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Higher Education in India – Significance of Quality Faculties

Synopsis: The size or location of educational institutions is not a big barrier to academic excellence. The quality and strength of faculty should improve to ensure quality higher education.

Background
  • Some experts are of the belief that there should be only 10 to 12 IITs. Furthermore, the location of these institutes should be in big urban areas, and they should focus on becoming “crown jewels”.
  • However, other experts do not favour this belief. Instead, they believe that the size or location of campuses can not be a barrier to academic excellence.
  • The success of IIT-Mandi and other international universities such as Cornell University (England) and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (Japan) favors this belief.
  • Thus, the focus should be on increasing the number and quality of faculties in higher education.  The recruitment parameters for faculties should be strengthened to ensure quality.
Significance of faculties in higher education

There are a few best practices that some IITs have adopted for improving the quality of education. However, not all the IITs are able to adopt these practices due to the shortage of faculties.

  1. First, the majority of incoming students lack language and study skills. Thus, they require extra training and confidence-building measures in using the English language.
      • For this purpose, many IITs like IIT-Mandi introduced induction programs.
      • This program helps to break the ice between students and faculty, making it easy for the students to get in touch with their teachers.
      • However, this program is not mandatory in even some “crown jewel” IITs. One of the reasons for this is the increasing strength of the students without a proportionate increase in faculty members.
  2. Second, Innovative curriculums to provide students with practical work experience are very helpful in exposing students to industrial requirements.
      • For example, IIT Mandi courses from a design and innovation stream include a mandatory socio-technical practicum.
      • These kinds of innovative curriculums need effort from faculty members.
  3. Third, many IITs have scrapped the mandatory requirement to submit final year projects. But final year projects are important to test an individual’s knowledge and skills on a concrete problem. The key reason for this is that the increase in student’s strength is not in proportion to increase in faculty strength.
Issues related to the current recruitment process of faculties

There are two existing problems with recruiting and retaining faculty members.

  • First, not enough faculty members are hired. The hired faculties are burdened with additional non-academic responsibilities such as: running the canteen, managing the placement cell, etc.
  • Second, the issues in the current recruitment process.
      • One, shortlisting process is mechanical. It creates the possibility of the elimination of quality resources.
      • Second, shortlisting done on the basis of the number of papers taken and the size of grants won by faculties.
Suggestion to improve the recruitment process
  1. First, each applicant should be asked to provide their two best research publications and their two best pedagogic materials. It should be in addition to their full curriculum vitae.
  2. Second, based on the two best publications and sample pedagogic materials the external experts should prepare a shortlist. Then the local hiring committees should attempt hiring from within this shortlist.

Case Study: Remoteness will not impact Academic quality: The case of IIT Mandi

  • It has as international a resident faculty body as any other IIT.
  • It was seventh in the Atal innovativeness ranking published last year.
  • Notably, the IIT Mandi project that developed a landslide warning system won the SKOCH award

Source: The Hindu

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