There may not many buyers for the University Grants Commission’s latest fatwa on PhD admission, specifically the directive to all universities to admit PhD students on the basis of two central entrance tests. Universities will thus be deprived of the prerogative to hold their own admission tests. The other point of cavil must be that standards are not uniform across the country, and the common admission tests can’t be another vacuous instance of what they call a one size-fits all praxis.
Furthermore, individual universities will lose their autonomy to decide the specific requirements that students ought to meet in order to gain admission to PhD courses. The draft regulation offers scope to bachelor’s degree holders to enroll directly in PhD programmes, subject to certain qualifications. Another UGC embroidery is that every degree college will be entitled to offer PhD courses. In parallel, the eligibility criterion for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) has been relaxed.
They will be at a par with Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC). Under the 2016 regulations, a general category candidate needed to have scored 50 per cent in his/her Master’s to be eligible for PhD admission, whereas SC, ST and OBC students required 45 per cent.
The UGC will be entitled to hold a single PhD entrance test through which all universities and colleges must fill 40 per cent of their PhD seats in every subject. The rest of the 60 per cent seats will be filled on the basis of students’ scores in the National Eligibility Test that is held mainly for the post of assistant professors.
Hitherto, all universities were free to conduct their own entrance tests for their PhD programmes. However, they had the option of admitting an unspecified number of students directly, provided they scored well in the National Eligibility Test. “Sixty per cent of the total number of vacant seats shall be filled from NET/JRF qualified students and the remaining 40 per cent through the university/common entrance test qualified students on the basis of interviews conducted by the university concerned,” state the draft UGC regulations 2022, which will replace the earlier regulations of 2016.
Thus will the UGC’s control of an individual university be reinforced. Hitherto, the universities adopted only certain fundamental parameters stipulated by the UGC, notably the holding of an entrance test and an interview, not to forget the implementation of quotas. Additionally, the campuses had their own rules to define the selection procedure. And should the draft regulations be adopted, the scope for universities to apply additional criteria for selecting students becomes uncertain.
The draft proposes that besides universities, every college ~ autonomous or affiliated ~ should be permitted to admit PhD students. At present, the universities alone can admit such students. But these institutions of higher learning can ask their affiliates to provide research facilities to some of their scholars.