Sunday, April 24, 2011

IIT faculty getting younger by the year

Campuses across India are getting younger. Aggressive, single and idealistic were, for long, associated with students. Today, faculty shares the same space. In the 1980s, anyone who walked into a packed class at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) was a grey-haired wise 60-year-old. Most had folded their crazy daily schedule and decided to settle on a leafy quiet campus in a job that didn't come with unachievable targets of the corporate world.

Today, the age gap between a faculty and a student is closing. Recruitment records from the IIT-Kanpur show that between 1990 and 2010, the average age of freshly recruited teachers fell from mid-50s to early-30s. Now, for many the life span of a corporate job has shortened dramatically. And with teaching paying handsomely, its a path many are taking. Within a span of just three decades, the average age of the faculty body has halved.

At IIT-Delhi, said its Director Surendra Prasad, "There were 24 teachers below the age of 35 in 2005; in 2011, there are 43. In all, 123 faculty members on campus (a little more than 25%) are below 40 years. A typical teacher's definition has changed: he, too, is from the Tweeting and Facebooking age. At IIT-Guwahati, for one, the average age of faculty on campus is 38; its 32 at the IIT-Madras campus.

"There has been a change in the culture on campus, just like there has been in society in general. The younger faculty are a lot more demanding of their students," said M. S. Ananth, Director, IIT-Madras. Close to half the recently recruited teachers from the IIT system, many of whom went abroad to pursue a Ph.D. and came back to teach. Clearly faculty blocks are cleaved into to two blocks --- the old timers who are holding the institutes flag and the younger lot that is aggressively into publishing and setting their own new reference points.

As IIM-Ahmedabad's Dean (Faculty) Ajay Pandey noted, "Today you see a lot of youngsters in IIM campuses across the country. Their values are different but there isn't a clash. Of the 90 faculty members here, about 20% are below the age of 35."

Himanshu Rai joined IIM-Lucknow at 35. After graduating from IIM-Ahmedabad, he spent time at Tata Steel, but gave up the corporate profile to do something intelligent. "I don't want a fancy car, a safe vehicle is just fine. I couldn't devote much time to pursue my vision with a job like that; hence teaching. And I am happy here," he said.

Source: The Times of India, April 24, 2011

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