Is Today’s PhD Education in India Aiming To Create Inspiring Intellectual Leaders of Tomorrow?

Create: 03/21/2011 - 10:22

Dr. Sanjay Goel, Head of Department , JIIT, Noida

Guest Author’s Profile:-

Dr. Sanjay Goel is heading the department of CSE & IT at  JIIT, Noida, since 2004.  He is an alumnus of BITS Pilani and IIT Delhi. He has nearly 25 years of experience in teaching, software development, and interactive multimedia content development. Prior to joining JIIT, he was working as Director (Multimedia) at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). At IGNCA, he played key role in establishing “Cultural Informatics Laboratory.”  He was the founder and principal designer of several multimedia projects and also led the completion of UNDP funded project “Strengthening National Facility for Interactive Multimedia Documentation of Cultural Resources” as National Project Coordinator. Earlier, he worked at NSIT and  NIC.  He has organized several national and international workshops, seminars, and conferences in India. Since 2008, he is co-chairing the annual International Conference on Contemporary Computing (IC3).   He has two  passions - (i)  invent and introduce pedagogies of engagement in higher education especially computing education in India, and (ii)  integrate computing with  humanities and arts. He also writes a blog called "Learning & Computing Education: Reflections and Ideation".  

Article:-

This article focusses on the rigour and quality of PhD education in India.   Instead of viewing PhD as a means to nurture five P’s, i.e., Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Perspective, and Purpose, a very large number of PhD scholars, supervisors, and academic instututions are  increasingly  approaching it with a mindset focussed on three D’s, i.e., Degree, Designation, and Dough (money).

One of the main objectives of postgraduate education, especially PhD education, is to prepare intellectual leaders who will do the groundwork to create new paradigms and products for tomorrow [2]. Postgraduate education needs to provide deeper experience in the values, norms, and practices of the chosen profession while also developing the skills, tools, and habits of inquiry within a discipline [2a].  Hence, when it comes  to postgraduate education, especially PhD education, the quality concerns ought to become  much more important than quantity concerns.

In India, so far, the main employer of PhDs was the university system. There was hardly any requirement or feedback about the quality of Indian PhD from industry.  This absence of feedback created an atmosphere of complacency with reference to quality of PhDs. In the last two decades, the exponential growth of higher education, especially in disciplines like engineering, computing, and management has created a huge demand for faculty with PhD degrees. As a response to this general demand, and also their own internal faculty requirements, many universities increased their PhD production without necessarily being sufficiently ambitious about the quality benchmarks. Due to the absence of any other agreed metric, a simplistic criterion like 2-3 published papers in some journal/conference proceedings (even very short papers at sub-standard conferences/journals) is sometimes considered as the goal of a scholar’s PhD work.

According to a 2010 Nasscom report [3] [4], India’s fast growing engineering R&D services industry has reached $10 billion. As per this report, there are over 300 captive Engineering R&D facilities in India employing about 85,000 engineers. Further, the leading twenty independent service providers that serve multiple verticals, employ over 60,000 engineers. Nasscom forecasts that this industry will reach $24 billion by 2015, and possibly $45 billion by 2020. During this period, India has the potential to capture a 40% share of global offshore revenues in 11 key verticals of engineering R&D services—Aerospace, Automative, Telecom, Semiconductor, Computing Systems, Consumer Electronics, Medical Devices, Energy, Infrastructure, Industrial Automation, and Construction/Heavy Machinary.

In developed economies, a very large number of PhD graduates join industry [2]. For example, in the USA in some disciplines, e.g., psychology, chemistry, chemical engineering, etc., only 20-30% PhD’s join academics, and more than 50% in Computer Science join the industry. A 2005 study showed that 46% PhD’s in chemical engineering from six Australian universities joined private industry.  Another study showed that 40% of engineering PhD in Norway have industrial collaboration[5].

Trends emerging in the Indian industry are now showing signs of opening similar opportunities in India. In the future, Indian universities can play a very active and constructive role to support and accelerate the  growth of Indian R&D industry by taking the responsibility to prepare high quality Masters and PhDs suitable for industry. Only a few Indian universities and institutes have recognized this opportunity and are responding to it accordingly. The fast growing engineering R&D services industry will anyway fulfill their manpower requirements from such select few places in India, and from western universities. However, if a good size set of Indian universities do not appropriately respond to this emerging need, the larger national dream to see India as a knowledge superpower cannot be realized.

