Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

CS & IT Academia: A Bureaucratic POWER structure

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CS & IT Academia: A Bureaucratic POWER structure

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The POWER structure in CS & IT Academia is very different from the POWER structure in international software consultancy companies.

Academia has an essentially bureaucratic power structure. I think that must be flowing down from the Union Ministry of Human Resources & Development as they are the ultimate power centre for academia. They give out the Grant money that flows down to universities and they control government recognition via AICTE/UGC (& status/reputation via NAAC).

For an academician, the HOD is the KEY POWER CENTRE. Massive amount of power is concentrated in him/her. Of course, academia gives a lot of room for academicians to explore their varied interests. And most HODs having come from the academic setup do give that freedom to members working under them. But if, for some reason, one gets into a direct conflict with the HOD, life can become very tough. You have to either get an amicable resolution to your conflict with the HOD OR you have to quit and join CS department of another college/university! I mean, if one were a PhD in CS, one cannot shift from a CS department to Physics or Management, for a paid academician post (Free Service is different as there may be some common/related courses). And to join CS department of another university, there has to be a vacancy there! Universities & colleges are far fewer than software companies! And the university/college with a vacancy could be in a different city/region and so, if you were married with children, the whole family will have to consider moving to another place!

So most academicians are very reluctant to CROSS PATHS with the HOD. If the HOD blocks something, it stays blocked. Efforts in the department which do not have the blessing of the HOD will typically wither away and die.

There is no HR manager to go to for listing out your litany of woes, who, if you are a good performer, will do his utmost to resolve the problem. That is a key function of the HR manager in industry - the company does not want to lose good people to the competition. In academia, you can find some Sympathetic Listener (Agony Aunt type) and unburden yourself - that is the nice thing about academia - generally the teachers are nice people, so they will listen to you and give you some peaceful and gentle advise - and wish you well. But they cannot change the system - you should not have a serious conflict with the HOD - if you do, you will suffer. Fact of Academic Life. Period.

In tremendous contrast, the software industry is really cool on that front. If you are good and you get fed up with one manager, you look around and shift to another group in the same company (using HR manager's services at times) or get another job. Jobs are no problem for good guys - yes, the pay may differ here and there and working environment may be different. But at least you can get another job and earn enough to run your household. And in the same city, or same suburb or even same building - no kidding - I was working with a company on the 3rd floor of a building in SEEPZ, Mumbai, the original "IT park" of India - moved out of SEEPZ to try freelance training instructor work - came back after a few months to SEEPZ by joining a company on the 2nd floor of the same building as a 'consultant'! (For more on SEEPZ see footnotes).

So if you are an industry guy and if you have a rosy, rosy picture of academia and have visions of, at some point in your life, sharing your knowledge with young students in academia and, perhaps, becoming a respected & revered CS/IT Professor, be aware that there are many thorns too. I am not saying that CS/IT Academia is all bad - no, not at all - One of the great joys of being in Academia is the joy of imparting knowledge to eager, and many times, grateful young students. That is a very satisfying experience - Industry may not be able to provide much opportunities for such kind of joy. The fellow teachers are also usually a very nice & friendly lot. There is a lot of respect from society, too. And one works in a far more relaxed environment as compared to the typical industry environment. But academia certainly has its bureaucratic power structure and you have to fit into that very-different-from-software-industry power structure.


Here are a couple of links on SEEPZ, Mumbai:, - For most of my software industry career, from 1984 to 2002, I was based in SEEPZ - 4 different companies but all in SEEPZ. During the initial years of the software export boom, SEEPZ, Mumbai was where a lot of the ACTION was happening.

A wiki page states:

India's IT Services industry was born in Mumbai in 1967 with the establishment of Tata Group in partnership with Burroughs. The first software export zone SEEPZ was set up here way back in 1973, the old avatar of the modern day IT park. More than 80 percent of the country's software exports happened out of SEEPZ, Mumbai in 80s. Source:

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, December 30, 2012 at 2:14 PM

Here's an interesting article about vast difference between Western universities & Indian ones, Comparing Harvard apples with JNU oranges.

A point which fits in very well with my experience of Indian CS academia is the following: "In fact, anything new is looked at sceptically, and often succumbs to the tyranny of age. Age-related hierarchy is perhaps the worst in the Indian university system and the least-debated sacred cow."

Monday, April 21, 2014

The very strange case of 20th century era Department(s) of Mathematics and Computer Science in Indian academia in today's early 21st century world

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I think the importance of computers in today's early 21st century world is unquestioned by any realistic individuals anywhere in the world. However it is very strange that some Indian academic Computer Science departments (at least one that I am aware of) continue to live in a 20th century era. Specifically:

a) They combine Mathematics and Computer Science as a single department - Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Surely, in the early 21st century computer and Internet age, Indian universities should have a separate Computer Science department instead of combining it with Mathematics! I know of one such combined CS and Mathematics department case for sure. I do not know whether that is an exception with no other Indian university today having a combined Mathematics and Computer Science department.

b) They do not offer undergraduate and immediate post-graduate degrees in Computer Science or Computer Science & Engineering. Instead students who are interested to acquire a computer science qualification from that university have to, in the normal case, first do B.Sc. (Mathematics), a 3 year programme (done after 12th grade), followed by M.Sc. (Mathematics), a 2 year programme, and then take up M.Tech. (Computer Science), a 2 year programme (a total of 7 years after 12th grade to get the CS qualification)! [The exception case is doing undergraduate Computer Science degree elsewhere and then trying to join the M.Tech. (CS) programme in this university after clearing their entrance exam & interview.] In today's age where students are ambitious, most students who want (or are constrained in some way like financially) to do Computer Science in a science, commerce and arts (UGC) university (as against an engineering or technology university) will pursue B.Sc. (Computer Science), a 3 year programme, I presume like other science degree programmes, immediately after 12th grade, and optionally follow it up with M.Sc. (Computer Science), a 2 year programme. [In engineering/technology (AICTE) universities such students will pursue B.Tech. (Computer Science & Engineering) or B.E. (Computer Science & Engineering), a 4 year programme (done after 12th grade), followed optionally by M.Tech. (Computer Science & Engineering) or M.E. (Computer Science & Engineering), a 2 year programme.]

Please note that I am discussing only Computer Science and Computer Science & Engineering branches in this post and not Information Technology or Computer Applications branches.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

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