Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Faculty woes for higher education fledglings

New institutes of higher education across the country are running without permanent faculty a year after some of them were set up, while their foster-parent institutes are facing a pressure-cooker-like situation with student intake growing by the year and supply of qualified teachers being way below demand. Besides the seven established Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the country has eight new ones, and apart from the seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), two will start this year and four will come up in the next academic year. The new institutes are currently functioning with faculty from parent institutes.

IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, for instance, does not have a single permanent faculty member for its 100 students, a year after it has been functioning on its mentor IIT Roorkee’s campus. Recruitment is on, and 15-20 permanent faculty members may be on board by June 2010, says professor SP Gupta, convenor of IIT Mandi. The institute plans to admit around 125 students this year, and plans to move to its own campus in July 2010. On the other hand, IIT Jodhpur, which has been operating out of the campus of its mentor IIT Kanpur since 2008, will be moving to its temporary campus in May. Besides its regular B. Tech. programme, it is planning to start a Ph.D. programme for 50 students this year.

The faculty position at the two new IIMs — IIM Rohtak and IIM Ranchi — is not encouraging either. Both the institutes will start admitting students this academic year, but are yet to recruit faculties. “We have issued advertisements, and hope to get some good people in two months,” says BB Chakraborty, IIM Calcutta professor and IIM Ranchi convenor. The scene is no different at IIM Rohtak. “As of now, it does not have permanent faculty; not even a director,” says an official from IIM Lucknow. The institute will start its first post-graduate programme in general management with 60 students this year, and IIM Lucknow is the mentor.

The idea of mentor institutes providing faculty support to the new ones, besides administration, is putting a strain on their existing resources, says Prof. S.K. Suresh, Dean, Faculty Affairs at IIT Bombay. “But the established IITs see the need to mentor the new IITs in their early years,” he adds. Besides, existing IITs and IIMs are themselves in need of academic staff. IIT Bombay, for instance, has 660 positions of which 488 are filled as on date. IIM Lucknow too, is looking to increase its permanent faculty position to 100 over the next two years from the current 75, says Prof. Singh.

The need is felt across disciplines too. “We need teachers for finance, operations management and any subject which has a good demand,” says Prof. Chakraborty of IIM Calcutta. The shortage is primarily because the rate at which the institutes are expanding is not matched by the number of Ph.D.s coming out of universities. Also, with the implementation of quota up to 50% in institutes of higher learning, the total number of seats has almost risen substantially.

The shortage of faculty is felt more by institutes that are opening in far-flung areas of the country which lack corporate activity. IIM Kozhikode, for instance, found it difficult to get industry leaders on campus due to the lack of connectivity. “We had to lobby to get a direct flight from Delhi to Kozhikode, and had the Chennai-Kozhikode flight restored recently,” says Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM Kozhikode. IIM Lucknow had to create another campus in Noida to be closer to Delhi. “Links with industry are very important for faculty,” says Devi Singh, Director, IIM Lucknow.

A task force headed by IIT Kanpur Director SK Dhande is currently looking into the faculty shortage. But the committee hopes to submit its recommendations between September and December this year. In the meantime, both existing and new IIMs and IITs will have to deal with more students in the coming academic year, which will only add to the pressure on limited resources.

Source: The Economic Times, April 5, 2010

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