Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The burden of starting an institution without adequate planning


I excerpt below a couple of e-mails that highlight how the burden of starting new IITs without adequate planning falls disproportionately on a small number of faculty. These e-mails give me the sense that (a) quite a few of the faculty carrying this extra burden are at the junior level, and (b) they don't get much appreciation from their administration. They show how a problem imposed by Delhi (and other state capitals) is made worse by the local powers -- Directors and Deans at the mentor IITs.

In these excerpts, the IIT locations have been rendered generic; I don't want my friends to get into trouble! Here's the first:

I have some idea of what is going on at [IIT-X] (that's being mentored by [IIT-Y]) -- there are no buildings, no labs, no faculty, and classes have already started! One of my friends, who is on deputation there for a semester, told me that he has been given a really crappy place to stay in, and to get any food, he has to go to campus, which is around 2.5 km away. Also, he was somewhat coerced into doing this because no senior faculty was ready to do this.

And, here's the second:

The IITs have been started in a hurry. There were no hostel or classrooms or labs when [IIT-Z] started. Its housed in [a factory].... Faculty have hardly been recruited.

Two colleagues ... were teaching first year students. They have to teach a class of 570 students here on Mon/Tue; fly to [Z City] on Wed; teach a class of 120 on Thu/Fri and return on Sat. And guess what, the Institute DOES NOT give them credit for the extra work [at IIT-Z] (in form of releasing from teaching duties next semester). One of them is a rather new assistant professor, whose lab is still being set up [...].

Let me hasten to add that I received these mails over the last month, but well before the post on Prof. C.N.R. Rao's recent outbursts.

10 Comments:

  1. Yayaver said...

    It is not about no planning but no implementation of plans;And mainstream media is not looking to it...

  2. Animesh said...

    great insightful post Abi!

    So, as someone who is interested in returning, should I apply to IIT-X and IIT-Z for the "fresh start", or should I stay away from them due to the "badly planned/executed start"?

    I wonder.

  3. hari said...

    yes i agreed with yayaver, It is not about no planning but it is no implementation of ideas.

  4. Anonymous said...

    I understand the hurry to get the approval and funding for starting an institution but why the hurry to start admitting students ? That can be a staggered process. First phase accelerate building the hostels, buildings and hiring the theoretical faculty who can teach. Once this is done admitting students can begin. I don't see no harm in temporary and makeshift campuses during the intermediate period if (a) it is not too inconvenient a campus or place (b) you have the right number of faculty. But the "inconvenience" factor itself can act as filter for students joining that particular institute.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Animesh,

    As an active researcher with ambitions to make it big, you better avoid IIT-X, Y, Z etc. buddy!

  6. Anonymous said...

    I think there are several issues. For a government organization (based on my experience in IISc), constructing a building costing 10 crores will take at least 18 months after the money the sanctioned. This is due to the rules and regulations in the institute. For example, one has to release tender documents for each step (architect, estate, building, etc.), convene a big committee, choose L1 (lowest bidder) etc.

    IIT-M is the mentor institute to IIT-H. IIT-M did recruit faculty in sciences early last year. Selection committees were convened, candidates were interviewed and the offer letters were typed up. On the day when the appointment letters were to be dispatched, someone filed a court case staying the whole process. They argued that IIT-M can not recruit faculty for IIT-H. To complicate matters, they also said that faculty can not be recruited in IIT-M and then transferred to IIT-H. Therefore, the appointment letters were not sent. Therefore, IIT-M decided to send faculty to IIT-H, who would get paid extra for teaching. This amount was not princely but was not minimal either (based on the salary one gets as an assistant professor). I do not believe anyone was coerced into teaching in IIT-H but I may be wrong.

    Recruitment at the faculty level at IIT-H can happen only after the director is appointed, which is yet to take place. This process has also been delayed because of the Madras High court ruling that all positions (including that of the director) should be advertised first. Previously, a selection / search committee used to recruit them without advertisement.

    Regarding whether the "inconvenience" factor itself can act as filter for students joining that particular institute, I do not think so. IITs have such prestige associated with it in the society that I can not think of students dropping of IITs to join a private engineering college (or even a NIT) just because of inconveniences.

    Regarding the comment that one should avoid the new IITs, I have only thing to say: these places give excellent start up funds (upwards of 1 crore). The new faculty can also be involved in constructing well designed, modern laboratories with safety aspects and good office space for students and faculty - things that are very difficult to obtain in an established institution. Therefore, I would not discourage Animesh.

    Giri

  7. Anonymous said...

    Hardly breaks new ground --- Indians have been producing babies for ages without the foggiest idea of what they will eat, so what's so novel about setting up IITs without resources?

  8. Anonymous said...

    Anonymous,
    Abhi, thanks for putting the grave problems these new places are facing. Sitting Abroad, when I look at the webites of the new IIT-X it gives the impression that they struck a gold when choosing a campus! as a factory where there are already the medical facility labs.. etc.. But, after reading the experiences of the people who are working there! I can imagine the fate of the faculty who is going to join there!!!!!!!

    Thanks Abhi for posting such a bare truths!.. it indeed helps the people who are dreaming of serving our own people in India while choosing where to come!

    More and more people should come forward and express their feelings about the new places.

  9. Anonymous said...

    Does it need to be a genius to figure out the state of our new "IITs"? - that they had a pathetic start and a more pathetic future (notwithstanding all the media hype and hoopla). Our HRD ministry's track record in planning anything is not-so-particularly-envious. Rs. 1800 crore or so for all the 7 IITs in a 5 yr period + a bunch of hurriedly picked up faculty + marginal to non-existant infrastructure in the beginning - It is upto anyone's imagination where these will leave the new "IITs".

  10. Anonymous said...

    What about the co-operation from the other countries!.. I heard something on the news saying IIT-Hyderabad ties up with Japan which would cooperate in building up of the institute and agreed to work with untill 2020!?!

    Does it mean that the Japan will fund the institute in developing it?