Rigour and effort are most essential inputs (though insufficient) for high quality education.  European universities typically require 180 credits for completing PhD work, which is same as the credit requirement of a bachelor’s degree and three times the credit requirement of a master’s degree.  According to Bologna process, one European credits is normally equivalent to 25-30 hrs of work. Hence, broadly speaking the PhD should require 4500 – 5400 hrs of work. According to Bologna process, the normal projected duration of a doctorate should correspond to 3–4 years of full time study.  Wrt to part time candidates, some European universities require a minimum of 6 years of work. A survey [6] of around 200 PhD students at York University, Canada showed that 6 years was the average time to complete their degrees. Out of these students only 8% started as part time students and 66% never switched to part time status.

At good US Universities, it normally takes 4-5 years of work for full-time scholars to complete PhD work.   A study [7] of PhD students at Rutgers University showed that the mean time for completion of degree requirement for students who spend more than 52 hours per week for their PhD studies is 4.5 years. This was found to be 6.7 years for those who spent 44 hours per week. In a conversation, Prof. Sartaj Sahni of the University of Florida indicated that for full-time students, it takes around 5 years of regular work to complete the PhD requirements. Demanding advisors normally expect and engage the PhD candidates to work for 60-70 hours per week. In another conversation regarding part-time PhD, Prof. Rao Vemuri of University of California, Davis, told that he had supervised two part time PhD scholars, and both took  around 8 years for completing the required work.

In a conversation, Prof. A.B. Bhattacharyya, who supervised more than 30 PhD’s at IIT Delhi told that most of his PhD candidates were full time research staff of funded projects at CARE, IIT Delhi. Their PhD problem and work was part of the goals of the funded projects and these candidates had no other responsibilities like teaching etc.  As per Prof. Bhattacharyya, these  students at IIT Delhi took 5-7 years to complete their degree and  more than 80%  joined industry after completing their PhD.

The PhD ordinances at many Indian Universities normally expect the candidates to complete the PhD work in 2-5 years, even for part time candidates. Government scholarship is available for 5 years to full-time candidates with a BTech degree augmented with GATE/MSc. and NET.  The full-time PhD candidates with M.E/M.Tech. get higher scholarship for four years.  Hence, even the Indian government’s financial support system expects 4-5 years of work for full-time candidates after the master’s degree. Naturally, the duration has to be higher for part time candidates.

A very large number of PhD candidates in India, especially in engineering, computer science, and management disciplines, are part-time candidates who register  at a very young age of 25 – 30. This is very different from developed countries. For example, in UK, less than 30% PhD candidates choose  the part-time option [8].  Interestingly they do so after good years of work experience. The average age at the start of their PhD registerations has been found to be 38 years which is 10 years higher than the respective age of full-time candidates.

In India, the part-time PhD candidates usually work as full-time faculty members at same university or some other college. The main motivation for majority is to improve their prospects in an academic career.    This is in contrast with the data reported in the UK report  [8] where a larger fraction of  UK-domiciled researchers were found to  be mainly motivated by interest in the subject  rather than to improve their prospects in an academic career.

In India, a typical young (age: 25-35) faculty member who also pursues part-time PhD has to devote  at least 35 -40 hours per week  for  their teaching and administrative responosibilities. Most of them are married and even have parental responsibilities. Normally in Indian families, the home responsibilities become even more demanding for married ladies, especially mothers. Hence, part-time PhD candidates are normally not in a position of spending more than 10-20 hours per week for their PhD work. Consequently, it is only natural that they cannot normally produce high quality research before 6-10 years of work as a part-time PhD scholar. Indian universities, supervisors, research committee members, examiners, and even PhD candidates need to seriously consider whether it is appropriate for them to expect and encourage the completion of required work for PhD before such a duration of  active engagement. Such expectation and trends can lead to a culture of mediocrity, and lower benchmarks, and will ultimately thwart the efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate and master’s level education.

