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'Jairam Ramesh is holding up a mirror'

Last updated on: May 26, 2011 18:04 IST

'Jairam Ramesh is holding up a mirror'



We invited you to share your opinion on Jairam Ramesh's recent statements about the quality of IIT and IIM faculty. Share yours too!

An anonymous IIT alumnus says:

Although the recent statement by Mr. Jairam Ramesh has created a stir in the media and among the alumni of IIT/IIMs alike, I agree to an extent with his so called controversial statement.
Having spent 4 years of my life at one these prestigious IITs, I can confidently say that most of the faculty in IITs lack the skills of inspiring students to do any research. To say the least, they can't even teach properly.

From my own personal experiences I must admit that I lost interests in quite a few subjects just because of the faculty's approach to those subjects, because either they lacked the knowledge of it or were just doing it for the sake of taking classes or completing the courses.

Having said that, there are quite a few outstanding professors who not only teach subjects very well but also inspire the students to go an extra mile to learn in depth and do some research work. So the very point of "all" faculty and "most" faculty should be well understood here.
Now the question remains - why is it that ways and what can be done? I want to present certain facets of this issue, which if taken in right spirit would reflect the reality of IITs/IIMs:
1. We all accept that the students and the faculty (the few inspiring ones) are world class, but how many of these quality set of people are really interested in pursuing research activities?

My viewpoint: Firstly, have an honest survey with students and faculty of IITs/IIMs and then file an RTI to find the stats around the numbers of patents/publications that have really helped in development of Indian state/society.
2. Isn't it a fact that student just want to be at IITs and IIMs to secure placements, or/and use that degree to pursue higher studies in US/Europe? Can we facilitate/create an environment for allowing the same set of students to pursue research in India itself? What facilities/incentives can the government or these institutes provide to the IIT/IIM students to stop the brain drain?
My Viewpoint: Simply compare the research grants/scholarships that a US university and an IIT/IIM would provide to a student applying for a higher degree MS/M.Tech/PhD/MBA. Obviously use the PPP values to calculate the right figure in India !
3. We always compare IITs/IIMs to US universities, but it would be of great help to understand the ingression of govt. authorities in the parameters such as functioning, organizational structure and financial dependence of IITs/IIMs. Everyone knows that quota systems hasn't worked well, in general, for last 50 years in India, but one fine day an education minister wakes up with an idea to apply it even in the faculty selection process. Do you expect such a policy to take IITs/IIMs even closer to world-class institutes? Think deeply (At least Mr. Jairam and his colleagues in the current govt. should do it before commenting).
4. Let's realise and assess a fact that IITs are dependent on govt. funding and many moves/strategies in such institutes are governed by politicians and their patrons existing in these IITs/IIMs who run these institutes. Imagine a situation, wherein an institute has to adhere to the "irresponsible" and "politically-motivated" decisions taken by Indian governments, and then "functional inefficiency" creeping into these institutes over a period of time. To add to this, there may be a lack of a vision/mission statement for these institutes that are mostly focused on running the institution as per the "guidelines" of HRD and simply follow various archaic rules/guidelines laid 25 years back. Shouldn't we be more realistic and be pro-active in changing the way these institutes are run?
5. From faculty's perspective, No doubt they are over-burdened with courses and hence there is a genuine lack of time to do productive research work. We know that the student to teacher ratio is quite appalling in IITs/IIMs as compared to their US counterparts, and now they are further burdened to guide new IITs by running more classes for higher number of students. Wake up !!
My viewpoint: Increase the faculty hiring on urgent basis (don't mind conducting JEE/CAT like selection process for them) and get a right balance first, before opening new IITs without doing the real ground work or due diligence on the reasons and aftereffects of opening them. Then, make sure that a certain period of faculty's time has been devoted to achieve a certain goal set and revised peiroidcally (e.g., 100 publications in 5 years or 10 crores of govt. funding used properly for research only). Make them accountable for that and steps must be taken to incentivise the faculties/students by allowing them to be entrepreneurs in their areas.
6. Last but not the least, please build a general consensus on above issues and then make sure certain "mutually-agreed" steps are implemented diligently.

