IITs may introduce 'preparatory programme' to attract more SC, ST, OBC candidates for PhD

Data released by the MHRD (now MoE) in early 2019 showed that most of the PhD seats reserved for students belonging to SC and ST categories have been vacant for years
IIT Delhi
IIT Delhi

The IITs may soon have a 'preparatory programme' to ensure that more candidates from the reserved categories take up research. This was recommended by a Ministry of Education committee headed by IIT Delhi Director Dr Ramgopal Rao. It had also recommended starting a scheme of Research Assistantships for aspiring reserved category candidates for a period of two years. However, it also notes that the IITs will not be obliged to select these students and the admission will be based on merit. 

"During this period they will be exposed to the IIT/IISc/IISER system of research and teaching, do focused work on their targeted research areas along with a faculty. After and during this internship, they may seek admission to regular PhD programmes subject to the selection process, as per the rules of the Institute," reads the committee report. Data released by the MHRD in early 2019 showed that most of the PhD seats reserved for students belonging to SC and ST categories have been vacant for years. Prior to that, a study by the Students Federation of India (SFI) also showed that 14 out of 23 IITs had not fulfilled reservation norms for SC, ST and OBC students from  2015-16 to 2019-20. 

The course credits that the students earn during the preparatory programme, the committee says, can be considered and transferred to their regular PhD programme to their benefit, if admitted, as per the rules of the Institute. "This approach is also expected to help them in pursuing and completing their PhD when admitted, within a shorter duration as they acquired proficiency in their research area during the preparatory period. So there would be no time toss for deserving candidates," the report reads. If implemented, it will be funded by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment or the MHRD (now MoE). 

The report also notes that the enrollment of reserved category students in the PhD program is low and needs to be addressed. "Consistent with their low enrollment numbers, the number of PhDs graduating from reserved category and interested in pursuing research and teaching as a career  choice is low. This is severely limiting the number of reserved category candidates available to be hired as faculty in the IIT system," it reads.

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