New Delhi, Sept. 3: Premier Indian science and technology institutions plan to offer a bouquet of incentives from next year to lure bright undergraduates into PhD programmes to try and buttress the country’s research scene.
The move follows Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark in January that India’s relative position in the world of science had declined in the past few decades and the country had been overtaken by China.
The human resource development ministry has set up an empowered committee that is considering several proposals to see if they can be implemented from the next academic year, sources said. Among the suggestions are:
Join PhD early
The five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) — in Calcutta, Pune, Bhopal, Mohali and Thiruvananthapuram — want to let their students join the four-year PhD programme a year before they complete the integrated five-year MSc course.
“This means a student can complete the MSc and PhD together in eight years (instead of nine),” IISER Mohali director N. Satyamurthy said. He said the IISERs want to produce 1,000 PhDs every year, a target they hope to reach within the next five years.
IIT offer I
The Indian Institutes of Technology have proposed making two offers to bright third-year BTech students from the National Institutes of Technology (NITs):
Come to the IITs and do your fourth year here.
Join our PhD programme directly after completing the four-year BTech course (that is, without having to earn a master’s). These proposals has come from a committee headed by IIT Bombay chairman Anil K. Kakodkar.
IIT BTech graduates can already join the PhD programme directly — if they earn an “assistantship” (a scholarship) based on their Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) scores or secure eight out of 10 in the Cumulative Performance Index.
IIT offer II
The Kakodkar committee noted that only one per cent of IIT BTech graduates join the PhD programme. After graduation, most IIT students take up private-sector jobs, which they secure easily during the campus placements in February-March.
To tempt them into taking up research instead, the IITs are considering offering them direct PhD admission in December — in the middle of their fourth year.
“Once a student gets a job offer, he loses interest in further study and research. The idea is to attract the students before campus placements,” IIT Guwahati director Gautam Barua said.
The Kakodkar panel noted that the seven older IITs now produce about 1,000 PhDs a year. It said the 16 IITs should aim to raise the number of PhDs to 10,000 a year over the next 10 years.
The ministry’s empowered committee is also looking at how the IITs can increase the number of their teachers from around 500 each to 1,200, and how each institute can double its student strength from the current 6,000 to 12,000.
The Bangalore-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which focuses on research, has adopted the “tenure track” appointment policy followed by most leading US universities.
Under this system, newly appointed faculty members have to publish research papers to get tenure, among other things. If their research output is not satisfactory, they are denied tenure.
“The research output is evaluated by eminent experts regularly,” NCBS professor Sumantra Chattarji said.
He said several bright scientists from abroad had expressed interest in joining Indian research institutes. “Funding for research in India has gone up in recent years while it is going down in the US,” he explained.
The Kakodkar panel has suggested a tenure track recruitment policy for the IITs too but, Barua said, opinion is divided because such a system may slow down recruitment.
Centres of excellence
Higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) has plans to set up centres of excellence in science and mathematics education at leading institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
The human resource development ministry plans to set up 50 “research parks” under the 12th Plan (2012-17). One such park has been set up at IIT Madras. The proposal is under the Planning Commission’s scanner, sources said.
A research park promotes research and development in partnership with industry to aid the growth of new industrial ventures.
In July, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) decided to sponsor 100 PhD students every year in the labs of the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research “by giving them assistantships”.
“Our executive council has decided that the AICTE should take an active role in promoting research,” council chairman S.S. Mantha said.