Top Social Science institutes: "Be sensitive to society"
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Photo: Rohit Gautam
SOCIAL SCIENCE academics engrossed in discussion at an ICSSR seminar

“A nation needs social sciences to understand itself and sciences to understand the physical world. Without understanding oneself no nation can last long. Social science is the cake, rest is all icing,” said Prof Shyam Sunder of Yale University in an interview to Careers360. But the nation has not taken it seriously. While universities do boast of Social Sciences departments dominated mostly by Economics, the research scenario is quite bleak. As Prof S K Thorat says, for a nation of 1.1 billion the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) had a paltry budget of Rs. 36 crores.

Despite the lack of funding, India is home to some fine social science institutions in the public domain. This is one segment of education, wherein the public sector has a substantially large quantitative presence outside the university system. The 27 ICSSR-funded social sciences institutions do provide an academic space for serious research and reflection.

Institutes like Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Studies & Research, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Gujrath Institute of Development Studies, Centre for Economic and Social Change, Bangalore  offer structured MPhil and PhD programmes, and all admitted scholars are provided with nominal stipends throughout the programme. Others like Centre for Study of Developing Societies, Institutes for Studies in Industrial Development, Council for Social Development, act as pivotal points for research and offer structured PhD programmes with or without fellowships.

Outside the ICSSR, three institutes do seminal work in this discipline and all three of them are in the public sector. In the domain of population studies, Indian Institute of Population Studies (IIPS) offers one of the best training grounds for scholars and is only one of its kind throughout Asia. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) is yet another one of a kind institution in India.

Parents and institutes encourage students to take subjects which score high and clamour for top notch institutes offering great placements. In this mad rush, what we really miss out is holistic development. “We have become individualised, commercialised and consumption-oriented,” opines Dr S Galeb, Director, CESS.

Prof S K Thorat

Role of education is to develop citizens

It is about a year-and-a-half since Prof SK Thorat took over as the Chairman of ICSSR. He discusses the future of social sciences.

Q: What is your philosophy of education? 
A: Education must fulfil multiple objectives. First is to impart scientific knowledge to students so that he/she can understand the reality in a scientific way and not based on speculation. And therefore we develop rationality as opposed to blind faith. Our basic idea is to instil in them the values of democracy, freedom, gender sensitisation, caste sensitisation. So in a way the role of education is to develop citizens. We should also give skills which will enable them to gain employment. So our education curriculum should be made in a manner where we can achieve these objectives.

Q: You joined ICSSR recently. Any work on revamping ICCSR? 
A: I joined as the chairman of ICSSR on April 1, 2011. And at that time the government had set up a committee to review the functioning of ICSSR under the chairmanship of Deepak. And the committee submitted the report. And it came up with number of recommendations. One was the financing of ICSSR - Rs 36 crores for two-and-a-half lakhs of teachers in the country. It was a bad situation. The fellowship rate for the ICSSR fellow was Rs. 6000 as compared to Rs. 16,000 of UGC. Sadly, very few teachers would get funds for projects or conferences. So the committee recommended almost 21 time increase in the allocation of funds to ICSSR - From 36 crores to 1300 crores annually.  We built up the case and the ministry was very positive and recommended it to the Planning Commission. Finally they allocated Rs. 100 crores and that was an increase of three times. Second is the reorganization of ICSSR itself – appointment of chairman, secretary, salary structure. Third significant recommendation is that all states should have institutes. So the committee has recommended 13 new institutes where there is no institute. And every institute must have a minimum of 17 research faculty.

Q: What are the other initiatives?
A: There are other initiatives - 10 awards in the name of Amartya Sen for the social science, which has been accepted by the ministry. And from this year we will announce those awards. Now, ICSSR is reforming under a number of fronts. One of the important steps that the ministry has taken is the increase in the fellowship and scholarship. For faculty we have national fellowship (retired teacher), senior fellowship for senior teacher, post doctoral and PhD fellowships for those doing PhD in respective institutes. The good news is that the number of national and senior fellowships has now increased from 10 to 20 and PhD fellowship from 100 to 450. And the rate of fellowship for national and selection has increased substantially – from Rs. 25000 to Rs. 60,000.


Research themes of ICSSR institutes
ICSSR focuses on a diverse range of research problems. Some of the macro issues include developmental models, theories of growth and development, non-conventional energy, labour markets, social security, poverty, unemployment, urban area studies, industrial development, regional growth processes  and  intellectual property rights.

Some institutes critically look at  political participation and the shifting domains of dominance and citizen engagement; electoral processes, voting patterns, user associations, usage of new forms of media, changing mores of higher education and participatory learning processes.

At the micro level some issues that are focussed are micro-analyses of economic livelihood support to rural poor communities, tribal development, village industries and agrarian studies.

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Dr Indu Agnihotri, Director
Centre for Women’s Development Studies

“Our institute plays a major role in the emerging debates at the policy level, shaping of the public sphere and bringing rigour in academic research. Our institute is relevant on highlighting the sensitivity of the state to ground level initiatives”

Prof R S Deshpande, Director 
Institute for Social and Economic Change

“The challenge is in maintaining the quality of research against the fast track demand for research output. Good research takes time and when the trends are changing so fast the researchers are compelled to keep pace with the world trends”


Dr S Galeb, Director,
Centre for Economics and Social Studies

“Parents and institutes encourage students to take subjects which score high and clamour for top notch institutes. In this mad rush, what we really miss out is holistic development. We have become individualised and consumption-oriented”

On the challenges faced by the system
The greatest problem is assimilating first generation literates into the mainstream. Unlike mainstream knowledge, the first generation lot have a different kind of knowledge. When they enter college, the kind of pedagogy used in teaching is not suitable for them. The educational institutes have not geared up to take into consideration the challenges faced by them. As Prof Galeb says, the fundamental need is to make education more inclusive in nature.  

Social Science Institutes
Institution, Location
Programme Offering (1)
Programme Offering (2)
Bachelors and Masters (Mathematics, Statistics); MS in Library Info Sc, QE
PhD in Youth Development
Deemed University
MA (Youth Work; Career Counselling, Gender Studies, Local Governance, Life Skills Education, Youth Empowerment);
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports
Bachelors and Masters (Mathematics, Statistics); MS (Quality, Reliability and Operations Research, Lib & Info Sc.); M.Tech (CS)
Deemed University
MSc Economics; MPhil & PhD Development Studies
Deemed University
MPhil and PhD programmes in Development Studies
MPhil & PhD Economics
MPhil & PhD Development Studies



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