Based on his direct interactions with some sections of Indian academia, Prof. Rao Vemuri commented on this issue, “What bothers me most is the quality of Ph.D.’s being produced and especially the mad rush to get Ph.D.’s. I am appalled to learn that Ph.D.’s are for sale by some universities (and professors). Equally disturbing is the naivete of candidates’ concept of what it takes to get a Ph.D. Only today, a prospective Ph.D. student gave me his vision of a dissertation: it is about the size and scope of a term paper in my graduate courses at the University of California. This sorry state of affairs is the direct result of the apathy of guides (advisers) not doing their job. In the US, the emphasis on the process (course work, comprehensive and qualifying examination, and the like) more or less acts as a safety net. Even if the dissertation (the product) turns out to be of average quality, the process guarantees some minimum quality. In India there is a growing need to put more emphasis on course work because many of the students and new Ph.D.’s that I encountered are ill-prepared to provide the intellectual leadership we expect of a Ph.D.” “… A typical Ph. D student in India, it appears, is a part-time student who spends one hour a day and gets the degree in about 3 calendar years. You do the numbers.”

Sandor Kopatsy, a Hungarian economist, well known for his writings about the relationship of economic prosperity and social well being in society, wrote a paper (1999) “The Intellectual capital is the most Important.”  He argued that Intellectual Capital cannot be treated and measured like tangible properties. He proposed an equation -Intellectual Capital = Knowledge x Effort x Talent x Morality.  Absence of any one of these four components makes Intellectual Capital ZERO.

PhD is not just simply yet another degree.  In Spain less than 10% PhD candidates are finally granted the degree. In USA, around 50% candidates across disciplines do not complete the degree.  It is respected in the society because it symbolises a high level of intellectual (and supposedly moral) growth of the person. For example, the social standing of PhD in Spain is so high that only PhD holders, Grandees and Dukes can sit  and cover their heads in the presence of the King.   Intellect is grown by developing intellectual capital.  Koptasy’s model has already been viewed in the context of PhD work [9].  Here, I elaborate further looking at it from the perspective of effort.   Knowledge and talent of a candidate depend on the accumulated intellectual capital of the candidate.  Effort and Morality are the only new inputs in  the process that are  under candidate’s control.  Hence, both are essential for ensuring required intellectual growth of PhD candidate.

With good effort and high academic morality, even mediocre knowledge and talent, can create good intellectual capital.   However, increasing tendency to accept low/mediocre effort for awarding PhDs will encourage the growth of a negative academic morality. In such a situation, irrespective of the knowledge, talent, and effort, negative academic morality will only enable the creation of negative intellectual capital and harm the academics as well as society.   If this issue is left unaddressed for long by the academic community,  PhD that has been traditionally considered as a reliable (often the only) benchmark of the college/university faculty quality, will also fast lose  its respect like many other degrees.  As can be seen in the responses of various experts, the process has already began.  It is for us to consider, reflect, and respond.

Issues for Reflection:

In the light of the above discussion, there is a need to reflect about some of the following questions:

1.   With reference to tomorrow’s needs, what should be the parameters of quality for PhD education?
2.  In order to identify quality work, is there a need to grade the PhD work?
3.  Is there a need to define some guidelines for the required study and research effort for completing PhD?
4.   With reference to tomorrow’s needs, what should be the desirable attributes of a PhD graduate?
5.   How much of breadth and inter-disciplinarity must be incorporated in PhD education?
6.   What should be the role of an advisor in guiding a PhD candidate?
7.  What should be the role of the department in educating a PhD candidate?
8.   How much of industry collaboration/idea exchange should be encouraged in PhD education? How can this be achieved?
9.  What should be the attributes of a good PhD advisor?
10.  How do we encourage  enrollment of R&D engineers from industry as part-time/full-time PhD candidates?
11.   Should it be mandatory to publish the thesis on the Web along with the names, affiliation, and summary reports of thesis examiners?
12.   In India, is there a need to create profession specific doctoral study programs on the lines of  D.Engg, D.Ed., or DBA?

References:-

1. Academic Rigour in Contemporary Indian Higher Education: Some Questions and Reflections

2. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine (1995), Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers.

