Need For ‘STAR PROFESSORS’ For Indian Higher Education

Talent Crisis in Indian Higher Education

A major shortage in teaching talent is paralyzing Indian higher education. The current strength of 8.2 lacs professors and faculty is 32 percent lower than the required number of 12 lacs. What’s even more worrying is that by 2020 the sector will need an additional faculty of 15 lacs to join its ranks.

Sadly, not only are we lacking in quantity of academic talent, but also in quality. India has more than 400 universities and 20000 colleges. Despite being among the largest higher education systems (number of institutions and students enrolled) in the world, only a handful of Indian Institutions are globally recognized. This is a reflection of the quality of academic staff along with other systemic failures in the education system.

These alarming statistics force us to ask the question – just how are we going to fill the gapping shortfall in quality faculties and professors in the country?

Our failure to attract the best talent to academics

One measure of quality of education offered in a country is the ability to attract the brightest talent into the sector. However, employment trends indicate that academics is no longer a preferred career choice with the large number of students graduating from the country’s higher educational institutions.

Global giants like Google and Facebook are increasingly recruiting from India, offering mega salary deals. The best of Indian talent has also been able to successfully integrate itself with top Fortune 500 companies. With industry soaking in the best, the pool of talented individuals available to join academics has steadily declined.

Indian academics has also failed to offer remuneration prospects similar to those being offered by global universities which have also become a destination for some of India’s brightest minds.

In India the pride associated with academia has been lost, unlike other countries such as Singapore and Finland which go to great lengths to bestow enormous prestige on those associated with the profession.

Of course tackling the overall crisis would require sweeping changes in the institutional framework by the government, greater partnership with the private education sector as well as greater involvement of the industry.

But a crucial remedial step will be making academics an attractive destination of choice and this is where ‘Star Professors’ can play a major role.

Who are ‘Star Professors’?

Globally we are seeing the emergence of ‘Star Professors’. These academicians of high repute have gained superstar statuses for their ability to present educational content in a manner that almost seems like an entertainment to audiences. They have courses and programs designed around their knowledge base and draw in huge crowds at colleges, seminars and events.

Both educational institutions and big corporations seek out star-professors and are willing to pay them ‘top dollars’ for academic and consulting / advisory roles. Their influence is not limited to the academic silo. These media savvy star professors are opinion leaders on socio, economic and political issues impacting their countries and indeed the world.

Star professors are trailblazers that inspire others to follow in their footsteps.  Not only do they encourage existing professors to better themselves, but more importantly they act as magnets for young minds to join the academic field. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the future of academics depends on star professors.

Indian Education desperately needs Star Professors

We Indians love our stars.  From movies to cricket to business, names immediately come to mind; from a Shah-Rukh Khan to M S Dhoni to Narayan Murthy. These people represent the best in their fields and have become powerful brands in themselves.

Unfortunately, we have failed to attract and develop academic talent that has anywhere near this kind of star power. Indian higher education is in desperate star professors’ as symbols of the successes that academics can offer, and for attracting young talent in much larger numbers, across myriad fields of study, than is presently happening.

Attracting and Promoting Star Professors

Indian educational institutions compete on an international stage when it comes to attracting and retaining the best academic talent.

The global economic slowdown, which has put a strain on research budgets, salary increments and general standards of living, may well work in favor of India regaining preference with a section of the Indian Diaspora currently based in International Universities. Salary is an important consideration, but is not the only factor that can draw top Indian academic talent back to its shores.

Teaching faculty need to be given compensation comparable with the best in the country, allowed wide-decision making powers (which includes course content, student assessment policies, courses offered and budget allocations) and conferred highly publicized recognition for outstanding work. Indian institutes can attract faculties by offering them faculty fellowships, offering research grants and made-to-order research facilities.

Indian institutions looking to create and attract Star Professors will need to have a dedicated talent management strategy towards –

  • Investing in young academic talent, which includes providing international standard training opportunities and compensation during the training period
  • Providing reputed professors with research amenities and autonomy in decision making they enjoy at global universities
  • Promoting individual professors on their faculty as ‘personal brand names’ and specialists in the field across platforms ( advertising, social media, education forums and industry)
  • Institutionalizing a  framework for recognition and reward for academic achievements

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