Recently, I had a discussion with some colleagues about faculty recruitment and thought I would share some of these points. I saw that there was a discussion on one of these topics, API (academic performance indicators), proposed to assess faculty in universities, in the SciForum in January but I am not sure how the other topics I want to discuss will fit in with that so I am covering all these in this post and inviting comments.
1) Following up on the earlier equivalence issue: it appears that the reason for asking for this equivalence certificate is actually a logical one based on the reality of today’s situation. People are returning with all sorts of degrees from countries that were typically not considered higher education destinations. Moreover, fraud is always rearing its ugly head everywhere as people float illegitimate institutions to lure students and cheat them. To try and determine whether these degrees are legitimate, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has asked the Association of Indian Universities to evaluate people’s degrees and transcripts to issue equivalence certificates if these are found to be legitimate and equivalent to the corresponding degrees in India.
However, the AIU does not deal with the equivalence issues for professional fields like medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy etc because of which people from these fields cannot be judged to be equivalent to Indian graduates in these fields! This means that people from these fields cannot apply to government jobs in universities or institutes; only private universities that can be approached and are probably already flouting other UGC rules will be willing to flout this one too and hire such people. Neither UGC nor AIU deal with this issue right now so tough luck trying to deal with university authorities if they insist on equivalence certificates!
2) Master’s degree requirements: Based on the reality of this country’s higher education with STIPULATED times of 2 years for Master’s and 3 years for PhD degrees, the UGC has recommended that faculty candidates have a minimum Master’s degree to apply for Professor positions (assistant and above). The government has been inviting many Indian scientists to return to India to participate in teaching and research. Like many of my colleagues were telling me, PhD programs in the USA often ask for a minimum Bachelor’s degree besides the GPA and GRE scores for admission into their programs.
As Bachelor’s programs in the USA last for 4 years, either one has to have done a 4-year Bachelor’s course here in India (professional courses like the ones AIU doesn’t touch are typically for 4 years) or do a 3-year BSc + 2-year MSc to fulfill the minimum 4-year requirement. Many PhD programs in the USA then offer the option of getting a Master’s degree when the requirements are met and register again for a PhD or exit with a Master’s.
But otherwise, students who have entered the PhD program and have qualified, go straight through to finish with a PhD degree after 5+ years that include at least 2 years of coursework, several qualifiers to become a PhD candidate and research to submit and defend the thesis. In spite of this, because UGC asks for the Master’s degree certificates, these people will not be considered for faculty positions in Indian universities related to the central and state universities even though they have the higher PhD degrees!
3) API: While guiding students and publishing research form the core of higher education and research, the UGC has assigned points to the programs in which the students have registered. For instance, guiding PhD and M.Phil students carries points. But in many universities, MSc students also do research for a certain period of time and submit theses. The universities that have this requirement do this with the noble intention of trying to inculcate project-based experience instead of just theoretical knowledge. Guiding these MSc students is not an insignificant demand on faculty members’ time. In another (private) university, a colleague mentioned that there was the degree called Master’s (by research) which is supposed to be a 2-year course with the same coursework requirements as the 3-year-long PhD programs and full-time research to submit theses in the end.
In fact, apparently the MS by research students pay fees that are only slightly lower than those of the PhD candidates, their course is supposed to be 2 years long (vs. 3 years for PhD), they should have a minimum C grade in each course they take (PhD students can have overall C) and they have to have communicated a research paper to a journal (PhD students should have one publication for their degree). But this degree is not recognized by the UGC! So both the students and the faculty guiding these students won’t be acknowledged for their time and efforts!
There is so much randomness and chaos in this country that it is appalling that policy makers did not take into account the concept of standardization and try to regulate things from the beginning in such a way that implementation and policy would effectively use the vast human resources in this country (nowadays even USA and other countries are looking into changing their immigration laws to retain trained people, especially the ones they trained). People quote the rule book blindly when they should look in depth and throw the rule book out of the window at other times.
Even appearing so incompetent and disorganized should be declared a punishable crime and this in a society where people are always occupied with appearances! My advice to scientists who are still trying to make up their minds about returning to India is don’t just listen to the talks; read the writing on the wall and in the UGC and the nation’s research bodies’ regulations before you make the leap. You can't go by the promise of funding alone if the work and social culture won’t help you.