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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editor-in-Chief
Arindam Chaudhuri

Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M
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Now, even Jairam Ramesh says Dare to Think Beyond The IIMs and The IITs!

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So what is wrong with India’s most guarded and hyped institutions of higher education, the IITs and the IIMs? Well, if you ask me, it’s difficult to find what is right – apart from the acres of land at their disposal and the good PR machinery that they have (thanks to the half-educated and complex-ridden journalists infesting the print media, who are ready to write any illogical thing at their behest due to their lack of understanding on the issue)... Now, before anyone accuses me of competitive bitching, without wasting words, let me proceed systematically!

The first question we must ask is, what makes a great institution? The answer to that is actually very simple! Great course content and great faculty! Course content, however, is copyable and quite standardised – at least amongst the world’s finest institutions! Faculty, therefore, becomes the most important distinguishing factor. Different streams of education require different kinds of faculty expertise. Management education requires faculty members, for example, to have great communication skills, great consulting and industry interface, and of course, regular research and writing. Similarly, engineering requires faculty to undertake research first as a key aspect apart from other things like the ability to teach and communicate. And this is where the IITs and the IIMs have a massive problem (apart from many other huge problems, for example, the lack of global exposure or the rank bad selection criteria of students at IIMs where primarily male engineers get through to their management programmes instead of commerce and arts graduates who have relatively higher EQ – a far more important criteria to become a better manager than simply having a high IQ).

So what exactly is the problem with the IIM and IIT faculty? The first and foremost problem is that there is no faculty! I mean, there is a huge dearth of faculty. I list some research and comments to support this. The University of Pennsylvania lists a 2008 document by the journal Science (the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is the world’s #1 science research journal and one of the most-cited scientific journals in the current times), which mentions: “16 centrally funded Indian universities are already facing a shortfall of nearly 2000 teachers, and IITs have about 900 vacant faculty posts. According to the All India Council for Technical Education, almost a third of faculty positions in academia are unfilled.” Well, last year, the Lok Sabha questioned our Minister of State for HRD, D. Purandeswari, on this issue. The Minister accepted the horrible situation and gave a reply that “IIT Kharagpur is facing the maximum vacancies of 299 faculty, followed by 222 in IIT Bombay, 194 in IIT Roorkee, 138 in IIT Madras, 78 in IIT Delhi, 69 in IIT Kanpur and 65 in IIT Guwahati.” The minister also accepted that the number of vacancies increased from 877 in the seven old IITs in 2008-09 to 1,065 in 2009-10. “The government has started eight more IITs in the last two years and in these centres, the number of vacant posts stood at 280,” Purandeswari said. The Minister further confirmed that there are 95 vacant posts in the seven IIMs with IIM-Bangalore having the maximum vacancies of 35 posts followed by 29 in IIM-Ahmedabad!

So basically, we are talking of a thousand plus faculty shortage in the IITs alone! And what happens when there is a shortage of faculty is that the existing faculty is heavily burdened with taking more and more classes; worse still, doing more and more of administrative work and obviously less and less of research! As per an article in the Hindu Business Line, in an assessment of research capabilities in business schools in India, two professors from the London Business School, Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, found “poor representation of Indian business schools in the 40 peer-reviewed journals that the Financial Times uses to rank research in MBA schools worldwide.” Analysing the research contributions in two decades till 2009, their study shows that just a handful of faculties from some IIMs and IITs have contributed papers to such journals.

And why go far? Dr. Sudhir K. Jain, Head, Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi has himself said, “No doubt, management education in India has evolved, but it has evolved more in terms of quantity and not quality. Although there are a few dozen good B-schools in India, these constitute not even a few percent of the total. There are several loopholes, but the most important loophole is the dearth of quality faculty. With the establishment of a large number of B-schools in the country, the demand for faculty has grown tremendously whereas the supply side has remained stagnant. If you look at the output trend of PhDs in Management and Fellows of IIMs in the past 20 years, the factual position will be clear. With the bulk approvals of B-schools, the top educational planners in AICTE, UGC, MHRD, Planning Commission, and educational institutions, should have ensured higher supply of faculty with doctoral degrees in management through suitable policy interventions directed towards high quality higher education.”

A Wall Street Journal LiveMint article mentions, “In the race for numbers, quality [of faculty at IIMs] is often compromised. Some former IIM faculty members say at least half the faculty in various IIMs doesn’t deserve to be there. This is also the view of Vijay Shanker Pandey, a former joint secretary in the human resources development ministry… He conducted an enquiry and found IIMs had many members who neither teach properly nor do research. No wonder IIMs are always on the lookout for good faculty.” The same has been admitted by Anindya Sen, Dean (Programme Initiatives), IIM-Kolkata, 2005-07. He had said in 2007, “It is becoming increasingly difficult to get quality faculty for IIMs. Part of the reason is the low salaries. Talented people out there have plenty of opportunities to look for. They don’t see teaching at IIMs attractive anymore.” If we talk of the new IIMs, then things get more shocking! Classes in IIM Rohtak, Ranchi and Raipur are conducted primarily by visiting faculties. Speaking about the students’ plight to Wall Street Journal LiveMint, P. Rameshan, Director of IIM-Rohtak, which is running out of a temporary campus inside Maharshi Dayanand University in Rohtak, said this year itself, “I am the only permanent faculty. All courses are being taught by visiting professors. Students have missed out the benefit of having permanent faculty and this shortage of full-time teachers is affecting the learning process as well as summer placements, which are typically handled by full-time faculty members.”

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