Alleviating Faculty Shortage In Engineering Colleges

To alleviate the existing faculty shortage, it is important to focus on recruitment, retention, skilling and building a healthier ecosystem

Most higher institutions in India are currently facing a severe shortage in faculty. While a high barrier to entry does play a part, in-person classes also mean geographical disadvantage as most teachers are unable to travel to more remote parts of the country. For colleges, recruitment is an ongoing process and setting up infrastructure on ground takes time. This shortage is in direct conflict with colleges’ need to increase student capacity in recent years and the subsequent lack of qualified staff to facilitate the students. 

With some members of the existing faculty facing retirement, there is an added pressure to fill-in vacant seats. Factors that contribute to low student faculty ratios in higher education can also be attributed to less students interested in pursuing research as increasingly a smaller number of graduates follow-up with postgraduate and doctorate studies in India.      

This acute shortage of qualified and competent faculties can especially be felt in Engineering colleges, with approximately 67 per cent of colleges with vacant seats. According to AICTE guidelines, student to faculty ratio should ideally be 9:1 for premier institutes and 15:1 for other engineering colleges. Facing faculty shortage leads to unfinished or hurried course curriculum and insufficient attention to individual student needs.  

Some tier III colleges face even dire challenges where as much as 75 percent of stipulated faculty is completely nonexistent. Part of this vacancy can be attributed to very low university pay scales. The AICTE also tried to address the crisis by relaxing faculty age and extending retirement policies.  

To alleviate the existing faculty shortage, it is important to focus on recruitment, retention, skilling and building a healthier ecosystem. Colleges, instead of being rigid, should also start looking to recruit educators, outside of academics, to fill-in the empty seats in a part-time or adjunct basis. For example, emerging tech courses, which are high in demand among students, courses should also be sourced from engineers and scientists who, while without a strict academic background, bring about valuable practical experience.  

Bringing outsiders from Industry into academics, in addition to addressing faculty shortage, would also enable colleges to reach to the other side of the aisle and foster strong partnership with the industry. This is a great opportunity for colleges to bring practical knowledge and real-world experience into the classroom, an effective tool to skill students attuned to industry needs.  

Colleges should also actively skill educators to work with technology and take the help of edtech companies to get technology platforms for creating smart classrooms, experiential learning through demonstrative learning, adjunct faculty with industry experience to speed on what is happening in the tech industry. Tech means automating mundane, routine tasks in their workload and allowing existing educators spend more time in discussion or mentoring on areas that is more attuned to what they are skilled in and needed in industry. With upskilling being need of the hour, keeping up with technology is critical for teachers, who can then in turn train students toward better outcomes.  

Edtech companies could also help colleges should facilitate existing faculty members by upskilling them in research methodologies, pedagogy, state of the art technologies and industry practices in a regular basis. 

But even if the academic world attempts to be more flexible and bring about industry practitioners on an adjunct basis, retaining existing faculty on a long-term basis would require colleges to facilitate more research initiatives, provide opportunities towards their professional environment, creating growth opportunities and placing them in leadership roles. This would also help in setting up a non-hierarchical and friendly ecosystem with more educators positively reinforced to stay and contribute instead of taking their skillsets somewhere else.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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