Professor M S Ananth, Director, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, does not expect tangible deliverables from the Global IIT Alumni Conference, but acknowledges that such repetitive interactions can ultimately pay dividends in realising at least part of the objectives.
In an interview, Ananth, who was in the United States recently to deliver the keynote speech at the US Chemical Research Council conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then came down to Washington to meet with IIT-Madras alumni, said, I dont expect any direct take-off from any of these conferences.
Ananth, who will return to Washington along with other directors of the various IITs for the conference, predicted, Till that synergy comes it wont happen; it can happen only by these frequent meetings.
However, notwithstanding his reality check, Ananth acknowledged, Of course, the idea that alumni are interested in their alma mater is a very important concept. It is a new concept for India. In India its just not there. Ananth argued, My contention is that as a civilisation and in the process of accepting the logical form of the West we have given up the intuitive form, and we should retain both. If you look at education in India, undergraduate education now has 450,000 students entering, the numbers are increasing, and out of the 450,000, IITs handle 4,500 — just one per cent. So in a sense we need more IITs.
But Ananth said the main alarm in India among IITs is post-graduate education, and perhaps echoing the concerns of his fellow directors of other six IITs, bemoaned, We have 20,000 seats of which only 10,000 are taken, and given that only 20 per cent of post-graduates will come into teaching, we have effectively 2,000 teachers available.
Ananth asserted, It is not possible in the current context. As far as government institutions are concerned, the maximum salary you can draw is that of a Cabinet Secretary. Next to the Cabinet Secretary, you have the regular Secretary who draws Rs 26,000 as basic salary per month.
So therefore, the IIT Director shall not get more than that — and if the IIT Director gets that, you can imagine what the faculty gets, he said.
He acknowledged that the faculty was free to consult and earn extra income, and that there is no cap on that at all. Nobody is going to give you money unless you deliver, and delivering requires time.
Ananth said the question is, how do you get a larger faculty, and noted, I have hired 130 faculty members in the last three years, of who 36 have BTechs from various IITs whove done PhD abroad and come back.
I am at 350 faculty-member strength and its not as if I dont get applicants. Ananth said he does have adjunct faculty and that IITs have several provisions whereby people can be hired without PhDs in management — it is one of the exceptions and there are similar provisions for architecture and planning where we can also take people without PhDs.
And I have adjunct faculty who dont even need a masters degree. So adjunct faculty is perfectly possible and we have that. But I am talking about core faculty.
Ananth said, Every Indian has to make a decision whether to go into an industrial or academic career and the next question is, do you want it in India or the US. I believe the choice is not hard to make.