Global talent

The University Grants Commission’s faculty recharge programme to attract back Indian academic talent that has gone abroad is expected to improve teaching and research standards in India. Some 200 jobs in the fields of science and engineering in universities and research institutions across the country have been thrown open to Indian researchers and academics abroad. Over time this number will increase to around 2,000. The entire process of selection including interviews will be done electronically so that applicants need not have to come here for the interview.  The faculty recharge programme should be of benefit to our research institutions, students as well as the returning academia. Currently, Indian universities are facing an acute shortage of faculty in terms of numbers and quality. A 30 per cent shortage of teachers has been reported in our universities. The faculty research programme is expected to fill the gap. The work and talents of Indians teaching or doing research in foreign universities and institutions is well known. Their knowledge and pedagogic talents could now become directly available to our students. It will also stimulate other faculty in our universities to improve their standards, contributing to enhancing the quality of higher education and research in India. As for the academia returning to India, the programme is an opportunity. Salaries are attractive. Besides, many of them are keen to return home to be part of the fascinating changes that India is undergoing.

The faculty research programme, however well-intended it might be, is not a cure-all for the many ills that beset our higher education system. It is not a magic bullet. Further, good salaries might attract the brightest abroad but it is not enough to hold that talent here. Many of those who left the country did so because they were desperate to escape the suffocating atmosphere in our universities, the lack of infrastructure to carry on meaningful research and the politics that have ruined our research institutions. There is little to indicate that this uninspiring atmosphere has changed.

Inducting talent from abroad is a fine idea. Recharge is needed is without doubt. That recharge will come when our universities become centres of enquiry and learning rather than politicking. It will come when we cultivate in students a scientific temper, encourage them to question, discuss and debate, rather than repeat the views of others mindlessly. Only teachers who encourage students to think for themselves can recharge India’s higher education. Where they come from is less important.

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