Varsities told to cap PhD guides and check plagiarism

Universities may attract penalty, including a freeze of grants, if its teachers are found to be guiding more than eight PhD students at any given point in time as part of a drive to plug lacunae in research.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) will ask all universities to have anti-plagiarism software to ensure that the thesis papers reflect genuine research.

UGC secretary J.S. Sandhu last week wrote to vice-chancellors of 700-odd universities that the PhD regulations be strictly followed.

According to the regulations, a teacher can supervise eight PhD students and five MPhil students at any point in time. A university cannot engage teachers from other universities as the principal guide for its research scholars. But a teacher can be a co-supervisor for students of other universities.

The letter was prompted by several representations the UGC received about some institutions. "Many of these universities seem to be giving hundreds of PhDs every year without having the required faculty members," an UGC official said.

While conducting inspections, the UGC will ask universities to provide the number of research students being guided by each teacher. "In case of violation of norms, the UGC will take action. It could lead to blockage of funds," the official said.

Since many private universities and deemed universities are not getting funds from UGC, the regulator will write to the state governments for action. The state government can denotify such institutions, the official said.

The UGC will ask all the universities to run the theses through the anti-plagiarism software before awarding PhDs.

The step assumes significance against the backdrop of some agencies offering their services to research scholars to draft theses for them for a fee. Some of these agencies are known to have sought the help of teachers of various universities to prepare theses.

A group of teachers has set up a body called the Society for Scientific Values to fight the malpractice. Its vice president N. Raghuram, who teaches biotechnology at Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University here, has said he regularly receives - and rejects -- email from such agencies seeking his help to prepare theses.

"The UGC guidelines will be useful. But the guidelines should be incorporated into the rules and regulations of respective universities," Raghuram said.

Former UGC secretary R.K. Chauhan said that the measures announced by the UGC would deliver meaningful results if the regulator linked its guidelines to funding and recognition. "The UGC has the power to derecognise universities and courses. If they do so, the institutions and the teachers would not dare to violate the norms," Chauhan said.


The Telegraph India, New Delhi, July 14