University Grants Commission (UGC) has reversed the eligibility criteria for assistant professors in Universities. The UGC has decided to overturn its previous decision of mandating a Ph.D. degree for entry-level positions in colleges. Instead, the National Eligibility Test (NET), State Eligibility Test (SET), and State Level Eligibility Test (SLET) will continue to serve as the basis for recruitment.
The UGC introduced the Ph.D. requirement in 2018, directed all universities and colleges to implement it for recruitment purposes starting from July 2021. However, this decision faced criticism from faculty members across various universities. They argued that due to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, many candidates were unable to complete their Ph.D. studies. As a result, they appealed to the central government to reconsider and relax the eligibility criteria. In response to these concerns, the UGC announced in October 2021 that the implementation of the Ph.D. requirement would be deferred for another two years, until July 2023. However, the latest notification from the UGC reveals that the Ph.D. requirement has now been completely scrapped.
According to the amended regulations, as stated in the notification released on June 30, the minimum criteria for direct recruitment to the position of Assistant Professor in all Universities will be the NET/SET/SLET qualification. This move by the UGC is expected to provide relief to aspiring candidates who aspire to pursue a career in academics. However, it is important to note that the shortlisting criteria for the interview process may exceed the minimum standards set by the UGC, depending on the number of applications received in a specific discipline. This measure aims to ensure a manageable number of candidates for the interview stage.
It is essential to highlight that while a Ph.D. degree is no longer mandatory for assistant professor positions, it will still be required for promotion to associate professor level. This means that individuals joining as assistant professors without a Ph.D. will need to conduct high-quality research and obtain a Ph.D. to become eligible for promotion. This requirement is expected to enhance research outcomes in HEIs.
The amendment has been widely welcomed by education professionals, including Abha Dev Habib, an associate professor at Delhi University’s Miranda House College. Habib believes that the mandatory Ph.D. requirement would have disadvantaged candidates from marginalized sections and increased the entry age into the profession. Additionally, universities would have faced challenges in filling vacant positions. With the UGC’s revised decision, these concerns have been effectively addressed.
The UGC’s decision to remove the mandatory Ph.D. requirement for assistant professors in higher education institutions and rely on the NET/SET/SLET qualification for recruitment is a significant step towards providing equal opportunities and flexibility for aspiring candidates while ensuring high research standards in HEIs.