New Delhi: Indian professors are better paid than their counterparts in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) and even in France and Germany, according to the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission note, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint, said professors “are better off than an average Indian citizen”.
“This is an eye opener,” said a government official with knowledge of the matter and on condition of anonymity.
The government is examining working conditions as it seeks to attract teachers, of whom there is a shortage, into higher education in India, the official said. The perception that teachers are poorly compensated in India is misplaced, he said.
The Planning Commission note is based on a recent study by the Center for International Higher Education, Boston, and the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, that compared academic salaries across 28 countries on purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. It said the entry level salary (in PPP terms) in India is $3,954 against $259 in China, $433 in Russia and $1,858 in Brazil. However, it’s relatively low when compared with the US ($4,950) and Canada ($5,733).
The PPP comparison is not the best way to compare salaries, said Pritam Singh, director general of the International Management Institute, Delhi.
“We are facing an economic slowdown and the inflation is quite high, so where is the purchasing power parity advantage,” said Singh, who was a former director of IIM-Lucknow. “To say that Indian teachers are paid more than the US or China is not a fair assessment.”
The study pegged the entry level at that of an assistant professor, the mid-level at that of an associate professor and the top level at that of a professor or an equivalent post. The study did not take into account private non-aided institutions.
Mid-level academic salaries ($6,823) are better than in China ($758), Russia ($563), and Brazil ($3,190), the note said.
“Interestingly, this number for India is also higher than that for Canada, the US, the UK, France and Germany. These numbers indicate that Indian academics are much better off than their counterparts in the middle of their careers,” the note said, citing the study.
The Planning Commission note asks why results are not commensurate. India was 10th among the top 20 countries in terms of research published between 1996 and 2006, eight places behind second-ranked China, according to a 2008 study by the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies. According to SciDev.net, a well known science website, China produced 94,800 scientific papers in 2007 against 30,000 from India.
According to human resource development ministry data, India’s 40 central universities face a total shortfall of 6,542 teachers against a sanctioned 16,602 posts, a gap of 40%.
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) face a 31% shortage, requiring 1,611 more teachers than they have.
Experts and professors feel that India has become more attractive for those pursuing academics.
“If you compare the situation 10 years back and now, then you can see the difference,” said Nagesh Rao, director, Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad. “The environment is much better, research has started getting due attention and salary has improved significantly in last few years. On a purchasing power parity term, India is well off—if not across the table but in several pockets.”
Many non-resident Indian academics are now ready to come back, said Rajiv K. Sinha, a professor of Indian origin at Arizona State University.
“Salary is one of the key factors but other issues like work environment, research and facilities for the family are important too,” said Sinha, who will shortly be joining as the dean of the MYRA School of Business, a new private B-school in Mysore. “Leading institutes in India, especially in the private sector are getting better response because of these facilities.”
Sinha was in India recently to participate in the Indian Management Conclave in Delhi.