2a.   R. Neal Shambaugh, Refraiming Doctoral Programs: A Program of Human Inquiry for Doctoral Students and Faculty Advisors, Innovative Higher Education, Vol. 24, No. 4, Summer 2000, Human Science Press.

3.  http://www.booz.com/media/uploads/NASSCOM_Booz_ESR_Report_2010.pdf

4.  http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2010/tc2010128_116888.htm

5.   Taran Thune, Doctoral students on the university–industry interface: a review of the literature, High Educ (2009) 58:637–651, Springer

6.   Belinda Crawford Seagram, Judy Gould, and Sandra W. Pyke,  An investigation of gender and other variables on time to completion of doctoral degrees, Research in Higher Education, Vol. 39, No. 3, 1998

7.   Lisa Gillingham, Joseph J. Seneca, and Michael K. Taussig, The determinants of progress to the doctoral degree, Research in Higher Education, Vol. 32, No. 4, 1991

8.  Universities UK Report (2009), Promoting the UK doctorate:opportunities and challenges, http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publications/Documents/research_report_d...

9.  Howard Harris and Katalin Illes, Promoting and Assessing Integrity
in the Research Degree, Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies,  Vol. 13, No. 2 (2008), pp 56-60.

10.  Guest Article: Weakness in the PhD programmes

11. Chitleen K Sethi and Smriti Sharma Vasudeva,  ’Original research’ for PhD on sale!, Tribune News Service,  http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100409/main2.htm

12.  German PhD degree on sale, scandal that takes shine off the real one,  http://www.whatsonxiamen.com/news7015.html

13.  Academics fear PhD quality is slipping, Times Higher education, UK, Jan 2009,  http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=404928

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Till date I have come across numerous Ph.D. Degree Holders. If they are what one becomes as individual after earning Ph.D., I never ever want to have a Ph. D. This is my prime motivation for not having done Ph.D. despite of being in academics. I found myself easily ready to forego without any pain all the material growth or benefit associated in academics due to Ph. D. like promotion or higher salaries. On the other hand I have been more than fulfilling my duties and responsibilities towards society and university. The Ph. D. holders who normally happen to be if not my seniors then too senior designation holders as compared to me would also agree. In a small career of seven years [except for going abroad which I do not like] I have around six international publications [published in Europe] in form of monographs, Three Chapters in books [Published in USA], offered nearly six consultancies to Union Government, State government, and business houses, besides numerous refereed research publications and delivered invited speeches, worked as guest editors etc. Have Supervised fifty [50] PG Researches. I have written all above to allure Ph. D. holders too to start working on it. Its shameful to come and take salary every month as your right without performance. I have seen people dead on Job but they tend to live perpetually on Payrolls. Disclosing Identity is being knowingly avoided.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

A very thought provoking article to which I readily agree for the most part. Prof. Rao Vemuri's comments about the PhDs in India are worth noting. I am sure that there are exceptions to the general description but any honest evaluation of PhD research across the country will only validate the article. What was interesting is to read about the recent AICTE push to increase the scope of the QIP programmes (see India Education Review March 18 - AICTE to help teachers procure PhDs through QIP). Also, the recent push to "catch up", as it were, with China in producing more Ph.D.s could end up being counterproductive. But then are the policy makers listening to/reading about the research on "research'?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

First of all, Congratulations for such a bold article on the quality of PhD in India and its comparison with other developed countries. It forces us to either believe in what we are doing or provokes us to do work which is really of good quality rather than completing the criteria for achieving a PhD degree.

The most inspiring lines are "He proposed an equation -Intellectual Capital = Knowledge x Effort x Talent x Morality. Absence of any one of these four components makes Intellectual Capital ZERO".

