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IITs can?t cope with quota overload

The institutes are facing a "critical challenge" to sustain their faculty base, report Vinod Sharma & Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 03:36 IST

A vision document for IITs two years ago made a big point through a small set of statistics. Nearly one-third of IIT Delhi's faculty is retiring in the next few years. And quality replacements are nowhere in sight.

A quick survey of the faculty by the IIT Delhi Alumni Association threw up a startling figure - just 15 of the 370 faculty members were below 35. So, the institute's "critical challenge"—one that IITs across India are yet to overcome—was to maintain its faculty base, the document said.

The association's former president Krishen K Dhar said most IIT faculties have 25-30 per cent vacancies. The problem isn't just IIT-IIM specific. "Lesser" institutions are crippled more by the talent crunch.

Dhar's prognosis was writ large in a UGC warning about a "disaster" waiting to happen in universities and colleges. The Commission, in fact, threatened to hold back funds last year to institutes with less than 70-80 per cent faculty strength. But the warning didn't work. UGC Chairman Sukhdev Thorat last week spoke of of 1.2 lakh vacancies, 40 per cent of them in teaching slots.

Perhaps for this reason, the Planning Commission's Mid-Term Appraisal of the current five-year-plan on higher education opens on a sombre note, about the lack of infrastructure and decline in teaching standards in various universities/colleges.

Which is why HRD Minister Arjun Singh's proposal to increase seats in the IITs and IIMs to neutralise the 27 per cent quota to OBCs has left academicians worried.

Pradeep Gupta, chairman of Pan-IIT, an umbrella alumni body of seven IITs, is one of them. IITs just do not have the infrastructure to cope with a quantum jump in intake, he said, pointing that premier institutes have already suffered due to unplanned - even if gradual - seat increases over the years without proportional increase in resources.

There are limits to how many people can be squeezed into tutorials or hostels. Or for that matter, stretching available funding without impacting the already diluted quality standards. At a measly Rs 4-5 lakh per project, Dhar said, "Funds are inadequate for meaningful research." The result: A typical IIT lags way behind world-class institutes such as Stanford and MIT in terms of papers published or cited by peers.

Dhar and Gupta say India must scale up numbers to ensure its 'demographic' assets—millions of youngsters attaining the working age over the next decade—do not turn into a liability. But fixing quotas isn't the way to harness talent.

When the Chinese decided to create a league of universities to rival the best, they invested heavily in human resource and research funding. Little wonder then that one-third of the faculty in certain departments of Peking University holds American doctorates.

First Published: Apr 19, 2006 01:38 IST