How to Improve Quality of Research for Ph.D. Programme
Prof. Ramesh Gupta, Professor, Kurukshetra University

Guest Author’s Profile:-

Prof. Ramesh Gupta is presently working as a professor in Kurukshetra University. He has over three decades of experience in teaching. Apart from Kurukshetra University, Ramesh has also taught at Jaihind College, Mumbai, MDU College, Rohtak, Vaish College, Bhiwani. A D.Litt. from H.P. University, Shimla, Ramesh has guided 52 Research Scholars for Ph.D./M.Phil. He has been awarded with International Intellectual Achievement Award– 2010, Rashtriya Vidya Saraswati Puraskar– 2010, Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award – 2009, Rashtriya Vikas Ratan Award – 2009, Rashtriya Gaurav Award – 2009,Bharat Jyoti Award – 2006, Rising Personality of India Award-Gold Medal – 2003 to name a few. He has authored 14 books on Hindi Literature and has 18 Research Papers / Articles / Short Stories/Drama to his credit. His interest are Reforms in Educational System; Political System; Legal System; IncomeTaxAct; literature; Hindi Novels; Drama and Tourism. An ardent lover of classical music, Prof. Gupta loves to do blogging in his leisure time.


Repetition of Topics:-

To improve the standard of Ph.D. programme, one of the most essential elements is that the Topic allotted to a Research Scholar should be original and there should not be duplication or any repetition of any research work being done presently at other Indian Universities. However, the problem arises when simultaneously same topic is registered at two or more Universities at the same time, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Unfortunately, there is no Central Registration Agency which can provide data before registration of a particular topic whether same topic or same topic in a modified form is being pursued at some other University or not.
In order to improve quality of research work for Ph.D. programme, UGC should be pursued to create a Cell where information from all the Indian Universities regarding registrations of topics in a particular subject for Ph.D. is available at the initial stage of research. As soon as P.G. Board of Studies of a University clears a topic, it should be sent to UGC and only after clearance from UGC, student should be finally registered for Ph.D.
Alternatively, universities can also take some initiative of their own in this direction by setting up a Cell in their Libraries where all the information regarding registration of topics in a particular subject of all the Universities is collected from internet and websites of different Universities and also by requesting them personally. Information so received should be then fed in the computers and supplied to the Chairperson of the Department concerned, much before the process of registration of Ph.D. candidates begins. I believe even this single step will prevent repetition of topics to a large extent.
Evaluation System of a Ph.D. thesis:-
The Evaluation System of a Ph.D. thesis is the root cause of our abysmally low standard of research. Unfortunately, many students who have no aptitude for research, are first admitted to a Ph.D. programme and worse still, acquire the degree dirt cheap because the thesis are sent to their supervisor's friend/colleague/contemporary for evaluation.      

In most of the Universities, including Kurukshetra University, the supervisors themselves suggest the names of Ph.D. examiners. The supervisor always looks for safe examiners, and if he does not know any, he takes the help of his colleague(s) to procure the names of such safe examiners. Basically, the policy is, 'You scratch my back, I will scratch yours'. As a result of this (mal) practice, the supervisor has a casual approach and does not take much interest in scrutinizing the thesis of his student because he knows that irrespective of the quality of the Ph.D. thesis, the student will get the work approved as it is going to be evaluated by his friend. Some examiners even dare to evaluate the Ph.D. thesis, which is not at all related to their field of specialization. This disastrous approach is the main cause of our mediocre Ph.D. degrees as the supervisor is not bothered about the rejection of the thesis. One can find many such thesis adorned by cobwebs in our libraries, which do not deserve to be there at all.
Something serious has to be done with the evaluation system if we really want to improve our standard. Firstly, the supervisor should not be involved at any stage, in selecting the panel of the examiners. This will make the supervisor work harder and take the Ph.D. thesis of his student more seriously. Secondly, there should be a centralized system of evaluation. The UGC can play a major role in this direction. It should build a data bank of all specialized serious and good workers in the country who can act as examiners of a Ph.D. thesis. The Universities should send the Ph.D. thesis to the UGC, from where it will be mailed to at least two examiners by masking the names of student, supervisor and their affiliations. Alternatively, universities can have its own data bank and pool of examiners from where Vice-Chancellor can pick names of any two examiners in a particular subject without bringing it to the knowledge of Chairperson or Supervisor. The evaluation should be strictly on merit. At times rejection of a Ph.D. thesis would serve the purpose because either the supervisors will start taking things seriously or they will stop guiding any Ph.D. student. It is better to produce only a few good quality theses than to have a number of feeble thesis.
Hiding Identity of Supervisor and candidates:-
Right from Matriculation Exam to M.A. Examination, Identity of Examinees is kept Secret from the Examiners. However, it is strange that in such an important examination like that of Ph.D. and M.Phil, Identity of candidates is not kept Secret from the Examiners of Ph.D. Thesis/M.Phil Dissertation. Not only are these, even the Names of Supervisors boldly printed on the Title of Thesis/Dissertations. As a result, most of the Examiners do not evaluate the Thesis/Dissertation but write Reports/Award Grades proportionately to the status of the Supervisor. Generally, if Supervisor happens to be a Dean/Chairperson, his candidates get Excellent Reports for Ph.D. Thesis and Awarded highest Grades for M.Phil Dissertations.
While sending Ph.D. Thesis/M.Phil Dissertations for Evaluation to External Examiners, Identity of both Supervisor as well as candidates should be kept a closely guarded secret.
Video Recording of Viva-Voce of Ph.D. Candidates
To improve quality of Higher Research, Video Recording of Viva-Voce of Ph.D. Candidates is a must. If Viva-Voce of Ph.D. candidate is excellent, then the video recording of such a Viva-Voce will help future candidates for Ph.D. to learn and to improve their own performance. In some cases where Ph.D. Candidates in connivance with their Supervisor and external examiner indulge in malpractices then Video Recording of Viva-Voce will act as a deterrent.

