The Indian education system is facing acute shortage of faculties, particularly in higher education institutions. Various committees set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) along with several experts have put this figure around 40 – 50 percent. Now, MHRD following the advice of National Knowledge Commission wants to set up hundreds of institutions all over India but the idea seems to be taking more time in implementation due to the faculty crunch at the existing institutions.
According to several experts this problem can be fixed to some extent by increasing the retirement age of faculties. Taking note of it the University Grants Commission increased the retirement age of professors in central universities to 65 years. However, with education being in the concurrent list, many state governments have not yet raised the age bar of retirement of professors in state universities.
R.K. Kale, Vice Chancellor of Central University of Gujarat speaking to India Education Review on this issue said, “There is an acute shortage of the university and college teachers in India. There are more than 45 percent vacancies in the University system. Further, every year around 75000 to 85000 additional teachers are required due to expansion of higher education and retirement of the teachers. Therefore, there is need to increase the retirement age of the teacher. At the same time, there is also the need to recruit new teachers, otherwise it is going to make big crisis in the country.”
Some educationists believe that increasing the retirement age of existing professors will cut down the future prospect of young people who want to join the teaching profession. “Since the available vacancies are very high, it is not going to affect adversely the employment seekers. The Central Government has allocated sufficient fund for the higher education in the 11th Plan. I do not see any financial constraint for higher education, at least for the central universities,” added Prof. Kale.
The number of central universities is very less as compared to the huge number of students taking admission in under graduate and post graduate courses across the country. Therefore, the problem will remain complicated until the state governments will also feel the need to increase the retirement age of professors.
Various teachers associations and unions have been demanding for uniformity in retirement age of professors all over the country. A ray of hope has started to emerge in past few months with some of the states bringing change in their education acts to increase the retirement age to 62 – 65 years.
Maharashtra has recently increased the retirement age of professors to 62 years and for principals it has been raised to 65 years for all the government aided and unaided colleges in the state. Similarly, Punjab and Jharkhand have also increased the retirement age of professors to 65 years. The retirement age of professors in Bihar has also been raised after a writ petition was filed in the Patna High Court.
Several other states are yet to take the decision. According to Pradip Narayan Ghosh, Vice Chancellor, Jadavpur University (JU) in West Bengal, “In JU, retirement age of professors is still sixty. Although, they can get re-employed at the same position till the age of 65. However they retire at 60 and they do not get the benefits of a regular employee after 60.Change in retirement age is a policy of the state government and presently there is no plan to change it. I believe the retirement age should be same for all the professors or academic staff of different institutions all over the country.”
Some experts think that mere increasing the retirement age will not serve the purpose as the faculty should also be competent enough to hold the position. G. N. Qazi, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard University says, “Given the fact that quality teachers are not available in numbers, as a result more than 30 percent vacancies remain unfilled in most of the prestigious institutes of higher learning. Increase of retirement age would be a temporary relief. However, there should be a provision to screen the quality teachers at 60 years of age. The retirement age for teachers should be uniform throughout the country.”
“As per state govt order, it is 62 years. University cannot do anything. I am personally in favour of 65 years and we have to increase it to bridge the demand supply gap in the higher education space,” said Prof. BC Mal, Vice Chancellor of CSV Technical University.
Even these faculties will retire after some time creating again a dearth of efficient teachers. There is a need to attract good talent from the young generation who are more attracted towards more lucrative career options in multinationals. Renowned institutions like IITs and IIMs are preparing professionals for the corporate sector. Major steps are required to encourage research-based activities to produce good teachers and researchers.
There is also the need to develop a better atmosphere to allow teaching staff more allowances, freedom to enter into consultancy arrangements besides providing them attractive perks such as housing facilities. Flexibility in appointment, in age limit and qualification is also necessary to ensure quality faculties. We cannot prevent the faculty shortage from becoming the “Achilles’ heel” of Indian higher education system without implementing these measures.