Prof (Dr.) Sanjay Gupta Vice Chancellor – World University of Design
Indian universities have been offering Masters and PhD degree programs in STEM fields since independence and most of these programs are well established now. Educational institutions across the developed world are however moving towards introducing Arts subjects into STEM education and calling them STEAM (the word “Arts” includes design, visual arts, performing arts, and other creative fields such as music, writing, and media arts). The US, Canada, UK, Europe, and Australia have already implemented STEAM education in their university curriculum.
Art and design education fosters innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. Recognising this, the NEP mandates the incorporation of art subjects into university education to encourage innovation, problem- solving and critical thinking skills among the students.
Over the last few years, many Indian universities have added arts and design courses in their offerings. Currently, there are over a hundred universities offering design degrees.
Degree vs Diploma
Higher education in the field of arts and design is a relatively nascent field in India. A reference case can be that of the oldest and most reputed design institute in the country – NID, that started awarding degrees only with effect from 2016. Prior to this, the sixty-one-year-old institution was awarding only UG and PG diplomas. Similarly, the National Institute of Fashion Technology set up in 1985, also awarded only diplomas till 2006, after which it started awarding degrees, when it was accorded the status of an Institute of Excellence.
Since the diplomas mentioned above were well recognised and well respected within the country as well as abroad, the serving faculty members were not required to earn higher education degrees for career growth and advancement. After UGC mandated a PhD for faculty members, these design institutes started offering PhD programs and encouraged their faculty members to earn PhDs. As a result, in the last 15 years only a total of ~ 250 design PhDs have come out from all NIDs, NIFTs, IITs and
IISCs combined. These facts amply demonstrate that the ecosystem for design research is very new in the country and so few teachers have the required qualification and experience norms laid by the UGC. Since design education is new to the university system, it cannot really be equated with STEM fields.
Creative output as Research output
The performance of institutes and individuals in STEM fields is traditionally evaluated based on their research output, which is also reflected in the NAAC criteria. Accordingly, the doctoral programs in STEM fields focus on traditional research and academic writing, that emphasises theoretical knowledge, requires data collection and analysis, culminating in a written thesis. In STEM fields the research output is primarily in the form of journal papers, books, and patents. In STEM fields the research output is primarily in the form of journal papers, books, and patents.
Journal publication is not the favoured means of dissemination of knowledge in the creative field. This is evident from the fact that very few journals are available in the field of creative arts and design. In the creative fields, research outputs are in the form of artworks, products, shows, compositions, performances, design
registrations, copyrights, exhibits, catalogues, conference & symposium proceedings, Art publications, magazines, and online & digital publications (such as blogs, social media posts, digital exhibitions, and interactive media), all
collectively called “creative outputs”.
It is, therefore, proposed that NAAC should develop and adopt a more inclusive and equitable assessment framework that recognises the many forms of creative output as the evaluation criteria for the accreditation of HEIs in the creative domains. Further, doctoral programs in STEAM fields are practice- based, designed to emphasize the practical application of knowledge and the creation of new works of art or design. These programs involve less reading and analysis and instead prioritize hands-on experimentation, prototyping, and creative exploration – allowing students to apply their knowledge and skills in a tangible and physical way, rather than simply writing about them. This process of rigorous inquiry and experimentation leads to the generation of new insights and ideas and can be documented and disseminated, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the field. It is, therefore, proposed that UGC should approve practice-based PhD for the creative streams making it a more inclusive and equitable qualification framework for the faculty in the creative domains.