As far as the Issues for refelection are concerned, the following came to my my mind immediately as few of my good and intellectual friends have faced problems related to this:
• Entrance criteria for PhD has to be liberal so that many other deserving candidates can also try take up PhD. As of now, exams become one of the biggest hurdle for admission in PhD.
• Here instead of marks attained in entrance exams, experience should have more weight-age
• The criteria for becoming advisor also has to be more stringent to improve the quality of work

After reading the whole article, it has certainly created an unrest in my mind to deliver better job everyday.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

As a faculty member of IIT Kharagpur, I guided 14 Ph.D.scholars so far. Few are still working. The scholars took 3 to 8 years to complete their Ph.D. After 2 to 3 years some of them join jobs and start working as a part time scholar. They are taking 6 to 8 byears. Ful time scholars are usually taking between 3 to 5 years. Some universities and research organizations like the ICAR are very rigid about a maximum period of 3 years while deputing their teachers or scientists for Ph.D. It is necessary for them to have flexibility. Initially they may depute them for 3 years. After receiving the feedback from the Supervisor/Head/Dean of the university where the candidate is pursuing Ph.D. , suitable extension with pay should be granted for a meaningful Ph.D.
Publications in reputed international journal/patenting should be made compulsory for the award of Ph.D. degree.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

As a faculty member in Engineering, I have guided three Ph.D scholars out of which two are part time one from my own university and the other from an educational institution. Regarding the quality of Ph.Ds, less said the better. Doctoral degrees are serving as a means for material gains rather than improving analytical capabilities and opening up the thinking process and problem solving skills. Absence of a proper metric and some arbitrary bench mark like 2 or 3 papers in National/International Journals/Conferences and published work of good standing is more misused rather than improving the quality. Now-a -days, publications in so called National/International Journals is easy and is after payment of subscription charges or publication charges charged on page basis making the system a mockery. Impact Factors and Citation Indexes may to some extent check the quality. Basic domain knowledge, intense interest and a minimum maturity is required for pursuing research leading to award of Doctoral degree, but how to measure is a difficult and daunting task.
Research degree cannot be pursued on a part time basis without sacrificing the quality. Even a reasonable compromise on quality requires intense efforts both by the candidate and by the guide which is not forthcoming from either. One cannot ride both the horses at the same time. One University has admitted hundreds of candidates for Ph.D without even having qualified faculty and even the programme. Availability of Guides and Theses in open markets is a reality and should serve as eye openers for the policy makers and Administrators and curb the mad rush for Ph.D. and to maintain a minimum tangible quality.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

As the Director of a reputed college in north India, I was the chairman of seven PhD thesis defence in a matter of two years. All of them, except one (which perhaps could be accepted as a master's thesis in an IIT), was not worth the paper they were printed on. We have not understood what academic research consists of. It should meet at least one of the two criteria: (1) It should explain/establish a phenomena not explained/established earlier, or (2) It solves a problem for the first time using a procedure/process not used before for the 'class' of problem AND giving better / more efficient results.
Most of our theses are a 'new data point' type, re-solving a problem with some changed parameters, inconsequential extension of processes/ procedures using well-used procedures.
One of the thesis reported some work in which data was collected, fed into a commercial software, and the resulted obtained. When asked why does that work deserved a PhD when the same work is being done daily in hundreds of design offices around the world,, the answer was: 'nobody has done this for river Baddi'.

There are far deeper issues involved:

Our educational -planners/ controllers have this stupid idea of hoe\w research is the be all of academic institutions. For the tens of thousands of college gi9ving undergraduate education alone, why and how the faculty will conduct research and to what end. Let us de-glamorize research, forget about PhDs and start TEACHING. There are hundreds of reputed institutions in US where no pretense of research is made and yet they do an excellent job teaching.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I am highly thankful to the insightful sharing by learned and highly experienced readers.

This article was earlier posted on my blog. The post had also received some very valuable comments by learned persons. Interested readers can also read the comments by some more learned academicians below the blog post at http://goelsan.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/will-todays-phd-education-in-ind....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

The article by Dr Sanjay Goyal on PhD Education in relation to intellectual leadership in India inthe time to come is thought provoking and points towards quality concern in higher education in India.Data covered in the article is relevant to India from two perspectives. Firstly, PhD must be linked to industry and secondly credit hours for PhD program.India is gradually moving towards reforms in higher edcation.Yash Pal Committee Report -2009 ;National Knowledge Commission Report(2006-2009); National Mission of Education through I C T- 2009 and creation of National Higher Education Commission for Research etc are the recent trends to reform higher education in India

