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


Improving Indian Academic Research and Teaching: Have Separate Research-Intensive Universities and Teaching-Intensive Universities



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Improving Indian Academic Research and Teaching: Have Separate Research-Intensive Universities and Teaching-Intensive Universities


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/02/improving-indian-academic-research-have.html



Last updated on 8th February 2014

Today's The Hindu has an article titled, Paralysis in science policies, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/paralysis-in-science-policies/article5661263.ece. Its lead paragraph states, "Neglect of research in higher education has led to very low research intensity. Ninety per cent of our universities end up as teaching institutes where research is given a low priority for lack of funds"

A few days ago, The Hindu carried an article about the poor employability of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu engineering graduates, http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/ap-fares-poorly-in-employability-of-engineers/article5639970.ece. I think the article clearly shows that there is a serious teaching, and so graduate employability, crisis in engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I believe this crisis, to some extent, extends to other streams of education besides engineering, and to other states in India too.

What should universities do now - focus on improving teaching/learning outcomes and so improve employability of graduates and post-graduates (students doing masters' degrees) or focus on improving research? I think there is a conflict between teaching and research in many parts of Indian academia today.

One solution to this conflict/dilemma may be to have separate research-intensive universities and teaching-intensive universities. The teaching and non-research workload of academics in research-intensive universities must be low so that they get enough time to focus on research. The UGC/AICTE regulations for appointment and promotion of such academics must give high weightage to research output of such academics. [Please note that I am excluding the elite higher education institutions like IITs and IISc (and also medical education institutions).] Usually such research-intensive universities would be far more expensive to run than teaching-intensive universities.

The teaching-intensive universities would have high workload of teaching for its academics with some (less) time made available for research too. The UGC/AICTE regulations for appointment and promotion of such academics must give high weightage to learning outcomes for and employability of students taught by such academics. These kind of universities would be less expensive to run.

Of course, there should be migration paths for academics to move from one type of university to the other.

Today, I believe, we have only one set of UGC/AICTE regulations for appointment and promotion of academics of any type of university (research-intensive or teaching-intensive). That leads to situations where academics are denied promotion due to lack of suitable research publication output. Loading an academic with three to four courses of teaching load per semester and additional non-research work, and then upbraiding him/her for lack of good impact factor research publication output, and thereby denying him/her promotion, is not just being unfair, but being exploitative of the poor academic.

It also, unfortunately, in some institutions at least, creates an unhealthy environment for Masters students where they are expected/induced to choose project work that contributes to the academic's/department's research work even when UGC/AICTE regulations, I believe, permit a Masters student to do non-research project work. As an example, a software development project of suitable complexity and size is, I believe, permitted by AICTE regulations/norms (written/unwritten) to be considered as an M.Tech. Computer Science or Information Technology final year project. [Please note that many M.Tech. Computer Science or Information Technology students come from a different stream previous degree background like Production Engg., Electrical Engg., Physics or Mathematics.] Such work would enhance software industry employability prospects of the student. But a research publication output obsession among academics may result in students being advised against doing such software development projects as their M.Tech. project and instead encouraged to do a research project that fits in the area of research done by academics in the department. The latter would contribute to academic research but may not necessarily be what the student needs and/or wants.

Having separate teaching-intensive and research-intensive universities who clearly inform students about their focus may help students choose the right type of university based on their needs and interests and their economic status. The lead paragraph of The Hindu article (Paralysis in science policies) looks down upon universities that "end up as teaching institutes". However, students, especially from poor rural and semi-urban areas, who are desperate for education that makes them employable may find such teaching-intensive universities to be a great blessing, and also find the tuition fees of such less-expensive-to-run universities more affordable. The academic research needs of the country can be primarily met by research-intensive universities who may be given the lion's share of tax payer money for academic research and who may then also be expected to deliver suitable results.



2 comments:

Ravi S. Iyer, February 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Now The Hindu article (Paralysis in Science Policies) web page shows the following comment of mine (from: Ravi S. Iyer, Posted on: Feb 7, 2014 at 17:18 IST):

A few days ago, The Hindu carried an article about the poor employability of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu engineering graduates. I think that article clearly shows that there is a serious teaching, and so graduate employability, crisis in engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I believe this crisis, to some extent, extends to other streams of education besides engineering, and to other states in India too. 

What should universities do now - focus on improving teaching/learning outcomes and so improve employability of graduates and post-graduates (students doing masters' degrees) or focus on improving research? I think there is a conflict between teaching and research in many parts of Indian academia today. 

One solution to this conflict/dilemma may be to have separate research-intensive universities and teaching-intensive universities with separate UGC/AICTE regulations for appointment and promotion of its academics.

Ravi S. Iyer, February 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Here's a provacative article: Cut Off Harvard to Save America by Richard Vedder. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Vedder: "Richard K. Vedder is an American economist, historian, author, columnist, and currently distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University."

The article mentions that top Ivy league US universities have large endowment funds. It goes on further to say, "Before endowments were large, professors sometimes had to earn their salaries by collecting tuition fees from students. When endowments provided professors a guaranteed salary, the incentive of offering high-quality instruction to paying students largely disappeared."

and

"A student graduating from Yale or Princeton, with their roughly $2 million endowments per student, has a ticket to a well-paying job, while one graduating from the College of St. Joseph in Vermont, with its $29,000 endowment per student, does not. Only 12 percent of the Yale and Princeton students have Pells, compared with 71 percent at St. Joseph." [Ravi: Pells refer to US Federal govt. Pell Grants. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pell_Grant: "Pell Grant is a post-secondary educational Federal grant sponsored by the U.S Department of Education. Enacted to help undergraduates of low-income families in receiving financial aid." The difference between elite and non-elite/commoner colleges in the USA seems to be stark. Perhaps if somebody does (or has done) a similar comparison in India, the difference found between elite and non-elite/commoner college education would be similar.]

Some additional info.

Richard Vedder is the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, USA. Its mission statement here says, "Founded in 2006, The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) is dedicated to researching the rising costs and stagnant efficiency in higher education, with special emphasis on the United States. CCAP seeks to facilitate a broader dialogue on the issues and problems facing the institutions of higher education with the public, policy makers, and the higher education community. ..."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013




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