'Criminal' to increase number of colleges without teachers to run them

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | PROF DR N PRABHUDEV
Published Feb 24, 2019, 3:01 am IST
Updated Feb 24, 2019, 3:01 am IST
The availability of adequate and qualified faculty is a pre-requisite for quality education.
Over the decades, the academic profession has been run into the ground by politicians, bureaucrats and academics themselves.
 Over the decades, the academic profession has been run into the ground by politicians, bureaucrats and academics themselves.

Faculty Shortages in Indian Universities - A Scary Reality for Indian Academia! Staffing 700 universities and 48,000 affiliated colleges is a complex task!

Recruitment process is convoluted and corrupt. In India, nothing is as it seems. Government and university officials say all the right things about higher education in their public statements; but lip service won’t be enough.India spends only 4.13% of its GDP on education. Funding appears to be a key issue in filling vacant teaching posts.

 

Despite multiple institutions monitoring the quality of higher education in India, universities are working with half the capacity of the faculty required. This results in dilution of quality. The availability of adequate and qualified faculty is a pre-requisite for quality education.The situation continues to be grim with no improvement seen in near future.

Looks perpetual! Indian University Crisis of Faculty Shortages hits Rankings, Teaching and Research.The rankings of Indian universities have steadily declined and more so over four years till 2018. No Indian university--India has 700 of them finds a place in the global top 100 and the highest rank achieved this year was 420 by Indian Institute of Science.For the last 15-20 years, universities have been neglected.

 

Social status of the academic profession.There has been a dramatic decline. Many men and women who joined higher education were not hired on the basis of merit. Those who participated in and contributed to the making of the higher-education crisis are now expected to revive higher education.

Over the decades, the academic profession has been run into the ground by politicians, bureaucrats and academics themselves. As a result, very few take to academia.  Most Indian universities are in such a broken state that they inspire young people to run away from them as soon as they are done with their education. Salaries at these institutions remain low and teachers are only occasionally paid on time.

 

The irony is that there seems to be a surplus of well-qualified Indian faculty members at Western and Eastern institutions. This is part of a wider social phenomenon in India known as the “brain drain”, whereby the country’s top minds seek their fame and fortune overseas rather than on home soil.

The present Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) in higher education is around 1:23, the recommended value as per University Grants Commission guidelines is 1:12 for postgraduate students and 1:15 for undergraduates.By increasing the retirement age of college and university teachers from 60 to 65, and up to 70 for IITs and Central Universities, the government is trying to plug the acute shortage of faculty.

 

The political interference in appointments of vice chancellors, senior officials and even for the faculty recruitments amounting to judicial intervention has further complicated the situation.

India’s 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) collectively have a faculty shortage of 34% as of March 2018. More IITs But fewer teachers.

Half of IIT graduates go abroad to find work’. About 15% of IIT graduates would come back as faculty.Rest of the remaining enter software and information technology.

Is the inadequate supply of qualified faculty the reason? The truth is more complicated! The universities need to think of evolving a strategy to hire the best people and offer them attractive salaries to keep them motivated.Of the 2,426 sanctioned posts for professors across the central universities, 1,301 have not been filled.Government statistics show 5,928 of the 16,600 sanctioned posts for teachers in central universities are vacant.  But in the absence of parity in pay-scales, leave benefits and perks that permanent faculty enjoy, most ad-hoc faculty end up doing a half-hearted job.

 

A “large number” of the professors are not, qualified to teach. “So the faculty shortage may be actually 80-85 percent. Faculty shortage provides a glimpse into the broken state of India’s higher education. Few of the central universities are functioning with 52% of the sanctioned strength while the established ones have vacancies of 50%. Large armies of ad hoc or part-time faculty are used to against the sanctioned vacancies.Indeed, all government universities make generous use of part-time faculty out of necessity, because they do not have budgets to hire full-time faculty.

 

Thegovernmentsboth stateand the central, arenot keen on improving higher education. The universities cope with depleted numbers of faculty members as older ones continue to retire. Ad-hoc faculty - who are poorly paid - is the only affordable option. Students suffer as a result.  Faculty shortages are just one of the many gaping holes in the higher education sector seems to have become a permanent feature of India’s universities.

Faculty shortages have certainly become worse over time with the exponential growth - in the number of higher education institutions and the 36 million college-going student population. With the gross enrolment ratio expected to increase from 25.2% (2016) to 30% (2020), the country’s colleges and universities will be bursting with students in the coming years.

 

It is “criminal” to increase the number of colleges and universities but not the faculty to run them.

Faculty costs
Instead of hiring one permanent teacher, which costs around Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000, the universities hire four to six contract teachers at half or quarter the price. A massive investment by the government is needed, as well as support from those businesses that wanted to launch institutions in the “philanthropic mode.  Rich people’s children do not typically become professors. It is important for the poor people entering the education system for better academic output.You can make the quantum leap, and China has shown that.India produced about 700 engineering PhD’s last year, about 6,000 earned such degrees in China.

 

Lack of clarity in guidelines  
Regular recruitments are not taking place.Contractual appointments are only a temporary solution. Tenure appointments would always be the necessity and for that a clear and mandated policy is required. The government also should take measures to attract bright young postgraduates by offering handsome scholarships to the Ph.D. scholars. Recruit bright young graduates and postgraduates as Teaching Assistants and Lecturers, respectively, with a good initial package and other benefits. While working, they would work for their degrees and also do some undergraduate teaching. The existing teaching community has also got a major role to play in addressing the problem. They need to work for improving the image of this profession so that it gets its old glory back.

 

The writer is former V-C,Bangalore University

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