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

The purpose of Ph.D. is many fold and it must vary from country to country. What is valid for US or West Europe may not hold for our country, for a varied reasons.
First our govt. is too tight on budget. Hence Ph.D. must have some answering to do to the tax payer. From this point, I have a simple solution. Take any live problem of the country and try to give a solution through your Ph.D. work. This may or may not get published in International Journals, hardly matters.
I give two examples. In Transport Engg section if by research you can build a road that lasts for ten years without repairs, then this is worth a Ph.D. A person who published hundred papers is less useful in our context compared to the one above.
A researcher who can demonstrate a way to reduce the mass illiteracy by applying his engineering or management skills, is far more practical research than International conference participation and research paper numbers.
In certain departments like chemistry in top institutions, it is common to see a faculty guiding nearly 30 to 40 Ph.Ds in his/her life time and about one to two hundred publications, since almost 100% work is lab oriented. On the other hand in some field like water resources engineering, since all the problems are field oriented, no. of ph.d.s and publications will be far less. Therefore it is almost impossible to have a common guideline for Ph.D. work requirement that may be be applicable to all sciences, engineering, arts and managements departments.

Therefore I strongly believe that for our country, solving any problem of village, city, town, country should be strongly linked with the award of Ph.D. For the simple reason that without creativity this feat can not be achieved and secondly this makes you think about the country.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

It is an excellent and most timely article. Some of the "issues for reflection" raised are very valid and important. cky's comment is very apt. PhD should be awarded only when it solves issues? I have concrete evidence that the theses submitted for MS even in premiere institutions are copies of earlier works!!
There is a crying need for reforms in this area in India

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Not specific to the above. Just a note in general. I wish we all in a position to think and ability to reflect on state of higher education in India could walk the talk. We may seek to translate viable options/ideas into practice but unless passion is not there in sphere of activity outcome is insignificant. I personally of the opinion chalta-hai and self-centric attitude is the common denominator across ills we encounter. It is the pleasure of doing scinece or curiousity and inherent power read "self-confidence" rather winning prizes or increased salary that drives successful scientists, engineeres or personalities. The rewards of pursuing anything are often unexpected-it may be PhD degree or masters or even rewards like the Nobel Prize. The elucidation of the structure of the atom was key to advances from semiconductor research to the omnipresent computer. Embedding passion is the key.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

It is fully non-sense when we compare the time and performance of the research scholar. Ten year earlier, there was shortaege of resource. At present the cocept of Prof. Bhattacharyya and Sahani is not applicable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Dear all,

I'm interested in doing a PhD research to formally earn a PhD degree in Finance. Appreciate if you could look into the possibility with one of the reputable Indian universities. Your clarification with regard to the requirements, study process and cost, if any, would be highly appreciated.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Ali AlFardan, CDAF, BSc(Hon), MBA, ACCA, FCCA
Tel +973 39590827

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I would disagree to some of your suggestions about enterence tests and number of years put in Phd let me first provide the background of my observation.

I work in an MNC R&D center and have total exp. of 14+ years. Recently to upgrade the research capability at organizational level HQ mandated to hire more PhDs in India. There was a recruitment drive for Phd holders and we needed about 30+ PHd candidates overall , The candidates were mostly from so called premier institutes ( IIM , IIT, IISc , Anna Univ etc) and from some tier 2 univ outside India such as Nanyang Singapore and Canadian universities and I was in interview panel.
I was really saddened to see the level of Phds not only from premier institutes of India but also from these foreign universities was pathetic and no where near to those of US and UK universities.

These candidates were simply unemployable though many of them had 10+ years of "experience" of some kind.

The worst part is since this was first PhD recruitment drive in India of the company and I am not a PhD myself if I say this openly in interview report doubts will be raised on my integrity and intelligence levels rather then on the capabilities of Phds from these premier institutes.

One person who holds Phd from IIM-C had prepared just 2 models in excel solver as his achievement in his last employment for 4 years.

Another candidate who was in service industry claimed to be expert of Cloud Computing and had innumerable pear reviewed papers published but in the end he covered all the buzzwords like a good marketing evangelist. It looked that the last company had employed him for PhD tag to improve marketability of services and Dr. had included achievements of whole 100+ people group as his own individual achievement.

