Budget Shows Government Lacks Experience in Higher Education and R&D

Dr Anand Bulusu

I think India is not yet ready with innovating technological industry. Hence we don’t have much interest from industries for sponsored research and planned R&D manpower development. Industries mostly import equipment and are satisfied working in that mode. MNCs (especially in Microelectronics) do a lot of R&D, sponsor a lot of PhDs. However, they do it mostly in their home countries since they have familiarity and primary interest there. What is the solution? We must develop tech entrepreneurs in a big way in this country at several levels. It should be small entrepreneurs as well as big corporations (for example, motivate companies such as Tata/Wipro/Reliance to form a big Microelectronics coalition). There should be some tax sops and some special zones or tech parks near IITs/IISc planned to let this happen. Another area is CSR: CSR funds should be made open for sponsored research. At least a part of CSR should be allowed in sponsored research.

The other side is IITs: Funds for old IITs has been cut by 20% and the government is asking IITs to pay enhanced PhD scholarship (the extra cost) through “internal” funds. I think the government should realize that only recently a more than 50% increase in student strength has taken place in old IITs due to government interference in IITs. This is leading to both resource and faculty crunch in a very bad way. The government may not like to give funds without strings. Fine! However, they should give ample money (no cuts in funds!) to IITs with a target. Funds could be revised based on the targets achieved by each IIT in the coming 5 years. However, cutting funds suddenly is not a wise move and shows that the government lacks experience in higher education and R&D domain. The targets could be: How many PhDs do you produce? How many of your MTech and BTech students join PhD program? How many instances of technology transfer to industry would take place in the coming 5 years? How many instances of good socio-technical contribution would be seen in the next 5 years? How many tech start-ups start from your institute in the coming 5 years? etc.

On an average, an IIT faculty spends a much longer time in teaching and evaluation (especially evaluation) compared to faculty members in any premier institute all over the world. He just doesn’t have the kind of time required to do original research; whatever good research happens in IITs is despite and in spite the circumstances and is due to a high individual commitment. Handling such a large number of students just doesn’t allow good research. Good US universities handle many more students. However, they have a good Teaching Assistant (TA) system. Each faculty member is assisted by a team of highly trained TAs. Evaluation is mostly handled by TAs in these US universities. Something must be done to attract young PhDs from US in a big way to IITs. Each IIT should get a Performance Related Incentive (PRI) component in salaries, evaluated separately for each institute based on the 5 year targets achieved by it. In the 7th pay commission, instead of increasing salary, the government should think of increasing it in the form of PRI evaluated separately for each institute.

Dr Bulusu is an associate professor at IIT Roorkee and a member of the advisory board of VIF.

Cover Image Designed by Freepik