My post on attracting talent has generated a lot more interest than I expected, the reason is because Prof. Madras show interest in it. His comments on my observation that the salary of Assistant Professor in India is comparable to anywhere in the world, was taken much seriously. I know for many people the salary what IITs or any other faculty position in India offer is not good enough, so I am elaborating it here more what I think about it.
- Academia is not about earning money, nowhere, whether in India or in USA. Faculty salary in USA is much lower than what industry offers or what doctors or lawyers earns. It is one of the main reason American student don't prefer to go for Ph. D. program and all universities rely heavily on foreigners for their research programs. The salary of Assistant professor in R1 university (I am talking about top notch university) is $10-15K more higher then what you will earn as a primary school teacher and lower then what many colleges or smaller universities offer. If someone wants to earn more then that, one should not go to academia in the first place, Industry or IT sector in India is the place to go.
- I think it is not fair to compare salary of Assistant professor in India with salary of Assistant Professor in USA. Salary of Assistant professor in India should be compared with other professional in India, and here I think it is very much comparable, at least what I have seen in north India. Assistant professor salary is equivalent to what civil judge, deputy collector or any other class II officer will earn, what lawyers or doctors will earn in the beginning to middle of their career and I don't see any reason why we should earn more. It is public money and higher education in India serves very small population in India. I believe salary and working condition of primary school teachers should be made better to attract talent there. Neglecting early education could be very costly for future.
Having said that, I am not against faculty earning handsome package in India, but my point is that for many people that is not the main reason for not returning to India. They perfectly know that their salary will be lower. There are other factors also come in play. People want or don't want to return to India for variety of other reasons as well. Let me try to compile these reasons taking examples of people I know;
- Some people loves scientific research and its competitiveness, and USA definitely offers better atmosphere for that. One fellow didn't take offer of IISc and prefer to stay in USA. He thought that he can use his love for science research and talent better in USA than in India. I know for sure his salary for his expensive town is much lower what a school teacher will earn there. But he knows once he is successful, he can earn much more.
- Some people simply convert their dollar earning to Rupees and will never return no matter what.
- For some people it is the bureaucracy everywhere in Indian higher education system which is a major concern and reason for not returning.
- For some people it is local and regional politics in the universities and institutes which is bothering factor.
- For some people growing children is a big concern and they are more comfortable in Indian society and want to return.
- Other people whom I know want to return because they want to be close to their family and relatives.
- For some people it is the life style or culture or food. They are simply more comfortable inside India and will return if provided adequate opportunity.
And many of these people from last 3 category will go back if Indian higher education takes it seriously and pushes it aggressively. India has to take initiative if it wants better academic/scientific future.