Now coming back to the real cause of this rot in PhD in India I can think of following reasons.
1. These candidates were initially those who could not secure a decent job after post graduation and after lots of trials and errors passed necessary NET / GATE exams. So these gentleman who ware nearing middle of their working age had absolutely no idea on how practical problems are solved.

2. Since I am focusing on Software / computer science and engineering disciplines the key difference between Indian PhDs and those in US is working on actual problem solving versus doing theoretical comparative studies.
All of these candidates claimed to have worked on lots of open source packages like Open MPI ( Parallel Computing) , XEN ( Hypervisor) , eucalyptus ( Cloud) etc. but none of them had a single patch provided to open source.
This is direct contrast to what PG and PhD do in USA.
Their guides simply never forced them to provide the output of the research and contribute to the base software they have taken. If a person claims to have implemented certain solution as part of his Phd but fails to provide any tangible output to community on whose shoulders he/she is standing what can be expected from him ?

3. Before conducting the interviews we scanned the resumes and went through some of the papers mentioned by the candidates. There was a single commonality in all of them and that is verbosity and very less amount of equations and code sample.

As a solution I think the priority should be given to working professionals in Industry with 10-15 years of experience who fully understand what to expect out of Phd and entrance critearia should be relaxed for them. After spending one full week ( 8 hours a day) interviewing people I myslef became confident that if these bozos can get Phd I am very much overqualified so should get one.
But I was disappointed to find that criteria for admission of all good institute debar people like me and is geared towards intake of non-performers.
Rather then mandating working as slaves of guides n campus the premier institute should take a clue from HP labs- BITS pilani tieup and offer courses to people employed in Industry without expecting them to leave well paying jobs where some real work is being done.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I would like to congratulate Prof. Goel for highlighting these important issues regarding Ph.D. degrees. This is true that in some Indian universities the quality of Ph.D is very poor. In fact not only PhD but the other technical courses are taught in a poor manner.
This is really a matter of concern for all of us. We need to discuss on the solutions to this problem.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Dr. Sanjay Goel has thrown the light in absolutely right direction i.e on the plight of awarding of Ph.D Degrees in Indian Universities. I fully agree with all his views and the deficiency in the Indian system for awarding the PhD degrees.
In this context, I would like to discuss the root cause of this process. In Indian scenario, everything is being governed by the Law, and we Indians have developed the habit of manipulating the Law to our benefit. The deficient quality of ph.d production in India is an outcome of laxity in Ph.D Ordinances of the Indian Universities. When an Indian University bounds to acquire ph.d within 5 years, then definitely the student will try to manipulate by publishing his papers in some low quality Journals/ conference , when the time is at the verge of expiring. Some universities even bound to acquire the ph.d within 4 years of the date of registration. The things can improve only if the Law becomes more strict. For instance, it can be thought of making it compulsory for the student to prove the significance of his thesis with respect to the latest industry requirement. Yes definitely , the morality of supervisor plays a very good role, but the problem is that the UGC has given permission to the universities who are distributing ph.Ds for money( or some other kind of fee), as quoted by Dr. Sanjay Goel.
The fact is that in India not only the IITs , JNU and other good universities are providing ph.d degrees but there are many many more universities which provide ph.d degree and the count is surely very high. When the count is very high, then it is unjustifiable to expect the right things simply on moral grounds. A stricter law( ph.d ordinance) is required to enforce the quality of ph.d thesis.
we as an academicians have the duty to make the society and the Govt. aware about the wrong things happening in the Education ( or the scope of the improvement in the society), but it is the fact that only some of people are awakened and will change them on the grounds of morality in the interest of the India, for others enforcement of the stricter Law is the only option. Dr. Sanjay Goel has put the right step in this regard. But the same plight should be communicated to the higher people viz. the policy makers of Indian Education System.

