Maternity leave for female PhD students has many advantages - Times of India

Maternity leave for female PhD students has many advantages – Times of India

The UGC directed the VCs of Indian universities to frame appropriate rules and norms in relation to granting maternity leave and attendance-related relaxations to women students in undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programmes. Most central universities have already put the provision, first introduced by UGC in 2016, into place and hail this as a necessary addition to the field of academia.

Guidelines were introduced

Uma Shankar Pandey, PhD supervisor, department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Calcutta, says, “As per the 2016 UGC provision, women candidates may be given maternity or childcare leave once in the entire duration of their MPhil and PhD for up to 240 days.” The provision, which is prominently available in other sector, is missing in academia, he adds.

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On why UGC felt the need to remind universities of this provision recently, BJ Rao, vice-chancellor, University of Hyderabad (UoH), says, “Numerous guidelines are issued on an annual basis. General reminders need to be communicated from time-to-time to ensure coherence and acceptance of the same by all stakeholders.”

Rao adds that this guideline is more relevant to PhD than other PG courses. “In any regular course, if a female student was to take a maternity leave, she would just miss out on certain courses, which she can catch up on once she rejoins. However, a PhD student would miss out on time deadlines, which would affect her overall academic journey,” he tells.

Revealing numbers


As per the academic section at the UoH, out of a total number of 1,533 PhD students in the current academic year, 668 are women. Over the last three years, 16 female students have availed the provision of a maternity leave/medical leave.

At University of Delhi (DU), there are a total of 4011 PhD students, of which 2093 are females. Yogesh Singh, vice-chancellor, DU, tells, “Since the inception of the provision, only about 10% female PhD/MPhil students have availed it.”

JN Baliya, head of department, Education Studies and Mass Communication & New Media, Central University of Jammu (CUJ), says, “This academic year, I am mentoring 21 PhD scholar, of which about 80% are women. Currently, two are on maternity leave while about three others have availed this option in the past couple of years.”

Various advantages


Baliya says that prior to this provision, female PhD students in the fields of both Science and Social Science suffered. “While Science students must spend numerous hours in a laboratory with harmful chemicals, Social Science students are required to conduct field research. In both cases, female students who were in the family way suffered health-wise. Thus, this provision has acted as a boost to their personal and academic lives,” he tells.

Whether it is psychological ease or zeal for academic excellence, there has been positive change due to this provision, says Rao. “It is a presumption that taking a break from PhD might affect women adversely. However, I have repeatedly observed that female students who come from their maternity break to resume their PhD make extraordinary efforts to prove their academic excellence. Thus, I believe that quality of research has been impacted positively,” he tells.

As per Singh, due to the emphasis on international rankings, the focus on PhD has increased manifold. “If the correct ecosystem is provided to PhD scholars, the dropout rate amongst them stands to decrease, which will automatically improve both our research quantity and quality. Earlier, the drop-out rate amongst PhD students was about 20%, which has decreased post this provision. The belief that their University will support them is a big booster,” he says.

Pandey says that many PhD scholars are on various fellowships that earns them a monthly stipend. “Earlier, females who used to take a break from their PhD missed out on their stipend. However, post the UGC provision, this has changed and made the lives of many PhD students easier,” he tells.




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