Odisha: Higher Education Council proposes to do away with NET. Here's why

OURIIP has two components — a research fellowship worth Rs 15,000 each in nine subjects to 175 PhD candidates and seed funding of Rs 7 lakh each for 40
Pic only for representational purpose (Pic credits: Express)
Pic only for representational purpose (Pic credits: Express)

The University Grants Commission's (UGC) National Eligibility Test (NET) may no longer be mandatory for PhD students to avail research funding from the Government of Odisha.

The Odisha State Higher Education Council (OSHEC) has proposed the Higher Education department to do away with NET eligibility criteria for research funding under its Odisha University Research and Innovation Incentivisation Plan (OURIIP) to draw more students towards research.

Launched on November 14, 2018, OURIIP has two components —  a research fellowship worth Rs 15,000 each in nine subjects to 175 PhD candidates and seed funding of Rs 7 lakh each for 40 young faculty members (below 45 years of age and having a PhD) working in state universities and colleges, every year. For the fellowship component, only top-ranking NET qualifiers are currently eligible.

However, four years after being launched by the department, the OURIIP continues to face bottlenecks in attracting students for research fellowships. Stating that only about 40 to 50 PhD candidates are getting the research fellowship every year, official sources in the council attributed the roadblock to UGC-NET. They said only a minuscule number of aspirants are clearing the NET every year.

According to reports, while a good number of students are clearing NET in Odia subject, it is roughly around 30% in Botany but only three to four% in other subjects of Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, Biotechnology, Mathematics, Statistics, Geography and Geology.

Principal secretary of the Higher Education department Bishnupada Sethy said there is a need to strengthen the OURIIP scheme. "Because we have not touched the target of 175 research fellows so far. Accordingly, we have sought suggestions from the council on amendments to the eligibility criteria to rope in more students into research. I am sure the Higher Education Minister Rohit Pujari ji will agree to whatever amendments that have been proposed," he said on the sidelines of the Odisha Research Conclave on Monday, November 14.

Once approved, while NET-qualified candidates will be given the first preference for a research fellowship, the second preference would be given to students who have either enrolled or are pursuing full-time PhD at any public university or state government-run institute of higher education in Odisha.

As far as seed funding for young faculty members is concerned, Vice-Chairman of OSHEC Ashok Das said in the last three years 120 young faculty members were provided with the funds and currently, 116 of them are researching as the remaining four either quit to join Central universities elsewhere or other jobs.

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