Monday, January 28, 2013

Are Joint PhD Programs Worth It?

The Economic Times reports that IIT-M is considering such programs with US universities.

IIT Madras, like many top institutions, had a number of collaborations between the faculty in many universities. But [IIT-M Director Prof. Bhaskar] Ramamurthy wanted to take the collaboration to a deeper level culminating in a joint PhD programme in the near future.

This is not really a new idea. Jaideep Srivastava and Pankaj Jalote mooted something similar five years ago [I didn't like it.] IIT-B has already implemented a version of this idea an arrangement with Monash University in Australia (I'm not sure if a joint PhD degree is a part of this deal, though). Heck, IIT-M itself has tried it with NUS, Singapore -- and has very little to show for it. ET doesn't go into the why this arrangement didn't pan out, or how it'll be different in its new avatar.


  1. gautam barua said...

    This is a terrible idea. It stems from a sense of insecurity and a distrust of faculty in India. I thought we had got over the colonial mentality. Exposure to other environments is a good thing and we should encourage it. But is a joint programme the best way for an established top Institute in India? A joint programme gives the US univ. access to our manpower without having to support them for five years, and it gives a feeling of comfort to our faculty as their name will now be along with "accepted" researchers and so they will be publishing in "excellent" journals.
    Actually this point is part of a bigger issue of how we measure the success of our researchers. The H index, the impact factor, the citation count, are all measures that encourage our researchers to conform to the dominant view of what is relevant research which is set by the developed nations. If I want any of these numbers to be high for me, I will have to publish in "international" journals. I will then be willy nilly towing the lines of the editorial boards of these "excellent" journals. My research agenda will be driven by what is acceptable in these journals and not necessarily by what is required by industry here or by what I think is a good area to work in. So joint programmes follow naturally.
    Please note that I am not stating that all the papers published in these journals are useless. They are very good, and can be said to be in general better to what is published in our Indian Journals. But who is responsible for this state of affairs of our Indian Journals?
    Finally, I request readers to understand that a comment in a blog does not allow me to go into all the subtleties of the issue. So please do not crucify me on some sentence here or another sentence there. Please try and "see' the bigger picture. I of course allude to the "trouble" Ashish Nandy is in !

  2. iitmsriram said...

    I believe the ET article overly emphasizes joint degree programs. I believe the quote from Bhaskar Ramamurthi near the end (not the very end, just above that) is more reflective of what IITM is trying to do. It is more along the lines of "Exposure to other environments is a good thing and we should encourage it". If (a big if) many things pan out, then a joint degree program would be the eventual result is more like what the plan is.

  3. Ungrateful Alive said...

    Sure, there are peaks of world-class excellence in PhD advising in India, but, if there is a natural match, even those Indian researchers should go all out to associate with anyone else worldwide, and they do! The joint PhD issue is different: if you formalize this upfront, does it really work? My experience has been that PhD candidates in one such joint PhD program are absolutely not superior to typical candidates outside the program. So the premise that such programs attract more capable or committed individuals is questionable, at least per my personal experience.

  4. Tomorrow said...

    Hi this may be off the topic but still I wanted to share it with you. A recent advertisement in a local community newspaper, ( a Ph.D scholar is looking for a Research Associate.
    Rest of the things I leave it to your guess. The following is cut and paste from the newspaper

    A Research Associate to
    assist a Ph.D Candidate.
    Interested candidates must
    be knowledgeable about
    management subjects,
    research methodology,
    be prepared to work to time
    deadlines, work schedule