Faculty hitch in seat hike

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By G.S. MUDUR in Delhi
  • Published 17.05.06

New Delhi, May 17: If too many seats are added to educational institutions as a way of resolving the quota controversy, the quality of education will be hit, leading academics have warned.

They argue that a larger number of students will require a larger number of teachers, whereas the country now suffers from a shortage of qualified faculty.

The Union human resource development ministry is considering the possibility of creating extra seats in educational institutions to mollify the anti-reservation agitators. But senior teachers at premier institutes say this can’t be done without addressing the faculty shortage.

“The faculty shortage is going to intensify,” said Padmanabhan Balaram, director of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

“There’s an optimum class size and it would be unfair to expect teachers to handle a large number of additional students. We need more teachers, but it is difficult to attract faculty of the right calibre.”

“We have tremendous problems in finding faculty,” said Alok Bhattacharya, professor of bioinformatics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “Some of the worst hit areas are computer sciences, biotechnology and information technology.”

A written response by HRD minister Arjun Singh to a question in Parliament today reveals the magnitude of the faculty shortage in the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management (see chart).

Each of the seven IITs and five of the six IIMs have fewer than the sanctioned number of teachers. IIT Delhi has 418 against a sanctioned strength of 583; IIT Mumbai has 401 but would ideally require 529; and IIT Kharagpur has 470 though the sanctioned strength is 667.

IIT Kharagpur director Shishir Dube said that in the upcoming academic session, the institute would take in 200 extra undergraduate students and 480 additional postgraduate students. He reasoned the additional students will not affect the quality of education if other infrastructure exists.

“It shouldn’t make such a big difference if we have 35 students in a class instead of 25 as long as we have infrastructure such as laboratory space, classrooms, books and hostels,” Dube said.

Institutions lower in the pecking order, too, face a faculty shortage. The All India Council of Technical Education has reduced about 3,900 seats in 430 technical institutes because of “faculty deficiency or built-up area deficiency”.

The council says there is a shortage of senior faculty in engineering, especially in IT-related branches. The council has raised the working age of professors from 65 to 70 years for the next two years.

Low teacher salaries are part of the problem, the academics said. “There isn’t too much difference between what a university faculty member starts out with and what a senior call centre employee might earn,” said Bhattacharya.