Discontinuation of MPhil may affect research at PhD level: Scholars
Students will now be allowed to take admission in PhD directly after postgraduation or a four-year undergraduate degree with research.
Academicians and research scholars in several Delhi universities have raised concerns over the discontinuation of the MPhil programme under the New Education Policy (NEP), saying that it will affect the quality of research at PhD level as well as put a question mark over the validity of degrees of the researchers who are currently pursuing the programme.
The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry on Wednesday announced the NEP under which the two-year M.Phil programme shall be discontinued. Students will now be allowed to take admission in PhD directly after postgraduation or a four-year undergraduate degree with research.
Academicians said that MPhil creates a “stronger base” for PhD. Moushumi Basu, an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, said, “In a University like JNU, which is research-based, MPhil is very useful. It provides research scholars with breathing space for learning skills. Most postgraduate programmes in our country do not provide students with opportunities to write independently. They mostly have term papers, and the jump from term papers to thesis writing is too big. MPhil helps settle people into the rigour of research.” JNU offers over 300 MPhil seats in various subjects.
Sheema Aleem, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in Jamia Millia Islamia said that students do pursue PhD without an MPhil, but the latter makes a “huge difference” in developing their understanding for research. “The main reason why we recommend an MPhil before PhD is because it helps students understand the research methodologies well. It is like a stepping stone towards a PhD,” she said.
Several academicians said that the master’s courses should be overhauled and more research components added. “Till now, MPhil has been playing the role of the first research-based degree. The universities will now have to completely change the structure of postgraduate courses by adding a research component at least for those who want to pursue a PhD in the future. Otherwise, the quality of PhD researches in the country will be compromised,” said Rekha Saxena, a professor at Delhi University’s Department of Political Science. DU offers around 200 MPhil seats in different subjects.
Several research scholars pursuing MPhil said that the government should issue some clarity over the validity of their degrees now. Anuj Borboruah, 25, a resident of Assam’s Tezpur and a first-year student of MPhil in law and governance at JNU, said that he has learned the basics of research in the last year only. “There was no focus on research in our master’s programme. MPhil has given me some time to think about how to explore my area of interest in research. But now I am really scared whether my degree will remain valid even after the discontinuation of the programme,” he said.
Kuldeep Singh, 28, a final-year MPhil scholar at Ambedkar University, said that discontinuation of the programme might reduce the number of job opportunities for many. “It was really shocking for me. I do not know if MPhil will help us get a job now. We will have to do a PhD even for applying for a teaching job. We just don’t know what’s going to happen now. The move will also affect the higher studies aspirations of students like me who cannot afford to pursue courses continuously and have to take breaks to work and earn,” he said.
Some academicians, however, said that the move will not make much difference. JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar said that the move will save students’ time. “The advantage of applying directly to PhD after MA and MSc is that they can do their course work in the first year and in the next two or three years, they can complete their research work. Under this system, students have the opportunity to complete their PhD within four years. It will save a lot of time,” he said.
Malabika Sarkar, the vice-chancellor of Ashoka University, said that MPhil does not hold any significance internationally. “Pursuing a PhD after completion of a master’s degree is better. It should be mandatory for students to complete a mini-thesis within five years of their undergraduate and postgraduate programmers before pursuing a PhD,” she said.
Meanwhile, confusion prevailed over admissions to the MPhil programmes this year. Almost all universities, including DU and JNU, have already received thousands of applications for admission to MPhil for the session 2020-21. Shobha Bagai, the dean of admissions in DU, said, “We are yet to get any clarity over admission to MPhil this year from the government. Till then we cannot stop accepting applications,” she said.
A spokesperson at MHRD said that a notification will be issued in this regard soon.