Pay teachers more, make teaching respectable

Blog | Premchand Palety

In the last eight years, as part of an annual B-schools ­survey that we do, I had the opportunity of interacting with the faculty and students in about 300 campuses in ­different parts of the country. One constant cause of concern in most institutes is faculty famine. It’s not just about numbers, but the competence of faculty, which is the major cause of concern.

When the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad started its operations six years ago, it had set international standards for faculty selection. A certain number of publications in national and international journals were one of the criteria for selection. To their dismay, many of the senior faculty who had applied—including those from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)—didn’t fulfil these criterion. They then sourced their faculty from abroad since they didn’t want to compromise on quality.

But for most B-schools, compromise is the name of the game. In many private B-schools, fresh graduates of management, commerce and economics pass off as faculty. Some even hire their own students back as faculty. Many B-schools are heavily dependent on visiting faculty, who are paid on an hourly basis. Some of them are faculty of local universities moonlighting on the side; some are part of a jobless band of MBAs with doubtful academic credentials.

The net result is that many among our faculty pool can’t qualify as good management educators. It’s not just research output in which they are lacking, they are also way behind in pedagogic skills. They are not updated on modern modes of dissemination such as case teaching, simulation, role plays and experiential learning.

At the centre of the problem of competent faculty shortage is the unwillingness of bright students with the right aptitude to get into teaching. One reason is obviously the low compensation offered to them. An assistant professor in an IIM gets about Rs3 lakh per annum, while the average salary that a fresh IIM graduate gets is about Rs10 lakh per annum. The salary of the faculty has to be increased significantly like some private institutes have done. International Management Institute, for example, is paying some senior faculty about Rs14 lakh per annum.

Apart from low salaries, the environment in most institutes, if we leave out top-ranked B-schools, is also not conducive for one’s growth. They are loaded with seven or eight courses in a year. There is no encouragement for publishing research papers, writing books, case studies, attending seminars and conferences. In most institutes, there is not much academic freedom to try out new ideas. The tenure system, which ensures job security for outstanding faculty in many universities abroad, is not prevalent here.

There are also not many options for proper training of MBAs who, after some years of corporate experience, want to get into teaching, though ICFAI University has done a ­commendable job in this regard. The institute offers a three-year Management Teacher Programme (MTP) leading to a doctorate. The MTP is delivered by competent faculty and the students get rigorous training in case methodology, research methodology, innovative pedagogic tools, soft skills and the like. The students are paid an annual stipend of about Rs3 lakh.

In the final year, in order to give exposure to international practices, the students are taken abroad under a visiting scholar programme, the duration of which is 10 months. Candidates are also required to teach at least one undergraduate course under the supervision of a senior faculty member in the foreign university. Besides the cost of travel, the institute also gives a stipend of about $1,500 per month. After completion of the course, the students are required to work in ICFAI Business School (IBS) for a period of at least five years. Thirty students of the first batch have completed the programme and are now employed with IBS.

This kind of initiative should be taken up by the IIMs and other top-league institutes, too. It is a matter of anguish that teaching, which is one of the most critical professions for the socioeconomic development of a society, has become one of the last career options. It’s imperative that competent minds are drawn to this profession as they have a direct influence on so many youngsters. By hiking University Grants Commission pay scales, the government can take the first step in increasing the respectability of this profession.

Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting & Research (C fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools.