IIMs should generate faculty, not poach it

IIMs should generate faculty, not poach it

Top B-schools lure faculty from other campuses in myriad ways. The most common is by offering promotions—from assistant professor to associate professor or from an associate professor to professor. In the normal course, a faculty member has to produce some amount of research to qualify for promotion. But, owing to a faculty shortage, some faculty members have been promoted by simply hopping from one IIM to another, without significant research output or publications in reputed national and international journals.

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Another lure is through assuring consulting assignments, though this is has been done in a limited way. Some B-schools, especially the top four IIMs, get good patronage from government. In IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta, the per day charge for consulting is about Rs1 lakh, of which the faculty can retain 60%. Admitting the existence of such practices, Pritam Singh, former director of IIM-L and Management Development Institute (MDI), says that unless the government takes proactive measures to increase the pool of good faculty, these?practices will continue.

A look at the permanent faculty at IIMs in the past three years, including members on so-called long leave—often as directors or faculty in other B-schools—is revealing. Meanwhile, the number of students at IIM-A, IIM-B, IIM-C and IIM-L varies between 550 and 700 each year. For IIM-K and IIM-I, the total student strength is 350-400 per campus. The internationally acceptable ratio of faculty to students is 1:10.

Only IIM-A and IIM-B have been good at regularly matching this ratio. IIM-L claims to have 64 on the permanent faculty but has seen high attrition rates during the tenure of former director Devi Singh, with numbers dropping to less than 40 in the past three years.

The numbers don’t give the entire picture. In the race for numbers, quality is often compromised. Some former IIM faculty members say at least half the faculty in various IIMs doesn’t deserve to be there. This is also the view of Vijay Shanker Pandey, a former joint secretary in the human resources development ministry, whom I met a few months back. He conducted an enquiry and found IIMs had many members who neither teach properly nor do research. No wonder IIMs are always on the lookout for good faculty.

The government needs to take important policy decisions to counter the shortage of good faculty. One is increasing the stipend for PhD or the fellows programme in management (FPM) candidates. It is a mere Rs12,500 per month. For an IIM student who spends at least Rs10 lakh for the two-year programme, this stipend won’t even service the education loan. As a result, hardly any IIM graduates are joining the doctoral programme. Instead, graduates of lower- rung B-schools who don’t get good jobs elsewhere are joining. If the stipend is increased to, say, about Rs30,000 per month, more competent minds would be inclined to join.

In my view the difference between what companies offer and what a B-school offers should not be more than five times, as it seems to be now. Consequently, even FPM scholars prefer jobs in companies to teaching. IIMs could also think of ways to incentivize scholars to agree to a five-year commitment to teach after the programme. And the programme should be restructured to enhance the teaching skills of students.

Without these measures, there will be a perennial shortage of good faculty. The government is planning six more IIMs, four Indian Institutes of Technolgy and 30 universities. But the ambition of expanding quality higher education in India will remain a dream without good faculty.

Premchand Palety is director of the Centre for Forecasting and Research (C fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at businesscase@livemint.com

Also read Premchand Palety’s earlier columns.