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Faculty shortages need urgent resolution

The universities need to think of evolving a strategy to hire the best people and offer them attractive salaries to keep them motivated.

editorials Updated: Jul 30, 2018 13:02 IST
Hindustan Times
Students protest outside the University Grants Commission office in New Delhi. In February this year, the University Grants Commission (UGC) instructed vice-chancellors of all central universities to prepare a time-bound plan for advertisement of posts, scrutiny of applications, selection and appointment of candidates for teaching positions but precious little seems to have changed. (Sonu Mehta/HT)

More than half the professorial posts in country’s central universities are vacant. Of the 2,426 sanctioned posts for professors across the central universities, 1,301 have not been filled, reveals data provided by human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar in the Lok Sabha. The lacuna caused by faculty shortfalls isn’t limited to professors alone. Government statistics show 5,928 of the 16,600 sanctioned posts for teachers in central universities are vacant.

With the gross enrolment ratio likely to increase from 25.2% in 2016 to 30% by 2020, the country’s campuses will have more students than ever before. It isn’t that the ministry is oblivious to the crisis in our higher education. In February this year, the University Grants Commission (UGC) instructed vice-chancellors of central universities to prepare a time-bound plan for advertisement of posts, scrutiny of applications, and the selection and appointment of candidates for teaching positions but little seems to have changed. One of the knee-jerk solutions that many colleges resort to is hiring ad-hoc and part-time faculty on a contractual basis at a fraction of the cost of regular employees. UGC regulations allow universities to hire ad-hoc and guest faculty against vacant positions to the extent of 10% of total positions. 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.

The respect and esteem that our educators once enjoyed need to be restored. Universities need to think of evolving a strategy to hire the best people and offer them attractive salaries and working conditions to keep them motivated. According to a UGC regulation, universities can hire foreign faculty 20% over and above the sanctioned strength. A pay review committee, headed by UGC member VS Chauhan has recommended linking grants to universities with the vacant posts filled by them and encouraging qualified individuals to be able to make a direct entry at both associate and professor levels. To encourage the return of best brains from universities overseas, a relaxation can be made in eligibility conditions for recruitment of assistant professors in universities and colleges. Those with a doctoral degree from institutions with a ranking among top 500 in the World University Ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds or the Academic Ranking of World Universities of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University can be recruited directly and won’t be required to clear the national eligibility test. Unless steps such as these are tried out, the younger generation of talented students can’t be expected to return to Indian campuses as educators.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 13:02 IST