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Foreign faculty salary shift hint

New Delhi, Nov. 11: The government is likely to relax a minimum salary guideline for hiring foreign teachers in a move aimed at addressing mid-level faculty shortage at some of the country’s top institutions, including the IITs.

The income criterion, which the ministry of home affairs had set, was discussed at a high-level meeting at the ministry last week where officials from the department of human resources development said the limit was affecting the growth of institutions.

“There is a favourable consideration on the issue of relaxation of the income guideline,” said an official associated with the development.

The guideline says foreigners can be appointed only for high-end jobs and work permits wouldn’t be given to those who would get a salary of less than $25,000 a year. That works out to Rs 15.84 lakh. Assistant professors and associate professors in an IIT or a central university get between Rs 40,000 and Rs 80,000 a month.

While the home ministry’s logic was that jobs in India should be protected for Indians unless there was a real need to hire from abroad, HRD ministry officials argued that premier institutions could appoint foreign faculty on contract if the norm were relaxed.

Directors at some of the IITs, which along with central universities face up to 35 per cent teacher shortage, had also been protesting the guideline saying they couldn’t afford to pay mid-level faculty over Rs 1 lakh a month. Most of vacancies are at the level of assistant professors or associate professors.

Although no final decision has been taken, IIT heads welcomed the discussion on a possible relaxation. “The proposal, if approved, will enhance the brand image of the IITs andů improve the academic atmosphere,” IIT Delhi director R.K. Shevgaonkar said.

IIT Guwahati director Gautam Biswas welcomed the move but warned that a “blanket relaxation will jeopardise the interest of Indians”. Biswas said there should be a “ceiling on the number” of foreign recruits. “Otherwise, it will create resentment among aspiring Indian scholars,” he said, suggesting a cap of 10 per cent of the total number of teachers.