Monday, June 22, 2009

Attracting Talent for State Universities in India

Whenever there is a discussion about shortage of faculty or attracting talent back to India, it is always about IITs and IISc. There is hardly any talk about state universities where this shortage and the need for a bright faculty who has international exposure, is even more acute.

Many time people quote that the salaries in India are not comparable to international level, and that is the main reason Indians who are pursuing higher education abroad don't come back to India. In my opinion this is completely not true. I have worked as an Assistant professor in India and can tell that the salary of an assistant professor in any state college or university is very much comparable (sometime even better) with international standard if adjusted against the cost of living.

One of my friend who had to choose between a position in IISc and a position in a second tier US university, chose to stay in US as he felt that he can use his talent better in USA even though the life will be much easier at IISc. On the other hand, many of my Indian friends who are doing Ph. D. or post-doc abroad in different fields express their wish to go back to India and many of them will be quite happy to find position closer to their home town, not only in IIts or IISc. They don't go back because often they lack adequate information on application procedure, and salary and promotion structure of Indian system.

If the overall recruiting system for all universities will be modified keeping this mind, I guess it will be a big boon for Higher education system in India. You can ask that there is already a shortage of people in elite institutes so who will go to state universities, but in my opinion everything should be targeted altogether. When we are talking about Indian higher education system, we should not isolate state and central universities from elite universities. This is short sighted approach which will lead to deterioration of already crippled science education system in India.

If we manage to bring more people from developed countries to our universities, what it will do is quite clear; I am just listing few points here:

- First of all it will bring fresh talent in our universities which are crippled with local people deep into the local politics.

- New generation of science/engineering/medical students needs new generation of high tech courses which can hardly be taught by faculty who never had exposure to these fields and who are not current in their knowledge of even their own field.

- Students from state universities will benefit most if there are more people who can guide them about career aspects beyond that local city.

we can go on and on, but how to do it?

- Right now there is a lack of adequate central system for advertising of the academic positions all over India online and clear mechanism for appointments. There should be central website where all institutes should advertise open position obligatorily. The website structure can be similar to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Also the criteria for selection should be stated clearly.

- We need to have teleconferencing systems in all universities so that the candidates who are living abroad can appear for the interview online. The overall system can be like IISc/IIts where the initial offer is for visiting position if the candidate is not present personally for interview and once the candidate is there, s/he gets permanent faculty position offer.

- Most of our state universities lack decent infrastructure/funding and support system to do any kind of experimental research. This fact is not unknown, but many times students who did not have Ph. D. experience of smaller places have no idea about it, so it should be stated clearly in the advertisement what are the facilities available in the department and what are the expectations from faculty.

If we consider these facts and act, we can hope that our students will get best education which they deserve and our higher education system will flourish.


arbitblogs said...

The issue you raised about the lack of a central website holds more significance than we can attribute. Sometimes it is just the convenience (or the lack of it) that drives people away.
Having said that, are you aware of any organization/process/scheme/effort made to address the problem at the grass root level? That is to say, is there any effort done anywhere in India that looks for a long term solution by educating present Indian students about the prospects of pursuing a teaching career?

Rainbow Scientist said...


I am not aware of any coherent efforts to improve the situation. Most of the students who went to teaching career in last 10 years are those who, for various reasons, could not go to vibrant IT sector which is attracting all the smart people.

I know 2 types of people personally who returned to India after Ph. D./post-doc; 1; Those who earned Ph. D. either from IITs/IISc, spend some time out of India as a post-doc and returned to one of these institutes. They were well aware what they were doing. 2; Those who decided that they want to go back no matter what, and then they returned and struggle to get position in any university and slowly lost all enthusiasm and either adopted to the situation or went to industry.

And I personally know many people who want to go back but don't know how and where. They are ok to have teaching based positions. My point is to attract these people and provide them adequate means to do that. This is win-win situation for everyone.