Brain-gain strategy for all varsities

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI in Delhi
  • Published 18.10.09
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New Delhi, Oct. 18: The reforms planned to lure global faculty to 14 “world-class” universities are now likely to cover all other Indian varsities in a subtle shift in government strategy to ward off allegations of bias.

It may, however, take a few years for the proposed reforms to impact each Indian university because widely varying standards may force the government to implement the strategy selectively, government officials said.

The move follows demands from academics and institutions that all Indian varsities be covered by the proposed strategy to try and attract some of the best teachers in the world, sources said.

A draft blueprint representing the “brain gain” strategy was circulated among academics and universities by the HRD ministry in early August. Ministry sources said the majority of comments they had received so far supported the initiative, but suggested that it be extended to cover all universities.

“I think we are comfortable with the idea of extending the proposal to cover all universities,” a senior ministry official said.

The draft blueprint suggests a set of reforms that the ministry argues are critical to attracting the best teachers to Indian institutions.

These proposed reforms include amending the Citizenship Act that bars foreign citizens from holding non-contractual jobs in India.

They also include exempting salaries of teachers at the world-class universities from most taxes.

These new universities, the draft blueprint suggests, could also be granted exemption from the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In addition to the blueprint, HRD minister Kapil Sibal has also proposed using public-private partnerships in setting up and running the institutions, now referred to by the government as innovation universities.

“We will have to select universities other than the innovation universities that may be compatible with the plan to hire foreign teachers. Identified universities may also be allowed to benefit from the amendment to the Citizenship Act,” a source said.

But the other universities are unlikely to be exempted from the audit supervision of the CAG any time in the near future, the source said.

The debate over drawing foreign faculty, including Indian-origin teachers, to institutions here is rooted in a curious quandary that afflicts higher education in India.

The Manmohan Singh government has openly stated that one of its ambitions is to transform India into a global knowledge hub, attracting teachers and students from foreign countries.

But most top educational institutions, such as the universities, the IITs, the IIMs, suffer from severe faculty shortage, with over 30 per cent posts often lying vacant. The “brain gain” policy is aimed at assisting to fulfil both India’s global ambitions in education and in helping its educational institutions overcome the faculty crunch.