The Indian Institutes of Technology have asked the government to allow them to hire foreign nationals as permanent faculty, in a radical proposal that if accepted could expose students to globally-renowned professors like never before.
The IIT proposal comes amid a growing number of applications from foreign nationals — including Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) — to teach at India’s premier engineering schools, top Institute sources have told Hindustan Times.
The Institutes are now expected to discuss the proposal with the human resource development ministry at a meeting of the IIT Council chaired by Human Resources and Development Minister Kapil Sibal on September 10. The Council is the highest decision making body of the IITs.
The IITs and central universities can at present hire foreign nationals as faculty only on contract, and for a maximum period of five years. This limitation acts as a disincentive for many top PIO academics teaching at universities abroad who may otherwise be willing to join the IITs as faculty, an IIT Director said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Hiring foreign nationals on a permanent basis would make the IITs truly global institutions like the best universities in the west, which make no distinction between their nationals and foreigners holding requisite diplomatic documents,” the director said.
The IITs also face a massive faculty shortage — between 15 and 40 per cent depending on the Institute — and are constantly on the look out for qualified teachers.
In their note to the HRD ministry, the IITs have also tried to counter one of the most common arguments used against allowing top foreign faculty in India. Top foreign faculty will have to be paid better than their Indian counterparts, critics have argued. This would create an unequal pay structure and breed resentment among Indian faculty.
But the IITs have clarified to the ministry that they are confident they can attract foreign faculty without paying them any more than Indian teachers.