Published: 16th December 2022
Perils of research: What is the state of employment for doctorates and post-doctorates in India?
Professors and scholars opine on the state of employment of scholars after completing their PhDs and post-doctorates in the country
“PhD is an opportunity but does not guarantee a job,” says Dr Mandeep Singh, the Vice President of All India Research Scholars Association (AIRSA). A doctorate is the highest degree an individual can hold in this country; however, the struggle of employment search that follows has been a challenge for many.
According to a 2018 Economics Times report, around 3,700 PhD-holding candidates applied for a peon position in Uttar Pradesh. Another The Times of India article reported in 2021 that over 3,000 candidates enrolled for work under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). So what is happening, and why is the situation so grim for those with such high qualifications?
Pankaj Srivastava, a PhD holder in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering from the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela, has been struggling to find a suitable job for the last six months. He completed his graduation in mechanical engineering and his master's in automobile engineering. "Interdisciplinary studies are not entertained in government colleges here. Additionally, no postdoctoral opportunities are available due to a lack of funds," says Pankaj. There are thousands like Pankaj in search of employment opportunities after their PhD degrees. "I will have to resort to finding a job in the corporate world if I get no opportunity in academia. But the pay there will be of graduate level, unfortunately," adds Pankaj.
As per the All Indian Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) report 2019-2020, 38,986 students were awarded PhD in 2019. Times Now reports that as per The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), India ranks fourth by the number of doctoral degrees awarded. However, the number of employment opportunities available for these doctorates is abysmally low. "Those who pursue PhD usually aspire for an academic or research position, but the scope for that has reduced. Even if one finds a job opportunity, it is usually in a private institute where the environment is not conducive for research, and they end up getting exploited,” says Kesab Bhattacharya, the president of All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO).
Professor Manas Maity of Visva-Bharati University (VBU) concurred with the views of Prof Bhattacharya and said, "The condition of academia is not very encouraging. There are not enough positions in colleges to absorb the number of all those who pursue a PhD degree. Additionally, research positions have reduced over the years, and the funding rules hamper the research ecosystem.” Professor Maity is one of the star professors of VBU who was part of the international research team that discovered the Higgs-Boson particle in 2012 and has guided many PhD students in the last 12 years. Nevertheless, he insists that the situation varies depending on the subject pursued. He says, “Since my subject trains a student in computing, they land top-level industry and corporate jobs. Again, there is a section that does great work in research and shines in the field.”
Jadavpur University Professor Subhajit Naskar insists that the government has a big role to play in the employment opportunities that are available in the country for researchers today. Further, he states that the MPhil getting scrapped will become a roadblock for marginalised students who wish to pursue research, and the cap set on every professor for how many students they can guide adds to the limitations. “Delhi University has 1,000 seats vacant, but nothing is done to fill the post up,” adds Prof Naskar.