Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Narayana Murthy was right; IITs short of 2500 teachers

Less than a week after taking charge, two new directors at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Delhi and Roorkee are now grappling with a vexing problem all IITs are struggling with - an acute shortage of faculty. They might well be discovering one of the reasons why Infosys chairman emeritus NR Narayana Murthy thinks the quality of students at IITs is poor.

Prof. R.K. Shevgaonkar, who took over as Director at IIT-Delhi last week, says IITs all over the country need 2,500 faculty members immediately to catch up with the standard student-to-teacher ratio of 10:1. Every IIT is short of 30% faculty, he says. This has happened due to addition of 54% seats to accommodate more students in the OBC quota in the past few years.

Shevgaonkar, the former vice-chancellor of Pune University, says IIT-Delhi has 416 faculty members against the required 800 teachers. This, despite the 107 faculty it has hired from across the world in the past four years. These are Indians with foreign degrees. IITs are not allowed to hire foreign nationals as permanent or full-time faculty, says Prof. M. Balakrishnan, Deputy Director (faculty), IIT-Delhi.

Pradipta Banerji, who took charge of IIT-Roorkee on October 14, is fretting over the poor 1:18 teacher-student ratio at Roorkee. "The sanctioned faculty strength at IIT-Roorkee is 900 and we are not even half-way through," says Banerji. He is already in talks with alumni networks to look for talent. "Why just abroad, we can look at hiring quality faculty members from other educational institutes in India," Banerji says.

India, which has not expanded its R&D institutions for at least three decades, is now stepping on the gas. It is not just the IITs that are expanding. Many institutions are coming up in specialised areas and some of them compete with IITs for faculty. The shortage of faculty is a direct consequence of this expansion, and it is unlikely to be solved for a long time. However, over a decade, the new institutions will create new scientists and engineers that can serve as faculty in IITs.

Until then, IITs have to find other talent pools. The Director of IIT-Kanpur, Sanjay Dhande, who was in Washington DC last week for the Indo-US Higher Education Summit, was busy scouting for talent there. He has already identified two young professors as potential hires. IIT-Kanpur has one of the better student-to-teacher ratios at 13:1 with 350 faculty members, but it is still some distance away from the required numbers.

Younger IITs such as Guwahati, started in 1994, have it tougher. IIT-Guwahati has 295 faculty members against the 385 that it needs. "Shortages are more pronounced in certain disciplines and sub-disciplines," says IIT-Guwahati Director Gautam Barua. For instance, at IIT-Guwahati, there is a paucity of faculty talent in chemistry, design, computer sciences and bigger shortages in sub-areas such as database networks. The paucity of talent at these institutes is harming the research potential, say academicians. "Our ability to take more PhD students is getting impacted due to the faculty crunch," adds Barua.

Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2011

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