Monday, June 1, 2015

Quality of Professors at IITK

The professors in IIT Kanpur (and other IITs) have a scheme for financial upgradation (about 2% rise in salary). They go from Pay Band 4 to something called Higher Administrative Grade. The requirement is that they should have spent at least 6 years as Professors, and of course, they should have performed well. However, at most 40% of the professors can be in HAG scale.

The Institute sets up a selection committee which looks at the performance of all applicants and decide whose performance is good enough to be given this financial upgradation. This process is supposed to take place every year, and the financial upgradation happens from 1st August of that year.

For some reason or the other, it had not happened since Prof. Manna became Director, and for August 2013, it happened a few months ago.

Here are the statistics. Applicants considered by selection committee were 30. (There were more eligible professors, but some may not have applied, or some may not have been recommended by their respective departments.) The number of vacancies (that is, the maximum number of professors who could have possibly received this financial upgradation) was about 20.

Number of professors who were selected by the selection committee was one. Yes, just ONE. (And interestingly, this professor is retiring in two years. Now, we have an unwritten rule that professors who are about to retire and are technically eligible will be given this financial upgradation. So it is not clear whether this professor too got the financial upgradation on the basis of his performance.)

What does this say about the quality of IIT Kanpur faculty when a selection committee finds that pretty much no professor has been performing well after becoming a Professor. (The selection committee is expected to look at only the performance after becoming the professor, with a particular focus on last 5 years of performance.) And these professors are from across the departments. So it is not that some departments are doing well.

I can not possibly fault the selection committee as the bar in the country's best institution has to be kept high. But if the faculty performance is so poor with respect to whatever bar a selection committee sets, I think we all need to do an introspection as to how our performance can become higher. Being a government institute with "permanent" jobs, one does not have the luxury of removing non-performing faculty and recruit others. So the leadership will have to find ways to motivate faculty members. May be there are some structural issues which can be dealt with and which are coming in the way of higher performance. But poor performance by faculty is a sure way of an institution going down. And this can not be allowed to happen.