New Delhi: Salary: Rs70,000. Tenure: three years. Designation: assistant professor (on contract).

The Union government on Wednesday announced the appointment of 1,225 “assistant professors on contract", beginning a new system of hiring contract teachers at government higher education institutions.

The move has three key characteristics—a quick job creation, a shorter selection process and a limited period of employment guarantee, unlike the existing “job for life".

These appointments have been made at 53 engineering colleges across 11 states and Union territories, human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters in New Delhi.

Javadekar said they will be given a consolidated salary of Rs70,000 and after three years of appointment, they will be free to choose their own career path. He said most of these appointments have taken place in poorer states such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.

“The people who have joined are well qualified, largely from top institutions like IITs, and they know they are joining for three years. Hundreds of institutions are facing a huge vacancy of teachers and there is nothing wrong in appointing well-qualified teachers for a limited tenure," said an official in the ministry, requesting anonymity.

“These are no frills, quick jobs that will help improve quality of education," said the official.

An industry expert agreed with the government move.

“Contract appointment is the way forward and the higher education sector cannot escape this. Such appointments have three key benefits —quick job creation, more accountability and better performance appraisal," said Pankaj Bansal, chief executive of People Strong, a human resource consultancy and staffing firm.

Javadekar said the step was taken after a request from the states. To ensure quality, the ministry reached out to top technical and research schools, including IITs, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research and Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) asking M.Tech and Phd graduates to apply.

The entire process was completed in two months in which 293 fresh PhDs and 932 M.Tech graduates from top schools were appointed. The ministry said they have done this under a scheme called technical education quality improvement programme.

Asked if the ministry is going to roll out contractual appointments in other streams like social sciences where there is a huge appointment backlog, the minister did not give a clear answer, saying it is a “good suggestion for action".

Earlier in January, the Union labour ministry notified a draft rule backing fixed tenure jobs across industry segments to generate more employment, Mint reported on 25 January. The Economic Survey 2017-18 also underlined that creation of employment opportunities for the youth as one of three areas of policy focus in the medium term, apart from education and agriculture.

India’s 864 universities and 51,000 colleges are facing a shortage of teaching staff with a student-teacher ratio of 22:1

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