Thursday, November 6, 2014

IITK gets 400th faculty member

The Dean of Faculty Affairs announced yesterday that IIT Kanpur has reached a faculty strength of 400 for the first time in its history. These included 375 regular faculty members, 14 emeritus (retired faculty members who have been re-employed), and 11 visiting faculty members (only those counted who are on campus for the entire semester).

This is truly remarkable growth in faculty in the last two years (since Prof. Manindra Agarwal became DOFA). If we look at IITK faculty strength before that, and let us consider only full time regular faculty members, we had gone from about 300 to about 350 over a period of 30-35 years. But wait a minute. Even this increase has not been because of the efforts of the institute or Deans or Heads. We were recruiting people at the rate of attrition all along. And this increase happened primarily because the retirement age went up from 60 to 62 and then to 65 years. Also, some increase happened in a few new disciplines that we started recruiting in, including, Bio-Sciences, Management, Economics, etc. So, if looked at the faculty strength in disciplines which existed 30 years ago, and only count faculty members up to the age of 60 years, there would be absolutely no increase at all in the faculty strength.

With that backdrop, a net increase of 25+ faculty members within a short span of 2 years is a fantastic achievement, and while departments have played an important role in this, but the role of Dean of Faculty Affairs has really been to push all the departments, provide early responses and follow up, organize selection committees at short notices, and all that.

In the past, the office of Dean of Faculty Affairs has been considered a place which only handles routine administrative tasks related to faculty, like approving leave. Faculty recruitment and retention was never on DOFA's agenda, except handling the process of organizing selection committees. This has changed now.

Having said that, I think the faculty recruitment is still not the top agenda in many departments. I keep hearing complaints about lack of responses. We are still not being aggressive enough. When faculty members go to foreign universities or go for attending conferences, not many make a presentation to senior PhD students, just to give an example. Faculty recruitment can not be an agenda of DOFA and a few Heads. It has to be everyone's agenda for IITK to march towards excellence.

The last two years have also seen restarting of the practice of re-employment of retired faculty, which has contributed to 14 faculty members in yesterday's announcement. There is an increase in visiting appointments also, but this component, while doing better than in the past, is far from what the potential is. I think we need to improve our offers for visiting. For regular faculty, we are amongst the highest paying institute in the country, and while most faculty members wouldn't join us for a small increase in the salary, but it does make a difference in cases where the prospective faculty has two offers, and is unable to make up his/her mind between the two. We need to come up with a similar attractive offers for visiting faculty.

I hope with the increased faculty strength, it would be possible to become more flexible with student intake on minor/major courses and open electives, and truly provide the flexibility to students in designing their own degree programs that the new Academic program has envisaged.