Friday, October 28, 2011

IITs dangle carrots to attract faculty

The IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) might not have reached the sanctioned strength of faculty members to make an ideal report card of 10:1 students-teachers ratio post the capacity expansion, but they are doing all they can to attract best quality talent to their campus. Be it IIT-Delhi (IIT-D), IIT-Bombay (IIT-B), IIT-Kanpur (IIT-K) or new IITs like IIT-Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn), IIT-Hyderabad (IIT-H), institutes are taking measures to attract the next generation of top quality faculty members to their institutes.

From investing in and beefing up the infrastructure in R&D, housing, helping create opportunities for the spouses of faculty members, providing lump sum grants for young faculty for research, building new state-of-the-art sports complex for new campuses, providing up to 25% higher salary through donations for new joinees to offering joining allowances for fresh recruits – institutes are leaving no stone unturned.

As a result, fresh PhDs and post doctorates have started joining the system from some of the best institutes of the world including IITs, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and universities and institutes such as University of Illinois, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Max Planck institute, Germany, University of South California, Carnegie Mellon University, Imperial College, London, UK.

"Incentives like these do a world of good in attracting best talent. It is a concerted effort over a period of time that shows results. We are already getting ambitious and high potential candidates who want to work with us," says Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director of IIT-B.

In the last four years, IIT-D, for instance, hired around 107 faculty members from across the world. To retain them, the institute is investing in better infrastructure. A new housing block of 120 flats for faculty members and their families is being built which will be ready soon. In the next 2-3 years it is planning to set up a central research facility that will house the biggest projects across domains at a cost of Rs. 40-50 crore (Rs. 400-500 million).

To retain the faculty, the institute is trying to create opportunities for teachers' spouses with requisite qualifications in incubation and entrepreneurship centres as technical staff or wherever there are vacancies, says R K Shevgaonkar, Director, IIT-D. It also aims to introduce an outreach service under faculty mentorship programme, which will create a pool of talent. "The aim is to groom world-class teachers not only for IITs, but engineering institutes in India in general. It will be a two-tier process which will train teachers for IITs and they in turn will help create a pool of faculty for engineering colleges across India," adds Shevgaonkar.

IIT-B too has investment plans on the same lines. It will invest around Rs. 300 crore (Rs. 3 billion) in the next three years to enhance and augment its current infrastructure with 180 new faculty apartments, lab space, new academic blocks for computer science, nanoelectronics technology, biotechnology and energy. The institute has also cut down on recruitment time with hiring drives being conducted through out the year unlike once a year previously. Now positions get filled within three months of announcing a vacancy, it claims. The institute which has the sanctioned capacity of 800 full-time permanent faculty members and works with 516 faculty members who tutor 8,000 students, however, says it will never hire more than 60 faculty members every year.

"If we are talking about quality, we have to be extremely cautious about who we are hiring. It just cannot be a mad rush to fill up vacancies, but merit of the individual joining IITs," says Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT-B which hired around 90 people in the last four years. Agrees Sanjay G Dhande, Director of IIT-Kanpur, "There has to be aggressive hiring, but not at the cost of quality. It is extremely essential to see that the candidates we hire have great potential, has done some quality research work and is adept at teaching at institutes like IITs."

Starting next January, the institute will offer a joining bonus of Rs. 15,000 per month for the first three years to young faculty members. For encouraging research, it has been offering a one time grant of Rs. 2.5 million to fresh joinees along with a faculty fellowship of Rs. 15,000 per month for three years for the best faculty on campus. And all this in addition to their salaries.

One of the new IITs which came up in 2008, IIT-Gn, has devised a plan to reach out to Indian PhD/Post doctorate students, faculty members across United States and Europe to attract them. In December the institute is hosting a conference where 70 PhDs and Post Doctorates from across the world will come together to talk about how IIT-Gn can become a world class organisation. Higher salaries are also on offer. "With donations we have been able to offer up to 25% higher salary to new faculty members. So while an assistant professor might get Rs. 70,000-75,000 in other IITs (the standard package), we are offering Rs. 85,000-90,000 to them," says Prof. Sudhir K Jain, Director, IIT-Gn.

For its part, IIT-H is betting on its new campus that will come up in 2013 which will provide state-of-the-art housing facilities to its faculty members. It is also building a world class sports complex which is being designed by Japanese architects. Prof. Uday Desai, Director, IIT-H says, "We have invested heavily on research in material science, wireless communication and high performance computer technology. We are also trying to attract donations which can be channelised for the institute's growth and quality research. It can help us in the long run if more people take interest in building world class knowledge centres."

Source: The Economic Times, October 28, 2011

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