SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA
CURRENT CURRICULUM OF HIGHER STUDIES:
- In India, advanced scientific research and education is driven mostly by government supported institutes such as the IITs, the IISERs, and Central and State universities.
- Along with private universities, they constitute India’s academic science ecosystem.
- At these institutes, faculty members conduct research in independently-led groups and teach courses for various academic programmes.
- Independent faculty members are usually scientists with PhDs and expertise, including several years of postdoctoral training, in a specific domain.
- After their doctoral education and training, they can apply to be recruited at institutes and universities.
- Regular faculty appointments are typically continuous up to the age of retirement, with a salary paid by the institute.
ISSUES WITH SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTIONS OF INDIA:
- Government funded scientific institutions in India face crippling challenges related to faculty recruitment, with inordinate delays, age cutoffs, and lack of qualified candidates.
- As a result, several science departments have reported vacant positions even as they deal with increasing student numbers and demand for scientific output.
- Faculty members appointed on fellowships often face challenges in obtaining office and laboratory space and access to common research facilities at the host institute.
- In spite of a rigorous selection process and access to funds, scientists on fellowships have reported being treated as ‘second class’ faculty members at the host institute.
- Also autonomous institutes funded by the Departments of Science & Technology (DST) and of Biotechnology (DBT) have altogether stopped hosting faculty members on short-term fellowships.
- It raised concerns with the uncertainty or inability to offer regular positions after the fellowship ends.
- This undervaluing of faculty fellowships overlooks the pros of a longer term vision for Indian science.
CHALLENGES IN RESEARCH AND HIGHER EDUCATION:
- According to the Ministry of Education, nearly 40% of the teaching posts at IITs (4,502 out of 11,170).
- More than 25% of sanctioned posts at Central universities (6,180 out of 18,956) are vacant.
- Around 6,000 students complete their PhDs in India every year, and many seek unsuccessfully academic faculty positions.
- Science departments also face serious challenges related to approvals and implementation of the recruitment process.
FACULTY FELLOWSHIPS: WAY AHEAD?
- As India aims to expand its science and technology footprint, faculty fellowships serve as a means to attract international scientific talent while retaining trained scientists in the country.
- The Ramalingaswami and Ramanujan Fellowships by the DBT and DST allow postdoctoral scientists with extensive international expertise and training to return to India and start their own research groups.
- Faculty fellowships present an opportunity for scientists to engage with institutes under mutually beneficial terms.
- During their tenure, faculty fellows develop a research programme at the institute, with tangible outcomes such as research papers and patents.
- At the same time, faculty fellowships also teach students and mentor researchers.
- For the host institute, these benefits often come at little cost, beyond a term-based appointment and access to research facilities.
- The faculty fellowship programmes in India should be viewed as robust and diverse sources of research expertise and talent for the science ecosystem.
- The faculty fellows could view the fellowship period as a means to better understand professional opportunities in, and diverse ways of contributing to, the scientific enterprise in India.
- Institutes need to adopt an approach that supports faculty fellowships.
- Institutes should also provide fellows a conducive environment to start and build successful research and teaching programmes.
SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-1, EDUCATION
SOURCE : THE HINDU