New Delhi: In a new rule that will affect all PhD students at the varsity, Delhi University has decided to grant doctorate degrees only after students provide proof of having published an article in a peer-reviewed journal.
According to an ordinance published on the university website, this rule came into being in August 2015. “A PhD student shall publish at least one research paper in a refereed journal before submission of the thesis and produce evidence for the same in the form of an acceptance letter or reprint,” a clause in the amended ordinances says, under the title ‘transitory provisions’.
However, students say this was uploaded on the website only in April or later. “Students who submitted their PhDs in March this year were not held up to this rule. We had read all the ordinances then and no such clause was there,” DU students who did not want to be named told The Wire. “The assistant in the university office said he had read this ordinance after it was uploaded on the website recently and then decided to follow it word by word.” When students asked the exam branch about why this rule had not been applied earlier, since it was passed in August, they were told “Jo ho gaya so ho gaya” (What’s done is done).
Those who want to submit their final thesis are now being stopped because of this new clause, which students say they were not even made aware of. Even their supervisors were surprised by these developments. To add to the confusion, students have also been informed of another amendment to the ordinances issued on February 12, 2016 (not yet on the website), where the clause on necessary publications is still there, but the paragraph on ‘transitory provisions’ stating that these rules are applicable to all students already registered in the PhD programme is missing.
When students asked about the changes made on February 12, the question was met by the department administration with “confusion”. “The departments should also be held accountable for this,” one of the students said. “If they had passed on all the information they had been sent by the university, many things could have been sorted out.”
“We knew that the UGC had at some point made a rule like this (about a necessary publication),” other students added. “But for us it is nearly impossible to both finish a PhD with extensive research and also work on a publication. Social science refereed journals are often booked for years. Even the referee process takes time.”
In the mean time, informal mechanisms have already formed to circumvent this clause. “After we went to the Board of Research Studies (BRS) office to ask if anything could be done about this, two men claimed to work for a university office approached us. They said we could get a publication confirmation for a peer-reviewed journal with an ISSN number within five days, we didn’t need to panic. It would cost 3,000 rupees for a 6,000 word article or 4,500 rupees for a 8,000 word article. This happened right outside the BRS office. It seemed like they were not doing this for the first time, they knew that research students are facing this problem. When one of us said paying was not the way to get a publication, they told us that then we should get ready to spend two more years at the university. They obviously knows how the system works.”
The gentlemen offering this service also said that students should take advantage of the fact that the university has not yet issued a list of journals that are acceptable. Students have also received text messages and emails with offers to publish their work. One particular online “peer-reviewed journal”, on being called, said they will publish articles on the payment of 600 rupees if you are a student and 750 rupees if you are faculty. The article will be published within a week, they said.
According to a report in The Hindu on Saturday, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has set up a committee to create an exhaustive list of journals, perhaps to try and counter such marketing initiatives. Headed by V.S. Chauhan, the committee is expected to finalise the draft list in about six weeks, said a senior UGC official.