Image: Jairam Ramesh
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters

'We did not focus on the path to become world-class'

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Aravind Raman, Senior Manager at a leading Automotive Software & Services Firm in Bangalore says:

Let us keep emotions and pseudo-patriotism aside and analyse objectively. We would conclude that we have indeed a long way to go.
The term world class is defined as: world-class

1. Ranking among the foremost in the world; of an international standard of excellence; of the highest order: a world-class figure skater.
2. Great, as in importance,
In this context, I completely agree with Jairam Ramesh.

He never said that our so-called premium institutes are bad.

Though these institutes churn out globally employable graduates and post-graduates some of whom eventually end up as CEOs, there is a significant scope for improvement in terms of research, patents on new products or methods among others.

It is good to do some soul searching rather than simply condemn a person who chose to speak his mind in this era of glib talk.
Did any of these institutes benchmark themselves on the following parameters?
Number of patents generated and commercialised
Number of industry publications in world's leading journals
Extent of industry interactions by the teaching staff which translates to more research funding
Instances of predicting an industry or technology trend which has a global impact
Global visibility in terms of cutting edge research topics both in technology and management
It may not be enough to showcase spectacular placements year on year and keep crowing about some CEO alumni. It may be true that we did not focus on the path to become world class. But better late than never!
Note: I have not studied in IIT or IIM. But I have close interactions with the alumni in general by virtue of working for leading organisations for more than 17 years.

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'Pay peanuts get monkeys!'

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Sunil writes in:

You can't get gold at price of bronze! Do you?
I am an IIT Delhi Alumnus. To great extent I agree with the minister's
statement. Let have a rational look at the reasons, why IITs faculty are not world class.
In my IIT convocation chief guest said that, developed countries had able to retain the pride with teaching jobs whereas in developing countries teaching is no greater and highly rewarding. Right now I am doing my higher study in a top university.

Everyone expects me to get some super duper high paying job after this.

Few times in past casually I expressed my interest for faculty position in IITs to my friends and family. Each time I do so, every one gives me strange looks.
Do you know why?

Very simple -- they pay less, very less! (If you pay peanut, then you can only get monkeys someone said so).
In developed countries, US, UK and so, being a university professor is the highest paying job. But in India, its not.

And let's accept it, if a world-class faculty would have either opted for corporate job then he would have been top earner. So if IIT and Indian education ministry could not ensure that, a great researcher joining as IIT faculty will have same earning as corporate pay in long terms, very few great researcher and true national hero's would join IIT as faculty.

Those few patriots are holding the IIT flag high and I am proud of my teachers.
If you can't pay then you have to compromise with quality. You can't get gold at price of bronze! Do you?
Lets look at this from another view?
In future would I like to join faculty position at any university in a developed country?
Of course! Sure! Why not?
I have a great education background, and I deserve to get high salary- Very BIG BUCKS.

In developed countries, who are highest earner on an average????? -
Hey, it's university profs you idiot. High salary and hell of additional
bucks through consultancy.
I guess, at least few reader will understand why IITs and IIMs dont have world-class faculty and US and other developed countries university have.

Because you can't have gold at price of bronze.

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'Unfair to compare IITs with world-class institutions'

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Nimesh Chandra writes in
My comment is on the basis of my study on five time honoured IITs.

Jairam Ramesh's statement holds some substance but gets diluted if one goes a bit deeper.

The IITs were in fact established to develop higher technical education in India both in quantity and quality to satisfy India's post-war needs for high-grade technologists.

They adopted the MIT model based on certain features that include strong science base, course structure that integrated teaching and practical training, the due importance given to humanities and social science in engineering curriculum, the characteristics of land-grant University committed to economic and social development of its region and most importantly its contribution to industry.

Given the mandate of producing engineering graduates, IITs did lay strong emphasis on education but neglected research (say) till mid 1980s.

Comparing 50-60 year old IITs (that too comparatively poor), with world-class institutions like MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, Yale (endowment of nearly $10bn, $13bn, $27bn, $7bn, $16bn respectively) and their years of existence alone, is somewhat unjustified.

