Research projects

UGC halts research projects due to lack of Center funds

The University Grants Commission has stopped several research projects while some are dormant allegedly due to the Center’s lack of funds.

The major research project (MRP) of the higher education regulator UGC is an example of this. (See table)

According to the UGC’s annual reports, funding for the scheme has declined over the past five years as it has been declared ‘closed’.

The number of existing grantees has diminished as researchers complete their projects.

A retired academic has blamed poor research proposals for the drop in funding.

The UGC secretary has yet to respond to a question from this newspaper about the closure of projects.

The UGC website suggests that about half a dozen other research promotion programs have been dropped.

The website indicates as “closed” since 2017-18 several programs.

“Closed” programs listed include Emeritus Fellowship, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Postdoctoral Fellowship for Female Candidates, and Postdoctoral Fellowship for SC-ST Female Candidates. The national scholarship for Scheduled Caste students was also abolished in 2018-2019.

UGC provides financial assistance for research proposals received from tenured, regular, active or retired faculty from universities and colleges recognized under the MRP, enabling them to conduct in-depth studies in specific fields alongside in their regular employment or after retirement. .

Under the MRP, each beneficiary receives Rs 20 lakh for a science project and Rs 15 lakh for research in the humanities and social sciences. Research proposals are evaluated by experts before approval.

The Emeritus Fellowship Program offers retired teachers up to the age of 70 the opportunity to pursue active research in their respective areas of specialization. The fees for a scholarship holder are Rs 31,000 per month for two years, plus an annual contingency amount of Rs 50,000.

Hundreds of slots each opened up in the sciences and humanities one year out of two. In 2019-20, an expenditure of Rs 1.45 crore was incurred to pay 91 beneficiaries. The number of beneficiaries had stood at 169 the previous year when UGC spent Rs 3.82 crore. There were 559 beneficiaries in 2017-2018 when UGC disbursed Rs 10.03 crore for the scheme.

“Funding is still being released for some of the programs that are closed because researchers are being paid in phases,” a UGC official said.

In 2019, UGC launched a Transdisciplinary Research Program for India’s Developing Economy (STRIDE) to promote innovative solutions to regional, national and global issues. In 2019, the program selected 35 institutions for research capacity building. However, no further progress has been made since.

“A program like STRIDE has great potential to meet the needs of the country. It seeks to connect industry with universities and also promotes research in the social sciences and humanities. He has been inactive for two years. It’s disappointing,” said a former UGC official on condition of anonymity.

Delhi University Teachers’ Association President AK Bhagi, who belongs to the BJP-backed National Democratic Front of Teachers, has demanded more funding for the research.

“Institutes of higher learning must become excellent centers of research. Research and infrastructure funding should increase for universities and colleges,” Bhagi said.

Former UGC secretary RK Chauhan said the government had cut funding for the UGC, which was why research was the lowest priority.

“The UGC has no funds for research. In fact, this government is not interested in real research, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. He fears the results will not match his accounts,” Chauhan said.

Such research usually examines the employment scenario, economy and caste issues, as well as other issues.

Chauhan said the drop in funding was affecting the research environment at universities.

The telegraph sent an email to UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain on December 27 asking for research funding to be cut, but has yet to receive a response.

Professor C. Mohan Kumar, a retired faculty member from Kerala University, said one of the reasons for the decrease in funding was poor research proposals.

“Most research proposals coming forward for funding do not meet expected levels of quality. People want to do research for the sake of research. In areas of advanced research, Indian institutions lag far behind those in advanced countries,” Kumar said.

“The problem is the mentors. We need dedicated mentors who can conduct research,” he added.