The HRD Minister’s recent announcement making the doctorate degree mandatory for assistant professors and discontinuing the NET as an eligibility criterion proves a double blow to teacher aspirants in universities.
THE MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCE Development (MHRD) made a number of new announcements in June and July in pursuit of reforms in the recruitment process of teachers in colleges and universities. Coincidentally, the announcements came when most of the colleges and universities were busy admitting students for the new academic session. It started with the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar’s announcement on June 13 that the doctorate degree would be mandatory at the time of entry as an assistant professor in universities. This announcement came as a formal approval of the MHRD to the signing of the University Grants Commission (UGC)’S draft regulations in February 2018 for the appointment of teachers in universities and colleges. The Minister also stated that the National Eligibility Test (NET) would no longer be an eligibility criterion for teacher aspirants in universities. These announcements prompt one to look into the eligibility criteria for the recruitment of teachers and the changes those criteria have gone through over time.
NATIONAL ELIGIBILITY TEST
The NET was started in 1984 for providing research fellowships to doctoral students. In 1990, it was also made an eligibility test for lectureship in colleges and universities. Since then, the NET has been conducted in humanities by the UGC and in science by the UGC jointly with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The test initially had a mixture of objective and subjective type questions, but became a solely objective type test in the multiple choice question (MCQ) pattern in June 2012. This change drew severe criticism from academics on the grounds that it would judge only possession of information about a subject rather than indepth knowledge. The MCQ pattern in its present form would not be able to examine analytical skills, an integral part of teaching at the college and university level. The NET, which a postgraduate degree student can pass even at the time of appearing for the final semester (or year), remains an eligibility criterion and requires much lesser time than completing a doctorate degree. Under the new UGC regulation of 2009, a doctorate degree would require BY
a minimum of two years to complete from any university; research students need to undergo moderate yet compulsory coursework for at least one semester as per the regulations. The time taken for the admission process into the doctoral programme and, finally, the evaluation of the doctoral thesis would add up to a year or so.
As per a UGC notification of 2006, the M.phil degree was made an alternative to the NET as an eligibility criterion for teaching in colleges at the undergraduate level. However, the doctorate degree remained an eligibility criterion for teaching undergraduate or postgraduate courses in colleges and universities respectively. Following the 2006 notification, the M.phil course was introduced in many State universities in subjects that did not previously have one. Earlier, as per the UGC notifications of 2000 and 2002, completion of an M.phil or a doctorate degree would have made a candidate eligible to appear for interviews in college and university teaching jobs with some cut-off dates of qualifying for those degrees. An M.phil degree by December 31, 1993 and a nearly completed doctorate degree, having submitted the doctoral thesis by December 31, 1993, subject to successfully clearing the evaluation process, could substitute the NET as a criterion. For the doctorate degree, however, the cut-off date was extended up to December 31, 2002, in the UGC notification of 2002. Given the three alternatives—net, M.phil or doctorate degree—under consideration, a candidate with a doctorate degree would obtain a higher score in the calculation of his academic performance in interviews conducted by State governments or their recruitment agencies.
Aspiring postgraduates were inclined to take up the M.phil course in universities as it was the easiest to complete among the alternatives. An M.phil course requires just one year of coursework and thereafter, submission of a dissertation under the guidance of a university teacher. This dissertation could also form the background for the broad-based research work to be pursued by the candidate when registering for a doctor-