-time basis.
  • The career advancement scheme (CAS) has elaborate academic performance indicators(API) which are quantified. In order to be promoted to the next level, the applicant must have a certain minimum API score. The API has a lot of marks for research output.
  • In case the latest UGC regulations on minimum qualifications for appointment of teachers. ( 18th July 2018) come into force in 2021, it will not be possible to enter the teaching profession in higher education without a Ph.D. degree.
  • The post of principal (which is partly academic but mainly administrative) has also been linked to
  • All accreditation agencies, like NBA and NAAC, lay heavy emphasis on research output. The expert teams probe the claims made by the institutions in detail and threadbare. The recently launched NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) of the MHRD to has very heavyweight assigned to research.

What has been the outcome of this two-pronged strategy? Let’s have a look. Well, no guesses required. It was an unprecedented surge in substandard and spurious research work. Those who were in senior scale (Associate professor, Professor) without Ph.D. rushed to grab a Ph.D. degree; four advance increments meant a whopping 12% annual increment in salary under the 6th pay commission. Those who feared stagnation at assistant professor level too rushed in to get- themselves enrolled in Ph.D. programs. Many private universities made a fast buck. Interestingly, the situation in our neighboring country (and our archival) was no different. I found that in a private sector university in Lahore, there were 100 students enrolled in its management department alone in 2016, and everyone paying an annual fee of Rs 5 lakh (equivalent to Rs 3 lakh of Indian currency)! We all are aware of the recent newspaper report of rampaging plagiarism in Indian institutions involving as high as a person a holding the post of Vice-Chancellors.

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