Aligning themselves with global peers, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will now hire faculty on 5-6 year contract as against the current practice of making hires permanent after a one-year probation period. At the end of the contract, based on a review of their teaching and research, the said faculty will either be retained and promoted as tenured faculty or find their contract annulled. “This is a step in the right direction. The MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) and IITs want the institutes to be on a par with global peers who follow the tenure track system for hiring faculty. While the existing faculty will continue to function as permanent faculty under the older system, the new tenure tracking system will apply for fresh hires,” S K Das, director of IIT Ropar, said. The IIT Council also decided on Friday to review existing faculty members. According to sources, discussions were held on the issue of non-performing or under-performing faculty members. HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ emphasised on strict review and action against the same. “The MHRD and IITs believe that if the institutes have to compete at a world level, one will have to ensure optimum performance of faculty members and, so, if the review finds some of them under-performing, strict action could be taken," said a source on condition of anonymity. The IIT Council also discussed giving under-performing students options, including early exit with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree instead of a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) certificate. However, the council has left it on individual IITs to decide the course of action for addressing the issue.
“Issue of weaker students was discussed, but no consensus was arrived at. Hence, the decision has been left on individual IITs.
While some may offer the option of a 3-year BSc, others may offer either a diploma or even allow such students to extend their BTech tenure from four years instead of dropping out,” said a director of one of the IITs. While roughly 900,000 students appear for JEE Main examination held twice annually, only 13,500 get enrolled in IITs. In a recent data, shared by the MHRD, as many as 2,461 students dropped out of their courses in the past two years. At the IIT Council meeting on Friday, the MHRD withdrew discussion on financial and other autonomy for IITs from the agenda. Sources said the ministry intends to hold discussions with other concerned bodies like NITI Aayog before according such autonomy. Global rankings and the dismal performance of some IITs also weighed on the HRD minister's mind, sources said. “The MHRD wants IITs to become world beating institutes in at least some of the research areas. Hence, it has been decided that IITs will go back and decide on one or two specific areas where they would focus to be the best. The IITs will then go back to the MHRD with the areas they wish to focus on, for which the ministry has assured of whatever support is required,” said the source. The MHRD is also learnt to have offered support in improving internationalisation of faculty and students to improve their global rankings. The MHRD has offered to work in coordination with the ministry of external affairs and the ministry of home affairs to work on visa issuances, work permits, and possible financing of foreign students for improving citizenship diversity at IIT campuses. Scholarships for international students and defining people of Indian origin (PIO) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) as 'foreigners' are some of the steps on the cards. To attract foreign faculty, open-ended contracts with no fixed tenure has also been discussed. IITs' position in global rankings have been largely stagnant in recent times, barring a few standalone performances. For instance, despite being the fifth-most represented nation globally in the latest World University Rankings 2020 by Times Higher Education, India dropped out of the top 300 list for the first time since 2012. India's best represented Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, fell from the 251-300 cohort last year to 301-350 bracket due to significant fall in its citation impact, though it improved in research environment, teaching environment and industry income. On the other hand, the newer and upcoming IIT-Ropar debuted in the ranking with a joint top position of 301-350 sharing it with IISc. Moreover, around seven Indian universities, including some of the IITs, fell into a lower band this year, while the bulk of the nation’s institutions remain stable.