The Finance Minister in his 2018 Budget had proposed significant investments in the higher education. The government launched the ‘‘Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF)’’ Scheme to identify 1,000 best B.Tech students each year from premier institutions and provide them facilities to do Ph.D in IITs and IISc, along with a handsome fellowship. In order to attract the best talents across the country, the government has approved the scheme at a cost of Rs 1,650 crore for a period of seven years, beginning 2018-19.
The Prime Minister’s analysis Fellowship (PMRF) scheme is geared toward attracting the talent pool of the country to doctoral (Ph.D.) programs of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for achieving research in innovative science and technology domains, with target national priorities.
Under the PMRF scheme, students who have completed, or are pursuing, the final year of four year undergraduate or five year integrated M.Tech or five year integrated M.Sc. or five year undergraduate-postgraduate dual degree programs in Science and Technology streams from IIEST/IISc/IITs/NITs/IISERs and centrally funded IIITs are eligible for admission to full time Ph.D. programme in the IITs and IISc provided they fulfil prescribed eligibility criteria and eventually get selected after shortlisting/written test/interview. For each participating IIT and IISc the Ph.D. admissions under the PMRF scheme will be supernumerary of their existing capacity.
PMRF Eligibility criteria :
The candidates for the PMRF should:
- Have completed or be pursuing the final year of four (or five) year undergraduate or five year integrated M.Tech or 5 year integrated M.Sc. or 5 year undergraduate-postgraduate dual degree programs in Science and Technology streams from IIEST/IISc/IITs/NITs/IISERs and centrally funded IIITs;
- Have secured minimum CGPA/CPI of 8.0 (in scale of 10.0). For candidates in 5 year integrated or dual degree programs if separate CGPAs/CPIs are awarded for UG and PG elements of the program then the CGPA/CPI of UG part (first four year) will be evaluated.
- Have completed the required academic qualification in the last 5 years.
Merely satisfying the eligibility requirement doesn’t guarantee admission. The final decision for admission of candidates will be done following a rigorous selection process.
Prime Minister Research Fellowship Salary / Remuneration under PMRF:
In the first two years, the students will be given a fellowship of Rs 70,000 a month which will increase to Rs 75,000 per month in the third and will be Rs 80,000 per month in the fourth and fifth year.
Also, for a period of five years, each fellow will be provided Rs 2 lakh as a research grant to enable them to participate in international research conferences and present their research papers.
There will be a meticulous review of the performance of Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship holders and further continuation of the next year fellowship will be conditional upon successful inspection.
Teaching in ITI:
Around 3,000 fellows will be selected for a three-year period starting from 2018-19. Under the scheme, fellows will have to teach at industrial training institutes (ITIs) once a week. India has around 14,000 ITIs across the country.
This move is meant to improve the quality in ITIs across the country. Previously, they had roped in some companies under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode to upgrade the ITIs and improve their quality. The ITI’s were earlier under the labour ministry but after April 2015 ITIs have been transferred to the skills ministry.
Advantages of PMRF:
- This scheme will go a long way in tapping the talent pool for carrying out research indigenously in cutting-edge science and technology domains.
- The initiative is aiming to convert the current brain drain into brain gain.
- It will try to address “our national priorities” on the one hand and the shortage of quality faculty in premier educational institutions on the other.
Criticism of PMRF:
- Eligibility: This scheme is essentially for centrally funded technical institutes (CFTI) students, it excludes undergraduate students from other institutions in the name of quality, which is hugely discriminatory.
- Restricted to Undergraduates: The scheme is hugely biased in favour of undergraduates. This is largely based on the notion that “Getting a good rank in JEE(joint engineering exam) is tougher than getting a good rank in GATE(graduate aptitude test in engineering)”.
- Restriction on hosting institutions: Only the IITs and IISc are allowed to host PhD students. While IISERs, TIFR, CMI and ISI also have stronger research programmes in science than most IITs.
- Quantum of fellowship: Since the money offered under the PMRF is much higher than the existing fellowships, it is bound to discourage other existing scholars who are doing remarkable research. While the research grant of these PMRF PhD students is Rs 2 lakh per year, the research grant of IIT faculty remains at Rs 1 lakh per year. This is a disturbing disparity.
- National priorities: How will the ‘national priorities’ be decided. Who will determine if the student is actually working on a problem which is a national priority?
- No check on brain drain: How would the system ensure that these students, after completing their PhD, will remain in India. Why wouldn’t they join foreign institutions later?