Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's idea of ensuring quality education in the country by setting up an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in every state, if the party comes to power at the Centre, has not gone down well with industry and academia.
It would mean setting up 13 new IITs, 15 IIMs and 21 AIIMS in the country. If Modi wants to fulfil his goal, industry says, it would be more sensible to invest in improving pay packages of faculty members and infrastructure at existing institutes.
"It is easy for politicians to announce new schemes. But nobody is concerned about quality. The new institutes set up in the past five years are already grappling with shortage of faculty members and fund. Thirteen new IITs would mean around 1,300 more qualified faculty members. Who will come to study or teach at an IIT located in a remote town? Who will come to recruit students," asked the director of an IIT, requesting not to be named.
For instance, at IIT-Jodhpur and IIT-Mandi, of the 90 faculty posts, only 48 and 49 vacancies, respectively, have been filled. At IIT-Ropar, 38 posts are vacant. At IIT-Patna, 19 posts are vacant and 17 at IIT-Bhubaneswar. IIT-Gandhinagar still needs 14 faculty members to meet its sanctioned strength and IIT-Indore needs 13. Only IIT-Hyderabad has managed to fill 102 of the 105 faculty positions.
Even older IITs have over 41 per cent of their teaching posts vacant. Against the sanctioned strength of teaching staff of 5,356, there are only 3,158 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.
The technical institutes say, 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.
Though PhD enrolments are swelling, the 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," U B Desai, director, IIT-Hyderabad had earlier told Business Standard.
"If we could offer better salaries to our faculty members, we may not be losing PhD candidates whom we lose to the industry every year," said another IIT director.
Added to this is the issue of ensuring campus placements. Last year, while new IITs could achieve a placement figure of between 79 and 92 per cent, older peers were not very well off, placing only 90-95 per cent of students.
More IIMs would mean diluting the brand equity of the present ones further. "Why not allow the existing IIMs to expand? They are not only a brand but have been in existence for five decades. Some are internationally accredited and rated, too," said an IIM director.
All IIMs put together offer 3,335 seats. IIM directors argue that the government should instead ease mechanisms for private players to enter the education segment. "Many companies have the money, willingness and wherewithal to be a serious player in the education segment. Why not facilitate that? There are no gains by setting more IIMs," says another IIM director.