Your PhD Programme Needs to Upgrade
to adapt and survive in a post-Covid world
When the rug of comfort is pulled from underneath our feet, we are jolted awake to a new reality – one in which we need to adapt quickly to survive and thrive. The 2020-21 pandemic has done exactly that; it is something we will all tell personal tales of to the next few generations to come.
How has science and research changed?
Interestingly, the world of science and research has seen two extreme results:
- 1. One, the pandemic has forced the opening up of access to knowledge. Barriers are being taken down. Open access is increasing.
- 2. Two, the sudden shift to remote working has put on display all of the current inefficiencies in PhD programme management systems.
Is it harder for PhD programmes to be managed remotely?
Yes and no. A recent survey by ResearchGate found that more than 50% of researchers around the world were writing more while working remotely over the pandemic – this is true of India as well. And from our 20 years of working with the scientific community, we also know that research management requires constant collaboration, communication, and conversation. There is a clash here. These new needs aren’t being met by legacy processes and lack of technology, creating additional work for supervisors, who are finding it challenging to monitor and keep track of their PhD programmes.
The end result? Longer PhD cycles, less graduates every year, struggling visibility and transparency into PhD progress. We’ve identified 5 key ways to address these issues.
Create visibility and transparency
For PhD guides, Vice Chancellors, and Deans at academic institutions, the current systems pose a solid wall that stops continuous collaboration. For a PhD programme to be completed well and on time, the researchers need to review regularly with several stakeholders. Unless they are told, stakeholders are often not aware what stage the PhD is in, if help or intervention is needed, or if there is a bottleneck that needs removing.
The UGC is urging the deployment of an efficient system that will create visibility – the only way to do this is to move the programme to a digital platform that allows instant access to all involved.
Eliminate manual and paper-based processes
There is often little record of how a scholar is progressing through the programme and which activities are causing delays. When everything including corrections and suggestions are recorded manually, there is little opportunity to identify where efficiencies can be introduced – submission dates, review time, communication and incorporation of feedback etc. COVID has magnified these existing problems and brought to light the need for paperless processes in higher education.
The University of Hyderabad has done this successfully already:
“With this, elimination of paperwork and the need for physical presence during viva voce, the research scholars will now be able to complete their evaluation process smoothly and efficiently and in a much shorter time. From submission to award of the degree it used to take on an average of 6 months which we would like to bring down to 3 months by putting this process in place to benefit our MPhil/PhD students”, said Prof. Appa Rao Podile, Vice-Chancellor, UoH.
Cut time spent on admin tasks drastically
Precious executive time is spent on manually creating reports for government organisations, funding institutions, or ranking bodies. This can become excruciating as the data may not be readily available, resulting in many hours being spent in collection of data and preparation of reports.
There is an overwhelmingly evident need for a paperless admin system to manage tasks involved in a PhD programme. Forget about printouts and hand-written notes. Click a button, generate beautiful reports with digitally-stored real time data, and send it on its way! It’s all about speed and accuracy.
Jawaharlal Nehru University is a great example – they have moved their PhD process online, accepting soft copies of work and considerably reducing the Vice Chancellor’s time spent on writing to examiners and keeping track of progress.
Let scholars and guides collaborate without interruption
A PhD involves constant writing and reviewing between the scholar and their guide. Manual reviewing, editing, resending, is tiresome, time-consuming, frustrating, and prone to errors. The recent shift to working from home has only amplified this.
Give your scholars and guides a digital cloud-based platform to work on, where they can co-write, comment, collaborate, chat in real time and say goodbye to back-and-forth. Templatising your institution’s documents on the digital platform will add another layer of efficiency.
Store & access knowledge and resources
PhD Scholars write for various purposes like journal submissions, grant proposals, conference presentations, and progress reports among others. Over 4+ years, this knowledge capital gets lost and becomes inaccessible, being stored in a physical library. To address this, the UGC launched Shodhganga, a repository of electronic theses and dissertations produced in India.
Your institution should have its own digital repository, to help with content accessibility, running environmentally-conscious paper-free programmes, and enhanced readership to improve university rankings.
Talk to us – AuthorCafé is already at SRM, IAS, VIT and Manipal!
AuthorCafé has been designed for academic research. It is used by 10,000 scholars to write their research and collaborate with peers and guide. We have deployed AuthorCafé at several eminent institutions in India.
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