New Delhi, November 16 : While there has been 85 per cent growth in the number of doctorates in China between 1991 and 2001, India has shown only 20 per cent growth. Further, not more than 1 per cent of those who complete undergraduate degrees opt for doctoral studies in India, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has said.
In a letter to the Prime Minister written last week, Sam Pitroda, Chairman NKC, has urged for a ‘mission approach’ to draw students to research and academics against this dismal backdrop. Calling for a target to triple the research base in the country within the next 12 years, Pitroda has recommended that a national research mission be established in the current five-year plan under the National Science and Engineering Research Board that will soon be set up.
The commission has called for a series of academic reforms for more ‘professional administration of universities’, de-politicisation of the appointments of VCs and registrars, and administrative autonomy. To make research an attractive career option, introduction of well-planned four-year course to enable direct entry into PhD programmes, credit portability across a network of institutions, increased funding for R&D, improved teacher training at school-level, effective monitoring and assessment mechanisms have been suggested.
“There is a pressing need for urgent Government policy interventions, including high priority initiatives to attract, nurture, and retain the country’s best young minds in academia and research. With this objective, the NKC conducted a widespread investigative survey across the country and abroad. While the NKC welcomes the augmented allocation for education in the Eleventh-Five Year Plan, it is important that these funds are effectively utilised to make a visible difference in our academic landscape,” Pitroda has written in his letter to the PM.
As part of the NKC’s survey, a detailed questionnaire was sent to institutions and more than 250 people responded to it. A one-day workshop was held where prominent members from diverse industries, academic and research institutions and universities deliberated on these issues.
The NKC has recommended urgent ‘regulatory reforms’ in higher education, reducing regulation while improving governance — a key recommendation made repeatedly by the commission but one that has not gone down well with the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry.
Pitroda has called for major academic reforms, greater autonomy for departments within universities to introduce new relevant courses, encouragement and rewards for innovation in teaching and research, greater flexibility and increased funding for university departments to recruit and retain good faculty from across the world, periodic peer reviews of departments in the universities and encouraging recruitment of capable and talented younger faculty.
The NKC has pointed out that a rejuvenation of doctoral programmes is necessary with a careful selection procedure for prospective doctoral students and greater exposure of undergraduate and postgraduate students to cutting edge research.
To ensure high quality of doctoral work, the NKC has suggested that a preliminary vetting of synopses, followed by rigorous external examination of doctoral theses, wider dissemination of research work through digital media in universities and research institutes and encouraging doctoral students to teach with remuneration provided via teaching assistantship would help create a global doctoral quality.
The commission feels that joint collaborations with global research institutes and establishing meaningful links with NRI/PIO scientists could help give global cutting edge to Indian research quality.
See Also: Towards a Knowledge Society: Three Years of the National Knowledge Commission