Though IITs still lack research output mainly in terms of publications and IPR, newer research initiatives such as spin-offs are quite comparable.

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IIMs are way behind Harvard, Oxford etc.

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Amitabh Verma says:
Its true that 70% of faculty of IIT Bombay have at least one degree from an IIT but can they be absorbed as a faculty member by world prestigious universities like MIT, Cambridge, CIT. Why is Indian IIT not among top 100 universities of the world.

Yes it is because of the faculty they have with them. They can't groom students from their current level, which is already high from the time of their admission to IIT to a level, which is at par with MIT, Cambridge or CIT.

Why students prefer to move to institutes like MIT for their research related study?

It is just because we don't have faculty and facility of that level in IITs. IIT administrations ego is too high to accept this truth.

They behave like an ostrich, who hides its face in sand and thinks that he is safe from all dangers. IIM is truly a class which is on top in India but even they are way behind Harvard , Oxford, Cambridge & MIT.
We certainly have one thing which is world class that is Scam tainted Politicians who are way ahead of all the world class leaders in generating new scams( a lot of research is required to kick start a Scam ). Indian politician are certainly world class if we talk about corruption. We are certainly on top of the world if we talk about black money.
We certainly need some more Jairam Ramesh type persons who can deliver a bold statement like this.

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70% faculty at IITs and IIMs isn't world-class at all

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Dr Tushar Kanti Sen, Lecturer Department of Chemical Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, Perth writes:

Minister Jairam Ramesh's statement on IITs/IIMs faculties is partially correct. I also obtained my PhD from IITB.

Being an academician in a world class University in Australia, I believe our old 6 IITs are world class.

No doubt, our IIT students are excellent and also world class but majority of IITs faculties are not world class, just ordinary academician.

Faculty of IITs/IIMs are unable to utilise these huge talent mass resource.

There are at least 30% of IIT faculties are world class, productive and brilliant.

But IITs /IIMs brand/frame because of these huge talented students and also because of these 30% productive world-class faculty members.

Remaining 70% faculty isn't world-class at all. They are less productive and their selection does not follow the world-class selection procedure.

These large sections of back door entry faculty members of IITs/IIMs are just enjoying the IITs/IIM frame.

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'Urgent need to right the wrongs'

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Prasenjit Chakravorty writes:
At the outset, his statement appears correct. There is however an urgent need to right the wrongs that have led to this undesireable state of affairs.

So let us start by examining what all contributes to being in the top hundred educational institutes worldwide.These are as under:

1. Such a learning institute is encouraged by the govt to enlist more and more P hDs. Because more and more of research leads to development of core technologies. Our flagship automaker MSIL is pumping out about one lakh fossil fuel guzzling cars every month with complete impunity. Fuel prices are skyrocketing. Where is the alternate fuel car? Why are they contributing to the oil pool deficit? Why don't they fund one of these institutes to develop cost effective alternate fuel vehicles?

2. Enrolling more PhDs is one part of the story. The other part is funding. Majority funding comes from the Govt. But in developed nations there is a healthy trend amongst successful industrialists to augment the govt funding by making handsome contributions, through scholarships, grants, etc. There, it is a matter of pride for alumni to give back to their "alma mater".

3. Funding alone can create appropriate infrastructure, which is conducive to research. Govt of India is still found wanting in providing primary education to all its children. Do you honestly think that unless the primary and secondary education infrastructure is created in plenty, there is any use in spending more on post graduation infrastructure?

4. Then there is "Reservation". The absolute truth is that you can either have reservation, or total meritocracy. Because it is their moral obligation / social compulsion to uplift the backward classes, the govt chose to implement reservation. It is natural for merit / brilliance to be compromised in this case.

5. Everyone talks of the brilliance of students of IIsT, and IIsM. How about the faculty? Are they brilliant too? Are they all graduates of these institutes as well? I donot think so. Because it is common knowledge that most of those who get to study in these institutes, proceed abroad for higher studies. They do so because of the world class opportunities and infrastructure available there, and lacking here. Since the govt does not reward brilliance, there is no incentive for these students to return and join the faculty at these institutes. The remunerations on offer to such people from the multinational corporates are too lucrative, in comparison to the govt pay scales.

