UGC’s New PhD Admission Policy Sparks Controversy, Student Organizations Demand Repeal

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Critics Slam UGC Order as Threat to Academic Autonomy and Research Opportunities


Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India


NEW DELHI—
The University Grants Commission (UGC) finds itself embroiled in controversy following its recent directive on PhD admissions, prompting strong opposition from student organizations calling for its immediate retraction. The order, issued on March 27, mandates PhD entrance exams to be based solely on NET scores, a move condemned by various student bodies, including the All India Students Association (AISA).


Sanjeet Kumar, General Secretary of AISA, denounced the UGC’s decision, stating, “This step poses a grave threat to the autonomy of educational institutions and jeopardizes students’ access to research opportunities.” Kumar emphasized concerns over the implications of the directive, particularly its impact on the quality and diversity of candidates admitted to PhD programmes.


The UGC’s order introduces several changes to the PhD admission process, including the introduction of a new category for admission solely based on PhD scores, alongside NET/JRF qualification. Additionally, the validity period of NET certificates has been reduced, and a greater emphasis has been placed on NET scores for PhD admissions, allocating 70% weightage to test scores and 30% to interviews.
Sanjeet Kumar, incoming General Secretary of ISA, criticized the directive for disregarding the importance of holistic evaluations in the admission process. “By mandating universities to admit PhD candidates solely based on NET scores, the UGC undermines the significance of comprehensive assessments,” Kumar remarked. “This approach risks marginalising candidates who may excel in other areas beyond standardised test performance.”


Opponents of the UGC’s order argue that it could exacerbate inequalities in access to higher education and research opportunities, particularly for students from marginalised backgrounds. The reliance on standardised test scores, they argue, fails to account for factors such as socio-economic background, diverse academic experiences, and research potential.


Moreover, critics warn of potential consequences for both public and private institutions, as the new policy could lead to increased pressure on universities to prioritise corporate interests over academic integrity. They caution against the erosion of academic autonomy and the commodification of education, urging the UGC to reconsider its approach to PhD admissions.


In response to mounting criticism, the UGC defended its decision, citing the need for standardised evaluation measures and streamlining the admission process. However, dissenting voices continue to advocate for a more inclusive and equitable approach to PhD admissions, emphasising the importance of preserving academic diversity and fostering research excellence. As debates over the future of PhD admissions unfold, stakeholders remain vigilant, advocating for policies that uphold academic integrity and promote equal access to research opportunities.

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