India Needs More Engineering Doctorates, PM Fellowship to go a Long Way

Presently, each IIT produces on an average about 400 M.Tech students and about 50 PhDs per year in half a dozen engineering disciplines. This paints a gloomy picture with regard to the technology research in the country.This article is authored by Vinit Goenka Member -Governing Council CRIS , Ministry of Railways.


According to an OECD report, the US has at least twice as many Ph.D. graduates as Germany, its nearest rival. In 2014, 67,449 people graduated with a Ph.D. in the US, compared with 28,147 in Germany. Next in line is the United Kingdom, which just pips India into third place with 25,020 Ph.D. graduates. India had 24,300.(Source World Economic Forum).

Only 77,798 candidates are pursuing Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D.) in India across subjects from humanities to commerce and medicine to agriculture. (Source TOI). More than the number, the quality of education being imparted to the students is more alarming. 

In fact, the quality of higher education especially at the doctorate level has consistently depleted in the last couple of decades, primarily because of lack of infrastructure and trained guides who can direct the researchers in the right direction. Lack of monetary support to the students at the crucial level of their research has played a pivotal role in discouraging people from taking subject researches seriously. 

In India, only 0.25 per cent of students enrolled at graduate level takes to Ph.D. in India and only half of the scholars submit their thesis to obtain a doctorate. The rate of women’s enrollments in higher education drops from 42 per cent at the graduate level and 40 per cent at the post-graduate level to 34 per cent at the research level.    

The central government has already announced that it will provide comprehensive support including financial assistance to science students to pursue Ph.Ds in IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and IISc (Indian Institute of Science).

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that the Prime Minister Research Fellowship scheme for 1,000 BTech students for pursuing Ph.D. courses at IITs and IISc will help convert brain drain into brain gain.

As per reports, the Union Cabinet approved the scheme at a cost of Rs 1,650 crore for a period of seven years, beginning in 2018-19. 

The scholars will be paid Rs 70,000 a month during First two years, Rs 75, 000 per month During the third year and Rs 80,000 per month Fourth and the fifth year.

The programme envisioned by the Prime Minister and announced by the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar seems to go a long way in tapping the talent pool of the country for carrying out research indigenously in cutting-edge science and technology domains. 

The move will also strengthen the country’s industrial growth and indigenous researchers will be capable of providing advanced and cost-effective technologies in time bound manner. This will not only save the time but also shines India’s image in the global competitive markets. 

In fact, most of the industrially advanced economies including the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union nations have self-sufficient researchers who impel industrial growth of their respective countries. 

Despite sharing similar political systems, India has lagged far behind in producing native scientists that have adversely effected the growth of infrastructure here resulting India’s lingered progress in providing quality sanitation facilities, potable water, electricity and roads to its people. Despite having technology boom and decent economic growth in recent years India could not pull off in the manufacturing sector, the weakest link in its developmental metric primarily due to lack trained, coherent local talent. 

This in some way or the other has covertly benefitted India’s fierce competitors.     

The Prime Minister Modi’s pet scheme will most likely address India’s national priorities at one hand while the shortage of quality faculty in premier educational institutions of the country on the other. The move will also reduce the brain drain from the country and may encourage brain gain in the long term. 

Just to put a comparison, India produced roughly 2.5 lakh engineers last year, which were much more in number than the US who produced around 70,000 but far less than China where more than six lakh engineers got graduated, although there is no independent verification about the numbers from the People’s Republic of China. These numbers are directly effecting the infrastructure and economic growth of these countries too. 

That may be the primary reason behind the BJP governments’ thrust to promoting technical education. Be it the center or various BJP ruled states, government pushing technical education institutes for providing education to the students. 

The record states that more than 1.5 lakh students appear for the Joint Engineering Exam (JEE) every year but only four thousand could qualify for the IITs, the premier technology colleges of the country. 

On the other hand, a state like California with a population of just four crores has ten University campuses imparting better or qualitatively equivalent education than the 20 IITs for 100 crore Indians. 

However, the current student-to-faculty ratio at many IITs is more like 10:1, which is a luxury, compared to the 20:1 in most of the US public universities. This clearly implies that IITs have potential to have swollen intakes of students. In fact, these institutes must shed dual degree programmes and focus on producing quality engineers. Comparatively Tshinghua University in China alone turns out more than 2,000 undergraduates in engineering, far more than any of Indian institute. 

The IITs have vast spaces and they must be utilised optimally. This is one way of exciting young minds about science since they will be in the same campus as top-notch scientists.

Fortunately, India has thousands of science colleges and country has produced B.Sc and M.Sc students in abundance ever since 1947, a few of whom moved on to attain PhD and before taking to the academia and education industry. Currently, India gets about 7,000 PhDs in science every year, including agricultural sciences, while engineering gets just a paltry 700-plus annually.

Presently, each IIT produces on an average about 400 M.Tech students and about 50 PhDs per year in half a dozen engineering disciplines. This paints a gloomy picture with regard to the technology research in the country.

To improve the situation, the IITs must modify their course structures and make a provision for the meritorious students to finish their MTech programme in one calendar year and move on to the Ph.D. stream quickly, thus getting the seamless postgraduate education leading to a Ph.D. degree.

In addition to that metropolitan cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad to have an aggressive, evening M.Tech programme for relevant industries. Students here are hungry for knowledge to move up the economic ladder. 

The Central government’s move to support one thousand B. Tech students with the Prime Minister Fellowship scheme is a welcome step aimed to provide thrust to subject-specific research in India. Being hopeful that the scheme is religiously implemented with the same amount of zest it was announced, the day is not far when India will be a knowledge super-power. 


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