Explainer: What are UGC’s new PhD eligibility criteria?

UGC has drawn up new rules for PhD admission, eligibility and programme to bring them in line with NEP 2020. Here’s what changes.


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In the entire duration of the PhD programme, female candidates will be eligible for a maternity leave or child care leave for up to 240 days.  (Photo: Shutterstock)In the entire duration of the PhD programme, female candidates will be eligible for a maternity leave or child care leave for up to 240 days. (Photo: Shutterstock)

R. Radhika | November 15, 2022 | 03:17 PM IST

NEW DELHI: After proposing amendments to the existing guidelines for PhD programmes in March, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has now made extensive changes in regulations on PhD admissions.

As per the revised PhD eligibility criteria, candidates with a four-year undergraduate degree with a minimum 75% marks or its equivalent grade will be eligible for a PhD.

Such candidates can register after completing a one-year master’s programme after a four-year bachelor’s programme. Students who have completed a conventional three-year bachelor’s degree must complete a two-year master’s degree programme with at least 55% marks or its equivalent grade to be eligible.

Currently, several universities ask for MPhil dissertation for admission to PhD programmes, however, the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) does not endorse the degree. By scrapping MPhil, a preparatory degree for PhD programmes, in the new regulations UGC has aligned the admission requirements with the NEP 2020.

One of the primary changes is the scrapping of 2016 regulations that made publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed publication a requirement for a PhD. A section of students has called the step one that could “hamper academic rigour” as well as impedes inclusivity in higher education. Despite the relaxation, the All India OBC Students Association (AIOBCSA) has urged the backward class PhD aspirants to work on producing quality research papers.

The UGC has asked higher educational institutes to initiate steps to implement new PhD regulation on Monday.

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What are the changes in the PhD admission process?

The UGC has dropped the plan to reserve 60 percent of the total seats for applicants who have qualified the National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) or Junior Research Fellowship (JRF). Universities and colleges will admit students through the NET or JRF entrance route as well as institute-level entrance exams.

The institute-level entrance test, however, must assign 70% weightage to the entrance test scores and 30% to the performance in the interview or viva-voce. “The entrance test syllabus shall consist of 50% of research methodology, and 50% shall be subject specific,” the new guidelines state.

In the entire duration of the PhD programme, female candidates will be eligible for a maternity leave or child care leave for up to 240 days.

Can MPhil students apply for PhD?

Even though MPhil has been scrapped in the new regulations, the UGC has made provisions for PhD admissions for those who already have an Mphil degree. Candidates who have completed M.Phil. programmes with at least 55% marks in aggregate or its equivalent grade in a foreign educational institute will be eligible for admission to PhD programme in India.

A relaxation of 5% marks has been provided to students who belong to historically marginalised Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Castes communities. The same relaxation has also been given to differently-abled, and Economically Weaker Section (EWS) students as well.

How will research supervisors be allocated in PhD?

Like before, eligible professors, associate professors and assistant professors can continue to guide up to eight, six, and four PhD candidates respectively at any given time.

In case of interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research work, if required, UGC rules allow engaging a co-supervisor from outside the department, college or university.

Teachers with less than three years of service before superannuation will not be allowed to take new research scholars under their supervision. However, they can continue to supervise PhD scholars as co-supervisors before attaining the age of 70.

Earlier, teachers were allowed to take up MPhil students along with PhD scholars. After the new rules come into force, this will be discontinued. The new rules also allow supervisors to guide up to two international research scholars on a supernumerary basis “over and above the permitted number of PhD scholars”.

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What are the new PhD academic requirements?

A PhD scholar will have to earn a minimum of 12 credits which should include a course in “research

and publication ethics”. As per the latest UGC regulations, a PhD candidate will have to appear before a research advisory committee to make a presentation and submit a brief report on the progress for evaluation every semester. In case the progress is unsatisfactory, the committee will “record the reasons” and suggest corrective measures.

All scholars will mandatorily have to undergo training in teaching, education, pedagogy or writing related to their chosen PhD subject. For this, four to six weeks will be assigned to earn credits.

To retain research integrity, the UGC regulations also direct institutions to use “well-developed software” applications to detect plagiarism in research work. In 2018, the ministry of education had notified stringent measures to counter the long-standing issue of plagiarism in PhD thesis.

What are the part-time PhD UGC guidelines?

The eligibility conditions are the same for both full-time and part-time candidates. Like the former, the part-time candidates will also be assessed every semester.

In addition, the PhD candidates will also have to produce a no-objection certificate or NOC from their employer to be eligible. The NOC must specify that they will be given sufficient time for research work and they will be allowed to take time off to complete the course work.

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