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No PhD, MPhil at open universities, says UGC

Kaustubh Kulkarni  |  Pune 

It had announced three years ago that these degrees would be considered as an option to NET or SET

In a setback to the country’s 14 open universities, the University Grants Commission, or UGC, has barred them from conducting research programmes, namely PhD and MPhil.

Pointing out the declining quality of research projects in a “distance learning” system, UGC has stopped registration for PhD and MPhil programmes at all the 14 open universities, including the India Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

This has sparked angry reactions from academics and students attached to open universities who believe the “declining quality of research” is a national concern and not confined to open universities.

Three years back, UGC had announced that degrees like MPhil and PhD would be considered as an option to the National Eligibility Test (NET) or State Eligibility Test (SET) for recruitment of full-time teachers at colleges. After this announcement, thousands of students registered for MPhil and PhD programmes at open universities. So it has come as a surprise that UGC has not only revoked this decision but also banned research projects at open universities. A notice to this effect has been put up on UGC’s website.

Speaking to Business Standard over the phone from New Delhi, a top UGC official said: “We expect research projects to be taken very seriously and that seems difficult in a distance learning system. A research fellow needs to be in regular touch with the guide and library and therefore we have decided that open universities cannot conduct MPhil and PhD programmes. Open universities allow research in arts, commerce and streams and not in science. Over the years, we have observed a continuous decline in the quality of research projects at these universities.”

Expectedly, officials at open universities are unhappy. More than 9,000 research projects are already going on at different open universities and most of them are MPhil programmes.

Chandrakant Bhonjal, head of virtual learning centre at the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, said UGC’s decision was unfortunate. “A large number of students pursuing PhD even at state universities do not meet the guide every day. For subjects in arts, commerce and streams, there is no laboratory work. Hence, UGC should not differentiate between research projects at an open university and those at any other state university.”

An official at the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth echoed Bhonjal’s sentiments. “Has UGC done some survey or study that suggests that research projects completed at open universities are below standard while the ones completed at state as well as private universities are excellent? UGC needs to look at the standards of research across all universities,” he said. “We will challenge this move, which is discriminatory to open universities.”

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First Published: Mon, August 10 2009. 00:44 IST