Why research is important

 Research done by a teacher becomes useful to the cause of higher education only if it is shared and discussed in the class.

Revolution in higher education is driven by two key elements today: ‘massification’ and the arrival of the global knowledge economy. As a result of massification, higher education is no more seen as an opportunity that is available only to the people who are at the higher strata of society, but as an essential and inalienable right for all. Due to this, there is diversification of higher education institutions.

The global knowledge economy is here to stay. This means that universities will have to compete at a global level in all their disciplines if they have to remain relevant. Universities need to focus on research if they need to survive. The basic question now is at what level of education should a higher education institution initiate the student community to the art and science of research? Looking back to the history of higher education in India, research was limited to central or state universities and that too, at the MPhil and PhD levels. Research at the postgraduate level was not deemed necessary and research at the undergraduate level was never even thought of.

Positive change

With the massification of higher education and the arrival of the global knowledge economy, more private and deemed-to-be universities were established. These
universities, most of which were affiliated colleges before, saw immense opportunities for initiating research in their curriculum.

These higher education institutions started taking research more seriously on the insistence of rating agencies like National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). They were quick to introduce MPhil and PhD programmes. This brought about a huge change in the academic rigour in these campuses.

Higher education institutions can not overlook the aspect of research and publications, as this criteria carry the maximum score as per NAAC rating scale 2017. How can these institutions ensure that the culture of research trickles down to all the disciplines on their campuses?

No academic activity, including research, can be effectively implemented in a campus without the full support of teaching community. Even though the faculty members have been instructed to allocate adequate time for research, as per the guidelines of University Grants Commission (UGC), serious research cannot happen without some kind of incentive being offered.

The incentive need not necessarily be in terms of money. It may be by means of reduction in teaching hours for those faculty members who want to devote extra time for research. For some others, the incentive could be in the form of allowing teachers to present their research articles in reputed international conferences. It may be ideal for any institution to keep various options open with adequate checks and balances.

Involving students

Any research done by a teacher becomes useful to the cause of higher education only if it is shared and discussed in class. It would be better if the students are also involved in research along with faculty members. This is where the relevance of research-based postgraduate programmes comes in. Whatever be the discipline, all postgraduate courses offered by universities or affiliated colleges are primarily meant to mould future teachers. In this context, it becomes imperative that the curriculum focuses on research and publications.

A suggested model will be to introduce a course in every semester of a postgraduate degree that would ultimately end with the publication of a research article by the student in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

During this time, the students should be taught the skill of constructing research questionnaires, collection of data if needed, tabulation, and also about statistical tools used for various types of analysis. In the final semester, the students can present the entire research study they have undertaken in the class. This can go a long way in instilling confidence in them and also in improving their presentation skills.

This kind of research culture among postgraduate students can help ensure research-based teaching in higher education institutions. It can also elevate the academic rigour in the campuses to a much higher level. Students will also get back to libraries and online databases which can give them greater insights into their disciplines. This will also mould our future teachers into researchers as research once tasted can become a healthy addiction for some students. Finally, the satisfaction a young student gets in finding his or her name printed in a research journal is immeasurable. This can, in turn, attract good talents to the realm of higher education.

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