How to slip through the NET
Q: I am doing masters in history from Annamalai University through the open university stream (OUS) without completing my graduation. Will I be eligible to appear for NET conducted by the UGC for junior research fellowship (JRF) and lectureship? How tough is the exam?
— Mohammad Parvez
A: Yes, you can take the UGC’s National Eligibility Test (NET) which will qualify you for a junior research fellowship (JRF) as well as being recruited as a lecturer at a university or college.
As long as you have scored a minimum of 55 per cent in masters (50 per cent for SC / ST), from a university whose distance learning programmes are recognised by the distance education council, you can take a shot at this exam.
The upper age limit for JRF is 28, which is relaxable for certain categories. There is no upper age limit for lectureship.
NET is designed to test your in-depth knowledge of a subject, grasp of fundamental concepts, ability to commun- icate effectively, clarity of expression and teaching / research aptitude.
The overall pass percentage is not very high. You require systematic preparation based on the entire syllabus rather than selected readings.
You actually need to prepare for NET separately, revising your masters syllabus is not enough because there is considerable difference between the two syllabi.
The syllabus for all the subjects is available in the libraries of all Indian universities as well as on the website (www.ugc. ac.in). Model questions are listed in the syllabus.
You can also get these papers from the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, New Delhi.
NET is held twice a year, in June and December. The notifications appear in the Employment News and the national dailies in February and September respectively.
You can earn while you learn
Q: I am a postgraduate in zoology. Although I am interested in pursuing further studies, my family’s financial condition may not permit me to do so. I need to start earning right away.
— Name withheld
A: For those like you who are keen to pursue research, JRF is available for five years subject to fulfilment of certain conditions.
UGC has allocated a number of fellowships to the universities for candidates who qualify the JRF. JRFs are awarded to meritorious candidates from among those qualifying for lectureship. JRFs are available only to those NET candidates who opt for it in their application forms.
Since last year, the monthly fellowship has been increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 to encourage research. Similarly, the JRF / SRF (professional) fellowship has been increased from Rs 9,500 to Rs 14,000.
Future is where research is
Q: I did MSc in biology and have been assisting my father in running his lab. As I am interested in teaching, I’m wondering whether I should try for lectureship or research by taking NET. Is there an age limit? I am 28. Or should I opt for MBA?
— Ruchi Sharma
A: The CSIR NET is held in all major science subjects, such as chemical sciences; earth, atmospheric, ocean and planetary sciences; life sciences; mathematical sciences and physical sciences. The exam is conducted jointly with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi.
Sadly, although close to 2,000 fellowships (1,965 JRFs for June 08 NET) are offered to science students, relatively few students take to research or academics (although the number is slowly rising). Many of our brightest students head for management instead of research labs, lured by lucrative corporate jobs.
As a result, the number of PhDs has been dwindling despite the ever-increasing undergraduate enrolments.
The waning interest in research translates into the acute faculty crunch faced by most universities today. For a country of 1.1 billion people, only about 6,000 PhDs are awarded every year in India, compared to 25,000 in China and 15,000 in Brazil.
The consequences can be serious; we will remain a non-inventive society with slower prospects of growth.
While the age limit for JRF is 28 years (relaxed up to 5 years for SC / ST / OBC, physically handicapped / visually handicapped and female applicants), there is no upper age limit for lectureship.
And incidentally, JRF now pays quite well — Rs 14,000 (plus contingency funding). Those applying for lectureship can also avail JRF by enrolling for research projects that take in research fellows.
If research interests you, give it a shot by all means.
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