Last month, several PhD scholars at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, who overstayed on campus for over five years (the stipulated time for completion of their research work) were asked to vacate hostels due to shortage of space. This was done to accommodate undergraduate students.
The question is, could IIT Bombay have avoided such a situation? In her response, the institute’s public relations officer, Falguni Banerjee Naha, says: “The situation will improve further once construction of new hostels is completed.”
One thing, however, is clear: Inadequate infrastructure is getting to be a major hurdle in the way of IITs wanting to accommodate fellows and undergraduates under one roof. At most of the institutes, research scholars are given an extension to stay on campus on a case to case basis.“In principle, we provide accommodation on campus for all research scholars. Owing to a temporary shortage of rooms, about 18% of the research scholars volunteer to stay outside. They are given house rent allowance in addition to their stipend. Most of our scholars get jobs or post doctoral positions while they are completing their thesis and hence leave the hostel as soon as they have submitted their thesis. In some cases, the student stays on in the hostel, continuing to work on his/her research until the thesis defence,” says Professor Timothy A Gonsalves , director, IIT Mandi.
Experts agree that no predictions can be made about research work and the duration of a PhD can vary from three years to eight or sometimes even more. Hence, there is a generous cap of up to eight years on the PhD duration. However, the institute scholarship is paid for only five years. This compels scholars to finish early and vacate the hostel room.
“In cases where there is a good reason for taking more than five years, the faculty guide may pay the student from his/her research project (fund) . Some students opt to do teaching assistance for payment. As research scholars are older, more mature, and more focused on their research, they could be given the option of staying outside campus when there is a space crunch. For UG students, the residential nature of the BTech is an important part of their education,” Gonsalves adds.
At IIT Kharagpur, once scholars pay the semester fee, they can stay at the student hostel for the entire semester, irrespective of submission of thesis. For a scholar who has submitted thesis after the five year time-frame and it’s yet to be accepted, a three-month fellowship is offered and the scholar is provided accommodation in the guest room of the same hostel.
“One-month accommodation at the guest room is provided initially as an automatic extension after the semester is over without any registration. Beyond the first month, extension is given on a case to case basis. The institute is also reviewing the accommodation policy in order to make the facility even more flexible,” says Professor Manish Bhattacharya, dean, student affairs, IIT Kharagpur.