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Combating predatory journals in India

India has loosened its rules on starting and finishing PhD courses. Under the updated rules of the University Grants Commission, the body that regulates higher education institutions in the country, students will be able to enter doctoral courses straight after completing a four-year undergraduate degree, with no need for a master’s degree, as long as they achieve a minimum average grade of 75%. Another change aims to reduce the incidence of misconduct in graduate programs. It will no longer be mandatory for students to publish articles in academic journals in order to receive a PhD. The change is designed to combat the spread of journals willing to publish any article, without performing a review, in exchange for money—known as predatory journals.

The changes have been criticized by some. It is feared that ending the requirement for a master’s degree will lead to oversubscription and disruption of existing doctoral courses. With respect to predatory journals, there are concerns that the new rules will weaken the education of future students. “If we want high-quality research, and are worried about the rise of predatory journals that cash in on the students’ need to publish, the concern is the predatory journals,” Sipra Mukherjee, associate professor of English at West Bengal State University, told Times Higher Education. Physicist Debashis Ghoshal of Jawaharlal Nehru University was more optimistic. “This will take away the predatory journals’ reason to exist, but only if this is followed up with appropriate modification in the hiring and promotion process of faculty,” he said.