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Friday, November 21, 2008

Faculty Crunch in India




   A student graduates from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) with a salary higher than the institute’s director. And while the same graduate can look forward to lucrative annual promotions and increments, his/her former teacher has to settle for an annual raise of Rs 450. This is just one example that demonstrates that although the teaching profession at the higher education level has advanced, demanding more and better academic qualifications and skills from a teacher, it remains stagnant in terms of salaries and promotions that it offers educators and academicians. 

    Today, Indian institutes of higher education are plagued with several faculty-related issues. While on one hand, the number of people willing to join the teaching profession is low due to greener pastures elsewhere, the few that dare to pursue their passion for teaching are often forced to leave after experiencing uncompetitive pay packages and lack of opportunities to grow. 


Add to this the new quota implementation, and you get a fair view of the present day higher education faculty crunch. “The 27% reservation will adversely affect the demand-supply ratio of Indian higher education. Inadequate infrastructure and shortage of quality faculty will follow,” says Hema Raghavan, the former dean of students’ welfare at Delhi University (DU), and former principal of Gargi College. 

   Even prestigious institutes of learning, like the IITs and IIMs, with their elaborate funding and infrastructure, struggle to find good faculty. What, then, can be said about the lesser known institutes? Moreover, if the current faculty crunch is so dire, what happens when the government’s plans of setting up eight new IITs, seven IIMs and 30 central universities are put in motion? 


“According to the University Grants Commission (UGC) 2007 report, the total number of teachers is 4.88 lakh. More than 80% of them are at the college level and about 16% at the university department level. Approximately, 25% of the positions available are lying vacant,” informs Neeru Snehi, assistant professor, department of higher and professional education, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA). 

   However, Dayanand Dongaonker, secretary general, Association of Indian Universities disagrees. “It is because there is no proper mechanism to evaluate the number of faculty available in colleges that these numbers can’t represent the actual scenario. Not having accurate figures is another major problem,” avers Dongaonker. 


At the central university level, this problem has more to do with quality than quantity. Ashok Vohra, head, department of philosophy, Delhi University (DU), clarifies, “I would call it a ‘crunch’ if there was a shortage of people available to join the profession. The real problem is that there is no quality faculty available to do research work.” 

   Most teachers and professors blame ‘irrational’ government policies for preventing good faculty from joining central universities. Another cause for concern is UGC’s policy on promotions (a person is automatically promoted from the post of lecturer to senior lecturer to reader and to professor after completing a fixed number of years). 

   “In such a scenario, people lose the zeal to do research work, which is one of the main responsibilities of a teacher at the higher education level. There is nothing differentiating those who were promoted by merit from those who were promoted by default. This affects the quality of research,” opines Vohra. 

   The pay packages don’t help either. Snehi reveals, “A lecturer earns approximately Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000, a senior lecturer around Rs 10,000, a reader can earn Rs 12,000, and a professor, the profession’s top rung, gets no more than Rs 15,000.” Why then, would a ‘good’ student with more lucrative prospects elsewhere, be attracted to teaching as a profession? “Most would logically opt for management education rather than pursue a PhD. Even those who pursue a PhD wouldn’t want to join the teaching profession,” asserts Raghavan. 


The report by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), P Rama Rao Committee on Faculty Development states, “The AICTE has justly recognised that the gravest problem bedevilling our country’s system of technical education is the woeful shortage of competent teaching staff. Currently based on the established AICTE norms of student-teacher ratio of 1:15, and the cadre ratio of 1:2:6 for professors, readers and lecturers respectively, the shortage of teaching staff is over 40,000 and the shortage in the different cadres is professors - 4531, readers - 9063 and lecturers - 27,187. The shortage of PhDs exceeds 30,000, while the Masters shortfall is over 24,000.” 

   The committee also outlined the ‘alarming failure rate’ in a large number of technical institutes as further proof of the shortage of faculty and the inadequacy of existing faculty. For example, in about 150 of the 229 engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu, the failure rate was nearly 65%. 

   “The problem of faculty crunch is not new. Even when the existing IITs were set up, there was insufficient faculty available. So, the professor of one discipline had to teach in another discipline,” reveals Sanjay Dhande, director, IIT-Kanpur. Gautam Barua, director, IIT-Guwahati, says, “The real problem lies in attracting quality people as faculty. At the higher education level, the faculty’s job goes beyond teaching to include research work that demands a high level of dedication.” 


The salary for teachers, even at IITs and IIMs, is not enough to attract good students. “And for institutions like ours, which do not get funding like the IITs, it is even tougher,” explains S N Upadhyay, director, Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, slated to become an IIT in the coming years. 

   He adds, “At present, we have at least 100 posts lying vacant. If the government wants good people to join, the faculty needs to be given better residential facilities and other infrastructure.” The same holds true for management education as well. “There are not many people who want to pursue research in the management area. Besides, private institutes make far better offers,” claims a faculty-member at an IIM. “With the government planning to set up additional IIMs, the faculty crunch is going to increase. The hiring spree would probably compromise on quality,” said Ashoke Dutta, director, IIM-Shillong, who was also part of the P Rama Rao Committee. 


Although, institutes of higher learning refuse to compromise on quality, most good students aren’t interested in joining the profession. What are the solutions to this dilemma? The most important, perhaps, is to promote research work. “It is important to make PhDs more lucrative by increasing grants and offering international exposure. DU has already started a scheme for scholars that will give them the opportunity to go abroad,” says Deepak Pental, vice-chancellor, Delhi University. 

   “Adequate funding, freedom for professors to work, the creation of a mechanism to attract quality students and judicious expansion of higher education are all important,” affirms Dongaonker. The P Rama Rao Committee has also suggested solutions for technical institutes. “The AICTE has been taking several initiatives under the Faculty Development Bureau to address the shortage of qualified faculty and other related matters regarding faculty development in technical institutes. In fact, Rs 950 crore has already been approved in principle by the executive committee of AICTE towards these recommendations,” says Swadesh K Gupta, advisor and head, Research and Institutional Development, AICTE. 

   And lastly, with the sixth pay commission revisions in the offing better salaries are a possibility.



Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


1 comment:

  1. I couldnt agree more with what you have said. Every word of it brings a tingling pain in my heart. Our teacher's whom we attribute most of our knowledge and success are not given there due creditability. Not only that, most of us, dont even view them with respect. They think to become a prof is no an option one with choose. I also agree with you that its not only faculty crunch, but more then that good faculty. Even though we did have good faculty i doubt our future generation will have that. I am not sure what the solution is, but one reason would be our way of thinking and to stop running after money and do things for the love of it and for the passion of it. Very few people now teach or do research for the love of it. They do it with only one thing in there mind "How to end up rich.....". What wrong with us......


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