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Swati Gupta
01 Jun 2013

I read this article and i felt this is something which the universities have to apply for the Ph. D. now a days we see people use money for getting the Ph. D award but all this thing bring depletion of quality in teacher education programme.

Dr. Muhibul Islam
26 Jan 2012

It is really in need of the hour to follow the quality based Research for Ph.D./M.Phil, where it is still ineffective in many cases . Selection of topics for and examiners for evaluating Theses for Ph.D.,M.Phil. etc. to be very qualitative , so that Ph.D. to be Ph.D. like,not an ornamental degree for increment ,promotion etc. and many of the above suggestions made by Gupta are appreciable. System of 100% internal examination,ie paper setting,evaluation and assessment etc. in semestar/credit base etc. may not cause inflation of marks/grades and to be based on the very principles. In viva-voce of practical examination s of UG/PG level better not to ask the name of any candidate and evaluation to be made on performances only. So right from the Lower to Higher education upto Ph.D. in any way to be very qualitative and to follow all the requsite criteria as par.

D K Kanchan
25 Jan 2012

I fully agree with Prof. Gupta word by word.

Dr. Ramesh Tibile
23 Jan 2012

It is the urgent need to follow the quality based research work in all fields.

Dr. Ramesh Tibile
23 Jan 2012

This article and thought is important. We all are asked to follow some tips to preserve the quality of research. Thanks.

Dr. M. K. Pradhan
01 Sep 2011

For the Improvement of Quality of Research Programme many of these suggestions are appreciable. Video recording will definitely help the pursuing candidates to improve the performance. Some of the other rules are followed by many universities. However, in the selection of the examiner definitely the supervisor should not involve.

Prof. Shatendra K Sharma
30 Aug 2011

Yes I agree with Dr Gupta on most of the points. The quality of research work for PhD is not improving as it should have been. This more so in humanities subject and there is a replication/ similarities of topics from other universities. As a result the net addition to the knowledge base in not significant. I also agree with Dr Virk that the system should have Indian as well foreign examiners if subjects are of global nature or not related to local language, culture or politics etc. It is found that the system of 100% internal examination i.e. paper setting, evaluation and assessment is causing an inflation of marks / grades and teachers are encouraged for not completing the whole syllabus during the semester as they themselves set the papers out of the contents they complete in the class. The blind rush to increase the number of PhD's produced in a university or country should not be made a criteria of a good university system, it may have some contribution but it is the quality of work that causes a significant impact on the understanding of the subject that should be given the importance.

Kaushik Majumdar
12 Aug 2011

Also maintain a national online repository of PhD theseses, from where any one, any where in the world would be able to access full text of any PhD thesis (make it mandatory to submit a soft copy alongside the hard copies). This will make the duplication detectable to a larger number of eyes. Besides a good PhD thesis will have wider circulation, which it actually deserves.

manoj kamra
11 Aug 2011

Some examiners even dare to evaluate the Ph.D. thesis, which is not at all related to their field of specialization-------Video Recording of Viva-Voce of Ph.D. Candidates-------------------EXCELLENT SUGGESTIONS

Hardev Singh Virk
10 Aug 2011

I appreciate suggestions put forward by Prof. Ramesh Gupta to improve evaluation of Ph.D. thesis. I remember 2 cases from KUK: In one case the Supervisor dared to write a letter to favor his candidate and in second case, the Supervisor manipulated in such a way that my name was removed from the Viva examination, considering myself as a tough evaluator! Almost all Supervisors in India, including myself, want to send thesis to their known examiners. In my university, candidates paid to the post office clerk to get the information about the Examiners, when the Thesis was despatched. How can U improve the System when there is so much corruption everywhere? I do not agree with Ramesh's suggestion that UGC should appoint examiners. That will delay the process too much. The system of both Indian and Foreign examiners must be introduced.

08 Aug 2011

should we become so stringent as to restrict the no. of phd thesis to the high quality ones only. Quality is not just a function of effective monitoring, it also depends on the infrastructure and research atmosphere in a university. A large majority of our universities are constrained by poor resources. if we give some credence to the educative role of doing a thesis i would say a poorly done research is " some research" and is better than "no research".the scholar learns something from it!

Vikram Karve
08 Aug 2011

A very thought provoking article with some good suggestions, especially the one about video recording of Viva Voce.
In addition to their research capability, Ph. D. candidates need to be assessed in their teaching ability and communication skills too. For this they must be made to teach for at least six months and must be assessed by the students and required to qualify minimum standards. I have seen Ph. D. qualified lecturers who are unable to teach properly as they have zero communication skills.
Like the author has suggested a Central Registration Agency to avoid duplication of research topics and curb plagiarism there must be a Central Examination Agency too. Viva Voce Examinations need to be stringent and centralized subject wise and conducted at a premier institution.