While India aspires to have a place among top ranked universities of the world, it is paradoxical to see that the public funded institutions of higher education are facing acute shortage of the faculty positions from several years. While authentic data is not openly reported in the reports related to higher education, according to Unstarred Question Number 296, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Answered on 25-02-2015 in the Lok Sabha, the vacant faculty positions in the premier institutions varies between 8 percent to 38 percent. Data reported on NAAC website also confirms the same. Almost all the parameters of ranking revolve around the faculty and their performance drives the institutions to achieve excellence.
Over the years, several cadres of faculty positions have emerged. In addition to the coveted 'regular' faculty members, there is adhoc faculty, guest faculty, adjunct faculty, guest faculty, etc. The regular appointment of the faculty members is not being made in the colleges and universities since years. The approved budgeted faculty positions have been sanctioned to the colleges and universities according to the student strength decided years ago, and now the workload has increased manifold. So, effectively, almost every institution has a majority of the unfilled faculty positions. To make the matters worst, there are several factors that stall the recruitment process, the latest being the diktat by the UGC to withhold all recruitments in central and state universities.
"Over the years, several stakeholders have emerged in the process of faculty recruitment and each competes to have an influence on the process"
Budgetary constraint may seem to be an obvious reason, but the reason why faculty positions are not being filled extend beyond this. Over the years, several stakeholders have emerged in the process of faculty recruitment and each competes to have an influence on the process. There is too much of quantification of the process, eroding its very academic flavour.
Theoretically, the universities should be independent to decide on the criteria for recruitment of faculty positions. A Vice Chancellor is supposed to have the power to pick someone and offer a faculty position in university as someone of eminence may never make a regular application. But our structured system has made the whole process too narrow. It was paradoxical to see late Dr. Abdul Kalam not being eligible for a part-time teaching position in a university, although he had retired DRDO with years of experience as practitioner.
Among the other direct stakeholders in the process are the UGC, which notifies the minimum requirements for recruitment of faculty positions in colleges and universities. Then there are regulatory bodies, which also lay down their norms for recruitment. State governments make their own criteria for recruitment of faculty. Lastly, courts often have a final say, as hardly any recruitment happens without any litigation, complaints or allegations.
In Haryana, there are three different criteria for recruitment of assistant professors in colleges and universities. Although the qualification and pay scale for assistant professors is the same, the criteria for recruitment are different in a university, government college and private-aided college. The entire process has been tightly structured and 87.5 marks have been allotted to API, which entails various academic, research and other parameters and only 12.5 marks have been allotted for interview. The constitution of API varies for the three classes of posts. Meeting the requirements of roster system for reservation is another major challenge.
Candidates face the dilemma of compliance for these categories of posts. Candidates have to make multiple applications and appear in multiple interviews. Thousands of rupees are spent as application fees, in addition to the hours lost in uploading the documents and making submissions.
Amidst all this, research has become a casualty, as there are easy methods of meeting all the criteria without any genuine research. Doctoral research without any substance is being done, although it meets all criteria of regulatory bodies. Research journals are openly advertising of meeting all criteria and getting the papers published within weeks, which defies the very purpose of writing a paper. It can take years of hard work to write a paper with a respectable impact factor, but things seem to be very easy here.
In addition to these obvious influences and complexities, a lot more happens behind the scenes. The lobbying for securing selection is becoming more and more tricky and the staff engaged in the recruitment process is under lot of pressure from several quarters. Whispers of several even unethical undercurrents are also heard at times.
The job of a selection committee has become very tricky and the administrators as well as the faculty members typically try to avoid the same. Process begins with a tedious scrutiny of the documents, which is very monotonous and time consuming and has the potential of error. Interview always has allegations of subjectivity. If the process gets completed, there is bout of allegations and often the whole process ends up as a complaint or a court case. There can be a sudden ban on the whole process from any of the quarters – the regulatory body, the government, etc. and the efforts of the candidates and the selection committees come to a standstill. Result is, only a few people want to touch this tricky process and defer it as long as they can.
The whole process needs an overhauling. It has to be easy and friendly to for the applicants as well as the members. There should be a homogeneity of criteria for recruitment within the state and a centralized pool of applications could be made and the API verified once. Pruning of fictitious research and publications must be done to safeguard the sanctity of the process. The interview process needs to be under camera for transparency.
A massive effort and strong decision is the need of the hour to save the universities and colleges from this acute shortage and all stakeholders need to play their part.