Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) could teach business schools a thing or two about building faculty strength.
According to the premier technical institutes, in the next five years, their consolidated doctorate programmes would help do away with the faculty shortage problem the institutes have been facing for years.
"Currently, we have around 70 PhD scholars. However, we are confident of taking the total number to 300 in the next five years," says M K Surappa, director, IIT Ropar. IIT Hyderabad has seen admissions to doctorate programmes rise from a mere three scholars in 2008 to 260. "In the next five years, we expect to slowly increase the intake of PhD graduates every year," says U B Desai, director, IIT Hyderabad.
At the old IITs, 41 per cent of the teaching posts are vacant-against the sanctioned teaching staff of 5,356, there are only 3,158 teachers in regular posts. Vacancy for teaching posts is the highest at IIT-Banaras Hindu University (57 per cent), followed by IIT Delhi (50 per cent), IIT Kharagpur (48 per cent) and IIT Guwahati (42 per cent). At the remaining four IITs, vacant teaching positions range between 19 per cent and 38 per cent.
"We are able to manage teaching requirements with our present faculty strength, sometimes with additional faculty recruited on a temporary basis. With more faculty, we will be able to divide large courses into smaller divisions and improve the teacher-student contact. And, we would be able to train more PhDs to take care of the faculty shortage in the country," said A K Suresh, dean (faculty), IIT Bombay.
For specific courses, IIT Bombay makes adjunct and visiting appointments for teaching duties. It also tries using postgraduate (masters and doctorate) manpower as teaching assistants.
IITs have been running doctorate programmes for years. Lately, these institutes have begun attempting methods to attract candidates for these courses - through improved curriculum, stipends and increased investment in research facilities. "In order to encourage more number of people to take up research and PhD, the stipend should be enhanced. IITs also need to invest in research equipment. Research facilities are critical part of PhD programmes. It is not that we don't have good equipment, but we are still not on a par with global standards. Moreover, these steps would motivate more youngsters to take up doctorate programmes," says Desai.
Increasingly, emphasis is being laid on inducting doctorate candidates thorough scrutiny of applications. "Unless good quality comes in, you cannot take any new candidate," said Surappa
IIT Gandhinagar has set stringent standards to induct quality students into these courses and is more selective in its doctorate admissions compared to joint entrance exam (JEE) for undergraduate studies. This year, the selectivity ratio (the proportion of students admitted against the number applying) for doctorate programmes was less than one per cent, against two per cent in the case of JEE. "We can be very selective in our PhD admissions, a tribute to the reputation IIT Gandhinagar has already established," says Sudhir Jain, director of the institute.
At IIT Gandhinagar, the number of doctorate scholars has risen from 28 in 2010 to 133 in this year. In the next five years, the institute anticipates about 150 such students. IIT Jodhpur has seen the number of these students rise from a mere four to 70. "In the next five years, the numbers would swell to 250," P K Kalra of IIT Jodhpur.
This year, IIT Gandhinagar has received about 8,000 applications for 66 doctorate slots, about a five-fold growth in the number of such applications to the institute.
"We need quality people in our programmes. PhD is not a regular job and it requires high-quality work. We will continue to seek quality people in our PhD programmes," adds Surappa.
Though PhD enrolments are swelling, IITs say attracting youngsters to academics and research remains a challenge. "While interest in research among students is still intact, the entire ecosystem needs to be changed. In other words, more job opportunities need to be created for PhD scholars," says Desai.
As far as stipends are concerned, IITs have been meeting industry standards. At IIT-Gandhinagar, the monthly stipend for a doctorate scholar who has completed MTech ranges from Rs 21,600 to Rs 31,600 - Rs 18,000, 20 per cent house rent allowance (Rs 10,000 if IIT/Indian Institute of Science graduate/ Rs 10,000 if they are top three rank holders of National Institute of Technology and select colleges, under the start-early programme/ Rs 5,000 for those who qualify in the top five per cent in any national level exam).
At IIT Gandhinagar, the monthly stipend for a doctorate scholar who has completed BTech ranges from Rs 19,000 to Rs 29,000 - Rs 16,000, 20 per cent house rent allowance (Rs 10,000 if IIT/Indian Institute of Science graduate/Rs 10,000 if they are top three rank holders of National Institute of Technology and select colleges under the start-early programme/Rs 5,000 for those who qualify in the top five per cent in any national level exam.)
At IIT-Ropar, the stipend stands at about Rs 18,000, while at IIT Hyderabad, it is Rs 18,000 a month for the first year and Rs 20,000 a month from the second year.
IITs and National Institutes of Technology tend to provide potential PhD candidates to each other, addressing the supply issue. "We recruit PhD students from across the country. Many of our PhD students have MTech or BTech degrees from an IIT," says Jain.
"We have many MTech students from other colleges converting into PhD graduates. A small number of our PhD scholars come from our post-graduate programmes, while the majority come from MTech programmes from other IITs," says Desai.
IITs believe instead of advertising and marketing efforts, enhancement of quality in research and curriculum is what would continue to attract doctorate candidates. "I don't see any marketing need; we believe we are doing enough to promote our PhD programmes," Desai adds.