PhD mandatory or not? Academicians divided on UGC’s eligibility criteria for appointment of assistant professors

As per UGC’s latest rule, a PhD degree will be mandatory for all those who wish to join university departments as assistant professors from 2023 onwards.

A debate was triggered earlier this month when Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that making PhD degree mandatory for the post of assistant professor at universities is “not favourable” in the current education system.

The statement directly contradicted the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) decision to make PhD degree a mandatory qualification for direct recruitment to the post of assistant professor in departments of universities. The rule was to be implemented this year but the date of applicability was extended from July 1, 2021, July 1, 2023 “because of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Consequently, those who want to join as an assistant professor from 2023 onwards will have to mandatorily have a PhD degree.

Former vice-chairman of UGC, Bhushan Patwardhan, told that PhD should not be made mandatory as it is a research degree and not every teacher is interested in research.

“PhD degrees should be pursued out of curiosity and not compulsion. Assistant professors teach at the undergraduate level where a knack for teaching is more important than a research background. Besides, if they want, they can pursue PhD during 5-6 years of their tenure as assistant professors,” he said.

Waiving off this condition, said Patwardhan, is subject to a robust system for teachers’ selection. “Over the last two decades, a huge number of poor quality teachers, who acquired PhDs for compliance, have entered the system because the degree holders were given preference during the selection processes. There needs to be a strong mechanism to select dedicated teachers and timely review of their performances to improve the quality of higher education,” he added.

However, Santosh K Singh, associate professor of Sociology at Postgraduate Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh, said that PhD should be mandatory as “there needs to be a quality benchmark”.

“It opens up new avenues for people who are deeply interested in research but also want to impart that knowledge. Besides, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 will pave the path for introducing UG students to the basics of research. Hence, it becomes imperative to have teachers who are well-equipped research,” Singh said.

He further added that PhD is being made mandatory only for those joining university departments but recruits who will teach in colleges have been provided with relaxation, which is “creating a false binary in the education system”.

“Assistant professors in both colleges and university departments draw the same salary, then why should their qualification requirements be different? Several assistant professors start their PhDs while working but leave midway because it is not a necessity as per the current rules. Making PhD mandatory will only reinforce the fact that teaching is not an easy job and only dedicated candidates must enter the field,” he added.

Delhi University Teachers’ Association president Rajib Ray said the extension in implementation of UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education), Amendment Regulation, 2021 is a relief for adhoc teachers working in university departments.

“We had highlighted the issue on August 14 when the Delhi University had advertised 251 posts with mandatory PhD qualification. Then we met the UGC officials on September 15, after which the official notification regarding the amendment was released. Making PhD mandatory for appointment and promotions amid a global pandemic makes no sense,” he said.

Unlike UGC, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has taken a different route in trying to “improve the quality of teachers”. The council in the academic year 2020-21 made a one-year teacher training course mandatory for all teachers joining technical institutes.

“In most of the technical institutions in the country, fresh graduates with MSc, MTech, MBA or PhD degrees are recruited as teachers without any training and are left to fend for themselves with an expectation that they will become competent teachers by trial and error. One should also have the requisite teaching skills needed to scientifically plan for instructional delivery and communicate the knowledge to the students. Hence, instead of making an educational qualification mandatory, the council pin-pointed the problem and did a timely intervention,” Rajive Kumar, Member Secretary, AICTE told

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