Friday, November 22, 2013

Government may relax salary norm for foreign faculty visa

India may consider relaxing the minimum salary threshold for issuing work visas to foreigners willing to work in Union government-funded higher education institutes, according to two government officials aware of the plan. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) expects this will help its institutions get foreign professors at lower salaries and has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) urging the visa relaxation.

It has begun discussions on this matter, with the next round of deliberations with the MHA scheduled for Friday, the officials said, both of them declining to be identified. “It’s a requirement for the growth of our top central government-funded technical institutes (CFTIs),” one of the officials said.

“The MHA listened favourably to the MHRD’s point during the previous meeting. And in the Friday meeting, we believe it will make further progress,” the second official said. According to the home ministry’s guidelines, foreigners seeking work visas need to be drawing a minimum salary of US$ 25,000 a year (Rs. 1.57 million at the current exchange rate).

The MHRD is hoping to get foreign teachers to fill up vacancies in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and other elite schools. These institutions have been facing a 20-40% shortage of teachers for years. India has 16 IITs, 13 IIMs, five IIITs and 30 National Institutes of Technology (NITs).

“As central-funded institutions, it won’t be possible for the MHRD to pay more than what is prescribed for all, hence this revision request (to lower the minimum salary threshold),” the first government official mentioned earlier said. “For example, an assistant professor in an IIT gets around Rs. 1 million per annum and that’s what we are looking at. If we give more than Rs. 1 million to a new assistant professor from a foreign country, it will create problems in campuses.” The official said while the higher education department understands the logic behind the minimum salary requirement of the MHA for issuing visas, the MHRD’s request has merit.

“The home ministry does not want lot of inward migrants to come and work in India and take jobs of Indians—importantly, only high-skilled people should be allowed. Our case fits well here, we don’t have enough quality faculty members available and those who will come will be high-skilled,” he said.

“The MHRD has explained that they are not asking for a blanket reduction in minimum salary requirement for all foreigners, but for those coming to teach as faculty members in CFTIs. The old regulation can continue to remain for others and even for private education providers, who can afford more salary,” the official added.

Getting foreign teachers will also help Indian institutes get better rankings in global listings of top universities as internationalization of a campus is key to good rankings, the official said. No Indian institution features among the top 200 universities in global rankings, a prickly issue with the MHRD.

The ministry also believes it is no longer difficult to get foreign teachers at salaries on a par with their Indian peers and that the US$ 25,000 threshold is a hindrance. “Our top institutes can draw a good number of foreign teachers on an Indian salary, as the cost of living here is cheaper. Allied benefits like housing facility in campuses and possibility to bag sponsored research work is good,” said the second official.

The move could change the way top campuses in India function, said Enayet Kabir, Associate Vice-President (Education Practice) at consulting firm Technopak Advisors. “It’s a misconception that we cannot get foreign faculty on Indian salaries. We can get lot of teachers from European countries if not many from the US, and relaxing the salary threshold will do good to our education sector,” he said. “The slowdown in Europe and digital interventions like massive online open courses are a problem for teachers there, and India can cash in here.”

“It will also create competition among teachers to improve research and not live with complacency once in a job. The teaching space could be market-driven in the future,” Kabir added.

Source: Mint, November 22, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive