A recent survey by Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) India, a global professional network in computer areas, has revealed that about 2,507 institutions across India has only produced 194 PhDs in Computer Science (CS). up with Prof Pankaj Jalote, Director, IIT-Delhi, who supervised the survey, on the state of affairs of PhD education in CS, had a lot to say.
Your survey says that low enrolment for PhD in CS is attributed to the poor quality of education.
Most of the institutes lack good quality teachers, which in turn, is leading to substandard education, and naturally, students are looking for options to pursue doctoral studies in CS abroad.
CS as a field throws up a lot of opportunities for someone who has completed a Bachelor’s or a Master’s or both. Could that be one of the reasons for students not going up to the doctoral level?
The field does throws up a lot of job opportunities depending on the level of education that you have had. But again there is lack of awareness among students as to the heights they can reach with a PhD. Pay scales and nature of opportunities are far more exciting, if one goes up to the doctoral level.
What about employment prospects for a PhD scholar in CS? Do software giants show interest in hiring PhDs?
All major IT software giants like Infosys and Cognizant Technology Solutions, have shown interest in hiring PhDs. The only problem is that there aren’t enough PhDs. For example, 25 per cent of Google’s workforce is made up of PhDs while it is a pathetic 1-2 per cent for Indian companies.
Could the lack of academic-industry tie-ups be a reason for students not to show interest in PhD studies?
It is not a significant factor, according to me. But again, if industry offers scholarships and internships, we could see an improvement in training. Students would get a chance to work in real-time applications significant to the field of computer science.
How can institutes attract more students towards PhD?
First of all, students have the mindset of settling down in a job after their Bachelor’s or Master’s in the field, which is proving to be a big problem. If you have to convince students to spend four-years doing a PhD, then you have to increase their stipend, make the nature of their work more exciting, find a way to send them abroad for conferences, engage them in global collaborations and such.
Why does the country require more PhDs in CS?
For the simple reason that a PhD can open up a sea of opportunities and students can be at the forefront of cutting-edge research. In fact, a thesis by Ramprasad Saptharishi on Unified approaches to polynomial identity testing and lower bounds won ACM’s best Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2013. Even if we get more PhDs into teaching, that is like a battle half won.