Dr. Devendra Tayal

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

At first, congrats to goel sir for the great article.
As I feel, the article is incomplete in some manners. Perhaps goel sir and other who commented have forgot one more important key factor. The problem is neither (as written in article) that some universities in India providing Part time Ph.D. in 3-4 years nor that part time scholars are young and working somewhere. The key problem is somewhere else.
Problem is with the directionless attitude of the youth. It is directionless in many ways, like:
1. Most of students want only degree (as any other) for their increment. This trend now has even shifted to Masters courses. The reason behind this is they are comparing it with corporate and they have none interest in the profession. Comments on eminent faculties like bhattacharyya sir, sahani sir is evidence of my statement.

2. 99% Ph.D. registered students (even at IITs, IIMs) are totaly dependent of faculty members (guides). They even don't have their own idea that what exactly they want to do in research. What can you hope even from premier institute's students if students are even not self motivated ?

3. All premier institutes like IITs, IIMs, JNU, Jadavpur Univ. etc. have their own policies. They admits the students on their own predefined specific topic(s) again on merit basis. This scenario is more harmful. If IITs cann't force and/or help students to have their own topic, then what can you expect from other institutes.

4. The only difference between IITs, IIMs and So called 'Some Universities' in the article is premier institute force them to work on a forced topic while 'Some Universities' even not force them to do so. In both cases, candidate is getting a degree without his own thinking/idea. What corporate world can hope from these Drs. ?

At one point I am totaly un-agree with Goel sir. If a University is providing part time degree in 3-4 years, How can anyone claim that it will be always of low standard. Sorry to goel sir and earlier commentors, but there are number of students taught eminent faculties like bhattacharyya sir, sahani sir, kaul sir, etc who had done half (even more) of their work of Ph.D. even before regietering for the same anywhere. If someone has his maiden/own idea, He may complete his Ph.D. even before the regular students being in part time mode.

One more point I want to make clear, one commentor raised the issue that most of Ph.D. students are those who could not get job in corporate. I had an earlier experience of same kind:

On placement day, WIPRO didn't allowed us (M.Tech. Students) to sit in placement test. Seeing sad faces of friends, I went to the HR and asked why we are not allowed for that while B.Tech. students were allowed. Just Listen his answer:
"We assume that M.Tech. holders are not capable for the job. If they are capable, why didn't they got job after B.Tech ?"
I again argued, "Sir, what about those who have done M.Sc., M.Tech ?"
He Again replied :
"Its the worst case, if not, why they were not selected even in B.Tech ?"

Then in continuation, he said that corporate is the choice of top quality students while academic career is the choice of second grade students, companies are ready to par more and more to talent" .

I politely asked, "Then, Sir what is your grade in academic record ?"
He replied, "I was just second class student"
I quickly bouncered, "Sir I am overall 75% above, May be I am wrong as I have academics as first choice, but corporate has done a great mistake choosing you as a HR as they should have only first class. and sir, you have done even biggest mistake by choosing corporate world, because you proved your own statement wrong."

The point in the story is, Yes It is true that most of intelligent mind is moving for corporate but it never means that academic is talent less. After all we are only generating that talent. So please stop saying and comparing both.

At last, I would request to seniors (both in academic and corporate) that if you want some great change, you have to become change. Change the policy of forcing students during the most prestigious degree. Force them to create their own idea. Come together to let them know what is current/future's demand from them. But never force them to think in your suggested way.

Don't compare Ph.D. with time, compare it with originality and creativity. Research means Re-Search. So let them re-search in their own way. Definitely Senior members also have to work hard to get in touch with novel areas, but that is what can create the quality.

Regards
Manish Kuamr Gupta
(A student of Prof. A B Bhattacharyya)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

sir
thanks for all the things which are been said here.Being myself a twenty six year old masters in microelectronic engg getting it very difficult to realize how to take an initiative for phd in core electronic field.Because we all the indian are aware about the fact the we highly depend on developed nation for our core component.Whether it's matter of fabrication of ic or the cryogenic engine of rocket or even it's ic engine of a car we have to depend on other country. If at some point they stop supplying them to us then tata motors(on of the indian car manufacturer)will shut down all the production plant.All though it is not suppose happen because of economic reason, as we indians are the largest consumer of all the developing product.So my point is that why we people are not emphasizing on developing all these products on our own with the existing technology.After that we can go for modernize them and them cast effective by research. Then we indians will have lots of problem and will have the researcher in india to work on in new area.

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