6. Lastly, the sheer growth in our population has now compelled the govt to open more and more such institutes in the country. Firstly there is dirth of quality faculty. Now, the same faculty is overloaded to manage multiple institutes. Is it not a recipe for further degradation in overall standards.

In conclusion, I wish to ask the same minister, what his govt is doing to right the above mentioned wrongs. If his govt is compelled to invest billions in Afghanistan and Africa, rather than on these institutes, he has no right make such comments.

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Faculty member's worth has to be tested

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Harold D'Costa writes:

I truly endorse the statement made by Mr Jairam Ramesh.

Many of the faculty members even in the premier institutes like IIT and IIM opt for the faculty job simply because they are not competitive in the corporate world.

They rarely care for the future of the students, sitting in the soft cushion of these gigantic institutes with a decent salary.
If the faculty member's worth has to be tested then before recruiting them, they should be sent to the corporate world initially for a year and made to work on live cases.

An examination should be taken and later they should be recruited. Every three years they should be sent to refresher course for 3 months, during their vacation period only and later absorbed once again after they successfully pass in their examination.

I certainly feel that with the above changes we will a better-civilized governed society.

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'Not doing research at par with international standards'

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Dr Srinivasan Parthiban writes:
The people who disagree with Jairam Ramesh have either do not know the world standards or they do not want to hear something negative about the said institutions. Those who do not agree with Jairam Ramesh put one of the following facts. Compared to the funding in abroad, here the funding is less. Pointing fingers at other areas, do the politicians world standard. Overload of work in terms of education, research and administrative work. The reason could be anything, but what is the fact. The bottom line is our faculties are NOT at the world standards. Period.
Now let us examine in much more details. Publications is one measure of standards. Most of the faculties in IITs and national laboratories have postdoctoral experiences in abroad and having good number of quality publications. You need to go one more level in depth to understand here. In postdoctoral studies, most of the quality papers have the origin of ideas from the professor in the abroad labs. Our guys are responsible for just execution. The adventurous mindset is not part of Indian culture. When they return to India as professors, now they are independently responsible for coming up with new ideas. But this is where most of our faculties fail. Even after 20 years they continue to extend what they were doing in their postdoctoral work. Novelty becomes an issue. If you look at the Web of science, citations, our Indian faculties in IITs and national labs do not have encouraging number of highly cited papers. The top professors in India, those who have some highly cited papers, most of those papers were done during their abroad stay. This is plain truth.
Comparing the funding in abroad and Indian funding. You are comparing the Cancer research labs or space program in abroad and materials science research labs or electronics research labs in India. Cancer research required huge funding. What about other research areas, where the funding that our professors have is more than required. Are we doing research at the International standards. Unfortunately, NO.
Someone in the National TV was mentioning that even in abroad people take administrative positions. Well there is a difference. In abroad, once you are recognized, you become National projects coordinator or something in those lines where you are technically responsible. In IITs or in national labs, the administrative positions essentially means, that you are a Warden, Mess supervisor, Student councilors. Someone having niche research area, after several years of research experience, you get tired and want to become such unrelated administrators.
With all these troubles, some exceptional faculties come up with World Class Innovation. Do the IITs know how to do the technology transfer. Are they at the world class standards. Do they know how the royalties should be shared among Institutes, Departments, Faculties and Inventors. I challenge none of the IITs know these areas. As for as IITs are concerned, the technology transfer is nothing but getting the revenue through consultancies or by some services in the name of industry-academic collaborations. No faculty will be encouraged in a long-run to do world class research.
We are confused, first of all. The professor who is doing Solar research solving partial differential equations and a professor who is doing innovative research in the area of next-generation mobile technology, we have absolutely no difference. One is not sellable, while the other one is sellable. But no incentive. Discovery, Invention and innovation, guys there is difference. Mind to market, brain to basket; please differentiate. Not all professors are entrepreneurial, but current policies are not differentiating. Unless you change the system, the faculties can not become world class.
Research funding, in some of the top Universities, one has to earn the Hard Money. For every $100 you bring from Private sector, you are eligible to earn $30 from the govt as soft money. The hard money is accountable and you need to achieve the end objectives, while the soft money you can do basic fundamental research which need not have to give any returns. In India, mostly, if not all, are funding from Govt. And the accountability is not stringent. In abroad we know who gets how much, and what is his end goals which is public. So even his competitor can monitor. Here is India, we do not know who gets what. Most of the influential professors get the lions share and they tend to take the money to their States and/or distribute the money to his former students now the faculties.
The bottom line is, Ramesh is right that Indian faculties are not at the world standards but for wrong reasons.

