NEP: Don’t Discontinue MPhil

The Nation Educational Policy (NEP) which was approved by the union cabinet recently has invited mixed reactions. It may be able to change the course of Indian educational system by introducing to it a modern outlook but the discontinuation of the MPhil degree is a big blow to those who aspire for higher education especially in Kashmir.

With the new National Education Policy’s clause to discontinue the MPhil degree course; securing a research opportunity will become even more daunting for Kashmiri students. Masters students in Kashmir University have little to no research experience. The course isn’t designed to include any research based papers, assignments or projects. One doesn’t even have to submit a dissertation in order to secure a Masters Degree here. There’s no encouragement to develop research acumen especially in the Humanities and the Social Sciences.

Since, the curriculum does not prepare the students for research; they are expected to have an intermediate degree that will help them bridge the gap of semester oriented studies to a research oriented one. This was supposed to be the utility of an MPhil degree. With its discontinuation, students will now have to look for the foreign counterparts of an MPhil degree and try to gain at least one year of research experience. This will limit opportunities for students from underprivileged backgrounds who will not have the resources to apply abroad.

Some would argue that many other prestigious universities do not have a research based Masters Degree course but Kashmir University is still a special case. It stands out in the sense the education sector has faced major challenges in the past three decades owing to the political situation in the valley. In addition to a persistent decrease in the number of working days and multiple mass promotions, it is also the mediocre pedagogical structure of higher education that has dented higher education irreparably.

The university has overburdened itself and has closed the doors on quality teaching and learning experience. Only a few years ago, there were a limited number of seats for a Masters degree programme which were allotted to students based on their performance in the University Entrance Test. Recently, this number was increased without taking into account the infrastructure needed to deal with it. A system of dividing students into Morning and Evening shifts was adopted which brought with it many issues as well. It created some sort of a class divide within students wherein those studying in evening shifts were looked down upon for securing less marks in the entrance examinations. This also created an unhealthy learning environment in the university and some departments are still trying to deal with it.

Interestingly, while seats have been increased for Masters Courses, those available for a PhD programme have been very limited. The recent advertisements showed no more than 6-8 seats in PhD or MPhil which makes for a very poor ratio with the number of Masters Graduates. If the seats remain limited even after NEP is implemented, where will the huge number of Postgraduate students go?

Kashmir University is the preferred choice for most in Kashmir because it is viable for multiple reasons. This puts on it a huge responsibility of giving quality education. Even as Cluster University has been sharing some of its burden, the real challenges have still remained. Until and unless universities in Kashmir completely discourage the culture of notes giving and rote learning, there’s little hope left for students here. Additionally, the curriculum needs to prepare students for research at the Masters level itself. The administration has to push for more seats in PhDs to accommodate more and more students and improve research quality.

Mariya Shawl

Masters in English from Kashmir University 

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