By my 5th year, I realized the challenges of PhD in India - by Archita Rai  - CollectLo

By my 5th year, I realized the challenges of PhD in India

Archita Rai  - CollectLo

Archita Rai

Content Writer

5 min read . Aug 14 2023


                                             Cover image (unsplash)

The decision to pursue PhD is a bold, challenging and ambitious one. In the peak of your youth, you decide to dedicate a major chunk of time to a degree that requires more than your 100%. Your peers are getting jobs, hikes, weddings, cars and kids while all that you want is to get your work published so that you can actually start a life. The perks and rewards afterwards, are of course worth the effort. I have been lucky to have a wonderful guide and system that somehow facilitated the journey smoothly. As I am in the last leg of my PhD, I have interacted with so many students in other institutes, through my counseling sessions and on various platforms. I have tried to summarize some of the common problems faced by PhD. students in India and shed light on potential solutions to help them navigate these obstacles.

1. Limited Research Funding: One of the primary challenges faced by Ph.D. students in India is the limited availability of research funding. Securing financial support for research projects, conference attendance, or publication fees can be a daunting task. Lack of funding options can hinder the progress and quality of research work. Although there are many JRF and SRF schemes, the competition is high and that many a times student drop the whole idea of PhD if they cannot secure proper funding. Institutes pay much less compared to the national level fellowships.

2. Infrastructure and Resources: Many PhD students in India struggle with inadequate infrastructure and resources. Access to well-equipped laboratories, advanced research tools, and technology can be limited, especially in smaller institutions. This hampers the ability to conduct cutting-edge research and limits exposure to emerging techniques. Many a times, collaborative approach is lacking in the supervisors due to which the quality of work suffers and the papers are not high impact.

3. Academic Pressure and Work-Life Balance: PhD students often face immense academic pressure, juggling coursework, research, and teaching responsibilities. Long working hours, high expectations, and a demanding workload can lead to stress and burnout. Striking a healthy work-life balance becomes a significant challenge for many. Unlike other courses, no activities or counseling sessions are regularly organized. In many labs, the PhD students are treated as just cheap labor.

4. Lack of mentorship and guidance: Continuing on the previous point, the availability of experienced mentors and supervisors plays a crucial role in shaping a PhD.student’s research journey. However, many students face challenges in finding suitable mentors or supervisors who can provide effective guidance and support. Many senior professors do not directly deal with the students. Rather, the senior PhDs or the research associates nurture the new students. While there is no harm in that, regular interaction with the senior most member, i.e the supervisor is irreplaceable.

5. Publishing and patenting challenges: Unlike many labs and institutes abroad where there is a dedicated "publishing fund", it gets extremely difficult to publish in high quality journals. The institutes lay emphasis on publishing in free journals and while it is not a bad idea, sometimes the research gets under-valued if the quality is high. Navigating the complex publication process, understanding copyright issues, and protecting intellectual property can be overwhelming, particularly for early-stage researchers.

6. Networking and collaboration opportunities: Building a strong professional network and establishing collaborations are crucial for a successful PhD journey. However, limited networking platforms and opportunities in some academic environments can restrict exposure to a diverse research community, interdisciplinary collaborations, and industry connections. Even if students end up making profiles on LinkedIn, they are often clueless about how to navigate and how to actually network and get a job.

7. Career Prospects and job market: PhD students in India often face uncertainties regarding their career prospects, especially within academia. The availability of faculty positions and research opportunities may not match the increasing number of PhD graduates, leading to fierce competition and a saturated job market. In addition, not many students have the other skills required for job. There is hardly any emphasis on communication, writing, data analysis, leadership and other such skills are needed to survive the current job scenario.

So does that mean we are totally doomed? Not really. There are many new schemes opening up. The only hurdle is to inspire both the students and supervisors to walk the extra mile.

Meanwhile, here are some potential solutions that need to be worked out at administrative levels.

1. Increased Funding Opportunities: Advocating for increased research funding and creating more scholarships, grants, and fellowships specifically for PhD students can alleviate financial burdens. The recent hike came after a long struggle and is still not very satisfactory.

2. Strengthening research infrastructure: Investments in research infrastructure and technology at universities and research institutes can enhance the quality of research and provide students with better resources. The onus lies both on government as well as industrial bodies to invest more in student research.

3. Mentoring and guidance programs: Establishing formal mentoring programs and training supervisors in effective mentorship practices can ensure that students receive the necessary support and guidance throughout their PhD journey.

4. Institutional support for publishing and patents: Universities can provide assistance and resources to help students navigate the publication process, understand copyright issues, and protect their intellectual property. Collaboration with industry and intellectual property offices can facilitate patenting processes.

5. Industry-Academia Collaboration: Encouraging stronger collaborations between academia and industry can provide students with exposure to real-world challenges, foster innovation, and improve career prospects. Many institutes have recently started with such programs where they let their final year PhD students experience internships in relevant industries.

6. Career development and counseling services: Universities can offer comprehensive career development and counseling services to assist PhD students in exploring diverse career paths, developing essential skills, and preparing for the job market.

Happy PhDing :)