IIT-M faculty may play truant, officially

Faculty members at IIT-Madras focusing on research projects may soon be able to forego classroom duties. Teachers at the institution, proposing various solutions to promote research and deal with increasing workload on faculty members, suggested that researchers be spared from spending long hours in classrooms if they are working on intensive projects.

They also said the number of courses that faculty members take should be divided among two or more teachers.

They made the suggestions to an expert panel following the recruitment of 22 teachers last month. Some departments have already adopted individual models to focus more on research . IIT-M estimates that a faculty member spends a minimum of six hours in classrooms a week and teaches three courses each semester. Every faculty member has five research scholars to guide. But faculty members usually spend much more time than in just guidance of research scholars as they have related work like evaluation as well as administrative duties.

Similar suggestions in the past could not be implemented because of staff shortage. IIT-M has 530 faculty members and 7,800 students. It has a sanctioned strength of 800 faculty members. The institution decided to enroll more students in 2010, resulting in a 54% increase in admissions, but faculty strength remained at 450, roughly the same as previously.

“If a department has more than one faculty member for a specialisation, one can be spared from classroom duties in the first semester and another can be given the same opportunity the next semester,” a professor said.

IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi indicated that the proposals may only be implemented as a stop-gap arrangement and said the institution did not plan to introduce them at the policy level.

“Departments come up with internal arrangements so teaching and research are not compromised,” he said. “Teaching and research should go hand in hand. We had 600 doctoral scholars in 2007 and the number had now gone up to 1,800. Our PhD and MS students make up 30% of the student strength. Increasing enrolment has also resulted in IIT-M acquiring more faculty members and PhD students.”

Not all faculty members support the proposal to reduce classroom hours. A senior professor said IIT-M’s academic freedom allowed teachers to start new programmes in specialised fields.

“The rationale is to give students the opportunity to work on projects with their teachers while also attending classes,” the professor said. “If an ambitious professor doesn’t want to teach students, it will be a loss to the student community. Unlike institutions like Defence Research Development Organisation , IITs are part of the public education system.”

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