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Medical research in India can take a hit after SC rules that professors do not need PhDs

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The court set aside an Allahabad HC order on the promotion of two faculty members at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh Muslim University.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that a PhD is not required for promotion to the post of professor in medical colleges attached to central government-funded universities.

While this would mean that fewer medical professionals would opt for a PhD, likely leading to less research output in the field, it would also mean that they would not have to enrol for a PhD just for the sake of getting a promotion. More time can thus be devoted to practice.

The apex court made the observation Monday while setting aside an Allahabad High Court order on the promotion of two faculty members to the post of professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Their promotion was challenged by another faculty member, saying that under the career advancement scheme of the University Grants Commission (UGC), they could not have been promoted without a PhD, since AMU is a central government university funded by the UGC.

Setting aside the high court order, the bench of justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao said the clause of promotion for teachers in medical colleges is as per the Medical Council of India’s guidelines, and hence, the highest qualification required to teach at these institutions would be an MD/MS, not a PhD.

Larger implications

Explaining the larger implications of the order, a faculty member at AMU’s JN Medical College said: “If no PhD is required for promotion in medical colleges, most doctors will not go for research, which would mean decreased research output. In fact, research is highly required in the medical field.

“Doctors go for research on important topics — like cardiac surgeons do research on techniques that would improve heart surgery and make it easier on the patient. Then, there is a huge amount of research on autoimmune diseases, on life-threatening diseases and their treatment. The sky is the limit when it comes to research in the medical field.”

“At the same time it would also mean that doctors will be able to devote more time to patients, and not enrol for a PhD just for the sake of getting a promotion, which is otherwise required if they are teaching at an institution which is funded by the UGC,” the faculty member added.

Medical colleges like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Jawaharlal Nehru Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (Puducherry), CMC Vellore, and others are governed by the ministry of health and family welfare, which has framed a different criterion for promotion — a PhD is not required for teachers in such institutions.

After this SC order, medical colleges attached to autonomous institutions funded by the UGC will also not need PhDs for promotion.

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