They are regarded globally as centres of excellence and considered to be India’s ticket to making it big in the industrial and entrepreneurial world. So it is shocking that the nine centrally funded technical institutions (collectively called CFTIs), which include the prestigious IITs and IIMs, are currently short of more than 3,000 faculty members or about one-third of the sanctioned strength.
The statistics, sourced from the Union HRD ministry, point to a rather grim situation. For instance, one-third of the teaching posts at the IITs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are lying vacant. The premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bangalore does not have even half the teachers it needs; ditto for the three Schools of Planning and Architecture (SPAs). In fact, all the CFTIs—whether it is the lone Indian School of Mines (ISM) at Dhanbad or the NITs dotted across the country—are currently functioning without the requisite number of teachers.
There is an overall deficit of 1,284 teachers, 222 of these at IIT-Bombay. “We have a policy of rolling recruitment where we fill up vacant posts as soon as we find a qualified candidate,” explains A K Suresh, dean for faculty affairs at IIT-Bombay. “Moreover, we take care of immediate needs by hiring faculty on a contractual basis.”
By 2014, IIT-Bombay will reach its maximum capacity of 8,000 students and by then will have to ensure that it finds enough professors to maintain the healthy student-teacher ratio that is required for an elite engineering institute.
The situation is equally bad in IISc, which is concerned with research in frontier areas of science and education in contemporary technologically important fields, and the SPA, a specialised university, the only one of its kind that provides training in different aspects of human habitat and environment. Both these institutes are involved in the cutting edge of technical knowledge pursuit, and the effect of an inadequate faculty can well be imagined. Indeed, experts worry that the inability to find qualified professors may seriously compromise India’s ability to groom top-notch engineers, scientists and businessmen of the future.
The government has been trying hard to recruit qualified individuals to teach at CFTIs but has found the going tough. Very few students who graduate from the CFTIs come back to teach, preferring to move abroad or accept lucrative jobs in the private sector. The Sixth Pay Commission did hike salaries at these premier institutes but most professors at IITs and IIMs claim that even the new pay scales are not good enough to attract talented people to teaching in India.
The inability to find enough qualified teachers is even more galling, considering that the institutes attract the best of India’s brains. Admissions involve a gruelling competitive process for which students prepare for years. And after all the hard work they find themselves reaching institutes where there are not enough teachers to groom them for excellence.