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'Very disappointed with the statement'

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Krishnanand Rai writes
I am very disappointed by his statement, but we should not forget that they are the people (the ruling party) who are most corrupt in the today's world.

Better he should give statement on his own Political party, By the way I don't trust corrupt people or the people who are directly or indirectly part of it.

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'There should be research-based incentives'

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Sayan Dutta Gupta from Gokaraju Rangaraju College of Pharmacy, Hyderabad writes:

What Jairam Ramesh has said is correct. But did he thought what is the reason behind that and how to solve that. And if you can't solve a problem than you are part of the problem.

Why the students of IIT after passing out from IIT is not joining their parent institute. Did anybody thought that or I should say even bothered to think about that.

A post doc from a foreign university joins IIT with a monthly salary of
Rs. 25,000 on contract basis.

The research based incentives, ie. if you publish quality research papers, you will get more salary, are very less.

Last but not least the salary is also less than what private universities like Amity or Lovely professional university pays. Then again this is a problem. Then what is the solution. Why is the salary less.

Because government doesn't have enough money. Now why does the government not have enough money. How can Government have more money?
These are the ways,
1. Bring black money from outside.
2. Just triple the price of food in Indian Parliament canteen. It will
work miracle. A meal costs Rs. 5. MAke it Rs. 15.
3. Reduce the salary of MP's. An Mp who has asset worth 100 crore, or 500 crore like Jagan Mohan Reddy should not take any salary.
4. Stop thinking about Oil companies. They got enough salary. Reduce their salary by Rs. 2000 per month, then there is no need to increase petrol price and there is no need of government subsidy.
5. Stop thinking about IT companies. Don't give them tax break. A fresher gets Rs. 30000 per month in IT companies. Whereas a post doc get less than that in IITs.
So, please don't blame the faculty of IITs. Find the reason. Try to solve it.

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'Faculty is real; students are temporary hoppers'

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I totally disagree with Jairam Ramesh's statement that IIT/IIM faculty is not world class but the students are world class and therefore the institute is primarily world class because of its students.

I will give my own reason -- since IIT JEE /CAT is a tough and highly competitive exam, so simply cracking it and getting a seat in IIT means achievement of a lifetime or great achievement in India only for sake of saying!!!!

But more often than  - many students who gets selected in IIT gets complacent and do not study hard or whatever. They just go through the process of four /two years.

Getting a top rank in IIT/IIM and becoming a top class engineers/managers -- there is a huge difference.

Many students do not have that much talent after passing out to be even considered a competent /average good engineer in their respective field.

They definitely need the wealth of experience and expertise of the faculty of the institute. Faculty themselves are experts in their field whereas students are novices and it takes a lot of time before they become engineers or managers of some real quality.

Many students are not even interested in their respective branch of engineering and they switch over to lucrative IT sector/other jobs in the last semester making it quite meaningless of the four year engineering education to become top class engineer in their field of study.

There are many IITians who after passing out has not done well and some even become somewhat average good managers/engineers.

One IITian even has lost his degree (failed???) in MBA course in Philippines in "nights of manila "(google "nights of manila ") in 2005 doing something of a human activity. He has made his group or country proud!!!!! In some sense indeed!!!!!

So the bottom line is faculty are real industry experts and students are mere temporary hoppers.

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