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Is PhD Enough to Have Quality Professors?

By: Shyna Kalra

News18.com

Last Updated: January 18, 2022, 12:10 IST

New Delhi

Academia in split over making PhD mandatory for hiring assistant professors (Image by Shutterstock/ Representational)

Academia in split over making PhD mandatory for hiring assistant professors (Image by Shutterstock/ Representational)

While some believe PhD brings necessary depth, others claim being a good researcher does not ensure good teaching skills. Quality of doctorate degrees and a wide range of unemployed NET qualified applicants are also among major concerns.

From 2023, it would be mandatory to have a PhD to be hired as an assistant professor in Indian colleges and universities. The rule was to come to effect in 2021, however, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has deferred its implementation. Since then, Indian academicians are debating whether the rule should be revoked altogether.

While some believe PhD brings necessary depth, others claim being a good researcher does not ensure good teaching skills. Quality of doctorate degrees and a wide range of unemployed NET qualified applicants are also among major concerns. Till now, National Eligibility Test (NET) was the only gateway to be hired as an assistant professor.

There are certain subjects which do not have a PhD like humanities, design etc. Many fear, mandating PhD will make the education system tilted towards STEM.

“Given the diversity and complexity of our higher education context, a mandatory PhD at the entry for an assistant professor is not recommended. There are several disciplines such as design, architecture, fine arts, to name a few - where a PhD is not a requirement even at senior levels. The process and quality of teaching need to be addressed separately through well-designed training and mentoring programmes especially for new entrants," said Dr Vijayan Immanuel, Vice-Chancellor, Vidyashilp University.

Rupamanjari Gosh, vice-chancellor, Shiv Nadar University told News18.com that faculty hiring needs subjective assessment. While Shiv Nadar uses a PhD as one of the modes of hiring its faculty, the VC said having a PhD is not enough.

“Just having a PhD on paper is not enough. One has to consider the quality of PhD too. What kinds of problems has one solved, who was their mentor, where has their research been published are some of the points to be considered," she said adding that she does not consider PhD as a must for all faculty posts. A lot depends on the nature of the discipline. For streams like arts, photography, professionals with ample experience in their field can be good teachers even without holding a specific degree, according to the VC.

“Just like NEP classifies colleges and universities into research, teaching and multi-disciplinary categories, teachers too can be categorised accordingly where certain posts can consider PhD as a requirement. But when you make a rule it should be mandatory and uniform for everyone, but each discipline is unique," she said.

Even for subjects like engineering where PhD is common, IITs too prefer people with on-job experience as its faculty members. IIT Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao told News18.com, “We get lots of good PhD applications, but we also encourage professors of practice. This where someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in the industry but does not have papers published or PhD, however, they are an expert in their particular area. There can be about 10 per cent of faculty members who can be professors of practice. We want to have a diverse pool of faculty. While looking out for faculty, only merit is the criteria".

Does PhD Make Teaching Quality Quantifiable?

But many believe PhD puts the loosely defined teaching quality into a quantifiable module.

“Pursuing PhD involves training oneself in questioning assumptions, articulating the problem, architecting pathways to solve challenges, understanding the methods well etc. Are these not important qualities that any teacher should have for knowledge transfer to students? We feel having experience with teaching and the training to do research will make an all-rounded faculty that can not only do both functions but inspire students and adequately train them to pursue varied career choices," said Dr Krishnasree Achuthan, dean PG programmes, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham.

“Having a PhD enhances the currency of any faculty member," believes Dr Debashis Sanyal, Director, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, however, he also adds, “the quality of a teacher is not dependent on qualification alone."

“If the research aspect isn’t there, the faculty may be limited to the old thoughts and theory, and to that extent, the students will be handicapped from having contemporary knowledge and skills," said the B-school director.

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    “Not having a PhD may help to have a bigger pool for recruitment. But one cannot say the pool will be a ‘talented pool’. A PhD ensures that the candidate applying for the position of a faculty does possess a certain amount of research exposure and capabilities. One cannot strike a balance to sponsor mediocracy while appointing faculty members to teach students who are the future of the nation. Like we cannot have a poor quality of medicines, we cannot even compromise on the quality of teachers. One has to remember teachers influence the mind and knowledge of students. The government of the country should, in fact, provide more opportunities for research and PhD programs," said Sanyal.

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    first published:January 18, 2022, 12:07 IST
    last updated:January 18, 2022, 12:10 IST