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The necessary quality check

The necessary quality check

The purpose of a PhD is to facilitate original research in the chosen field of the enrolled scholar. Attribute it to the raging job crisis or the way to get by with a doctorate made much easier, it has come at an opportune time to assess the quality of PhD pursued across India. Potentially, such researches can contribute significantly to public policy with their insight and analysis of relevant details. But as matters stand, in social and natural sciences (with the exception of IITs), the topics of research are often hyper-theoretical with little empirical studies, or historical without any contemporary currency; and researches in literature are often repetitive. History is inevitable, but the understanding of histories and to justify the resources that enable research in this direction must bear some pertinence to matters of current relevance. Similarly, analysing the wonders of the universe will acquire greater meaning if it concludes with some concrete ideas with respect to the application. Academic research ought not to be like a work of fiction: pursued for the sake of it, and indulged in by another if it happens to resonate with them. There must necessarily be some connection between the area of research and its outcome in terms of relevance in general application. Some research topics reportedly include: 'Tribal movements of Gujarat in the 19th and 20th century', 'Colonisation and development problems in Kerala—a case study of evolution and nature of public action 1850-1956', 'Widows and widowhood in the colonial Punjab'. University Grants Commission (UGC) has received a total of 160 proposals for a six-month study on the quality of PhD theses in Indian universities. These proposals have come from individuals, institutions, and educationists from across the country following UGC's notice in May this year. There is absolutely a need to tighten the noose around academic research for a range of reasons. As much as universities are a cradle of revolutionary ideas that can instigate favourable changes, they are also the dens of first level politics. There is no dearth of enrolled scholars who harbour ambitions of not academics but politics and treat universities as an instrument to realise their dreams. Naturally, the focus is not on academics primarily and this is where a trend sets in quality takes a hit. PhD enrolment has seen a 50 per cent increase between 2011 and 2017. With such a massive leap in just six years, the results too ought to have been comparable but such is not the case. There are far too many PhDs and too little advancement that should have come with it. Definitely, Indian research is largely poor compared to popular global standards, but this timely quality check seeks to correct that.

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