Thursday, May 02, 2013


By Sindhi Sinha / New Delhi

Faculty crunch is a known phenomenon in India and with the opening of hundreds of academic institutions in both public and private domain, the shortage of good people in teaching, awaits a much harsher reality. However, in many institutions, the dearth of new faculty is an outcome of a non-serious and dismissive attitude of the selection committee itself. Figure this out – a Central University announced faculty recruitment a year and a half back before shortlisting the candidates for interviews. 

Before the interview
A rigorous exercise is carried out for candidate’s certificate verification where on an average 15-30 minutes are spent on each prospective faculty. There is no systematic procedure for the candidates to appear before the selection committee, so some are seen waiting for as long as 6-8 hours, awaiting their name-call. Snacks and drinks come, but before you could stretch your arms towards it, they are whisked away – “These are for selection committee members, if they are happy, you will be happy too”, says a young recruitment facilitator. I recall, what Steve Jobs said, though in a different context, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. 

Facing the interview
Yet another round of verification is carried out. “You should keep your most important publication(s) at the top,” advises the verifier. But when I tell him there is an error in the allotted marks (an addition that contributes to the overall merit list), as the university hasn’t accounted my PhD, he assures it will be corrected without taking a note of it (I salute his memory power). As, I enter the room, the panel chair introduces me to the rest of the members. The panel consists of distinguished people, some of who, I see are busy twiddling with their mobile phones. The first question comes up – So, which courses would you teach? And which modules would you introduce if we introduce a new course? As I attempt an honest answer, listing out the course modules, I get interrupted – No, Mr. Candidate, your understanding is pathetic; you have not listed X institution that offers this course!. 

Trying my wisdom to link the remark to a ‘stressed interview’ category, I make yet another attempt. “Sorry Sir, I am not aware that ‘X’ institution offers this course… but I am interrupted again. “If you do not know, I have no questions to ask”, says the professor, symbolically passing on the ‘query’ relay flag to his left. After two sitter questions in my domain, that I answer comfortably, comes a strange query: “You have published in international journals, how did you manage to do so?” Thankfully one of the members came to my defence clarifying that these were ‘peer reviewed’ and ‘refereed’ journals. Meanwhile, the Chairman walked out and another member got up to attend a call and never came back. I asked if I could make a 5-minute presentation, but I was told – “no one has made a presentation, why would you?” That was the end of my 13-minute interview.

Post interview
I was feeling miserable but when I interacted with my fellow candidates, I realised, I wasn’t unique. Most of us had common grievances – the attitude of most of the selection committee members was not to engage with the subject knowledge, not to listen patiently, and not to give ‘reasonable time’. To put it simply, the attitude was dismissive. I tried collating the remarks of the selection committee members through others. Many of them were direct, disgraceful and discouraging (see box). Though the result of this particular interview is not yet out, I presume, people across the country would be able to associate with what happens in many of the institutes.  

Not far off are other universities
In many private universities, including those in the deemed category, the faculty members are often considered as ‘client support officials’. If you have good network capabilities, are able to generate resources through personal contacts, and influential enough to rope in new students, you are directly shortlisted. Academic credentials can take a walk. The process is so designed that specific days are allotted for such candidates and most of the selection committee members are briefed in advance. On condition of anonymity, a professor at a private university said, “Merit comes next to Remit while selecting faculty members. If you have the potential to remit tangible resources for the institute, you could be in the next day”. 

Lessons to Learn
On time management, if for instance you are so hard pressed for time, many candidates suggested that you could call fewer people after making initial screening much more stringent. The candidates, who apply, after all, are mature individuals with professional self-respect, who look upon academicians as people with great reverence and dignity. As part of the selection (or rather elimination) process, the institutes also ask the candidates to make a short presentation but in many universities this exercise is simply not undertaken. At institutes where, presentations are made before the selection committee, faculty members and peer-group; the candidates, irrespective of their selection, report that they go back more confident, satisfied and enriched as the feedback they get is extremely valuable. Unlike this Central University interview, the recruitment process at many institutes is such that candidates do go happy having traversed long distances just for that small interaction. 

Sanjaya Baru, Former Editor, Business Standard, and an academician at heart says, “The value system of our education is flawed; there’s no reverence for education. As individuals we value education, but not as a nation.” He further adds. “An educated person is an asset but an uneducated person is a liability. The same person who is a liability today can become an asset tomorrow. It’s a simple idea that we in India failed to grasp.” 

Possibly it is because of the recruiters who have no respect for educated individuals and are happier fiddling with their mobile phones during the selection process, not paying attention to interviewee’s academic work; that the nation is seen to face a problem.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is true that recruiters show sheer negligence to university certificates, but they are happy with candidates who does not hold required qualifications for the designated position just because these candidates have voices/recommendations in the industry.