Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Meddling in Indian affairs

See my comments on the current problems in hiring and retaining faculty at the IITs in India here.

My original reply was a little longer:
Indeed, the faculty manpower shortage in India would be harmful to international collaborations. Collaboration takes time, both in visits broad and in working at a distance. Increased teaching loads would reduce the ability of Indian faculty to collaborate effectively with international colleagues. At a time of increased globalization and international cooperation, this would be a step backward.

Worse, however, is the idea that faculty shortages will be countered with exactly that act guaranteed to lead to even more shortages. An evil demonic figure desiring to destroy this crown jewel of India's educational system could do no better than to increase faculty teaching loads. Young Indian researchers finishing PhDs in the US and elsewhere have options to work
in other countries or in the private sector; they know the score internationally when it comes to teaching loads, research funding, and graduate student quality. Why would they choose to return to their home country when government and university adminstrators are signaling a decline in the status of research?

India has had great success of late by paying better attention to free markets,at least in its private sector. Markets for faculty talent also respond to supply and demand. If India wants to attract faculty for the IIT system it needs to pay competitively, provide named and endowed professorships, increase the pool and quality of graduate student talent through competitive fellowships and research support, and generally improve the condition of its professoriate. Such enhancements are not cheap, and new methods of public and private funding must be sought, but eating the seed corn of India's national strength in science and technology is a fairly sure prescription for decline in a sector of growth, promise, and pride.

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