Why do India's best professors leave India?

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

/ by mansuralisaha


The News Cover: This is the poster of the movie Swadesh. In the movie, Shah Rukh Khan’s character moves to the US to work for NASA. He decides to make a short trip to India. Once he visits India, he gets attached to the country. After completing his project for NASA he permanently relocates to India and starts working for Vikram Sarabhai Space Station. 
But this is the story from a Bollywood movie. Reality is quite different. Abhijeet Banerjee pursued his bachelor’s at the University of Calcutta. Where does he reside currently? At MIT University. Gita Gopinath graduated from LSR at Delhi University. Where’s she currently? She’s chief economist at the IMF. Arvind Panagriya, who pursued his bachelor’s at Rajasthan University, is currently teaching at Columbia University. These are examples of popular economists who were born and raised in India but currently, they’re working for American institutes. Due to an incident from last month, this list has lengthened. Sonipat, Haryana’s Ashoka University has been plunged into controversy. 
Two professors have resigned from the university. On 17th March, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a popular scholar and regular columnist for the Indian Express newspaper, wrote a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, citing that after meeting the University’s founders, it became evident that he’s responsible for the political problems the university is facing. The major reason behind this is his articles for Indian Express which criticize the government. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation has left a mark on Ashoka University’s reputation. 

Ashoka University is a private university that was founded in 2013 with a vision of competing with the institutions like Harvard and Oxford. Just two days after his resignation, Arvind Subramanium, who taught economics at Ashoka University and had served as the Chief Economic Advisor to the Indian government, resigned from his post too. He stated that it’s disturbing that even a private university can’t teach with freedom. It was a big call for Arvind Subramanium to resign from his position as he had recently quit at Harvard Kennedy School to teach at Ashoka University. 

After submitting his resignation, he recently announced that he’s moving back to the US to teach at Brown University. It’s not surprising that government has influence over its universities. But due to its influence over private universities, the professors are resigning. Ironically, PM Modi has expressed the need for good researchers and professors in India. “National Education policy will bring a transformation.” “The teachers will play a crucial role in bringing its benefit to the students.” Every country needs good researchers for innovation. 
This is called research and development. This is the reason why America has been a superpower for years. Because it invests a major share of its GDP in research and development. This has also improved China’s economy. On the contrary, India invests only 0.5% in R&D. Many have stated that India should target 2%. But it would be impossible to achieve this target if the best Indian professors teach at American universities and not in India. There’re two major reasons for this. The first reason is the lack of academic freedom in India. Professors can’t discuss the subject of their choice with freedom. V-Dem Institute measures academic freedom index. 

It rates the countries between 0 to 1. While in 2014, India was above the global average, after 2014, it dropped. Many factors could reduce academic freedom. First, when the institutional autonomy decreases. Second, when the freedom of expression is restricted. And third, when the faculties are threatened. Institutional autonomy can fall by political intervention in faculty appointments and administration. The government’s national education policy has addressed institutional autonomy. But it’s not clear what this ‘autonomy’ means. Political intervention in faculty appointments isn’t a novice trend. Several governments have resorted to it and the trend has continued for the past few years. For example, Jawaharlal University Teachers’ Association has been going to court every year since 2016 to argue against Vice Chancellor’s appointment. 

The situation has worsened to an extent that the professors are now writing directly to the president, giving up the hope that the VC will listen to their grievances. JNU’S Vice-Chancellor has been accused of changing rules in the favor of his acquaintances. Due to the lack of institutional autonomy, many universities can’t hire the best professors. When the university lacks good professors there’s no room for innovation in the curriculum. This ultimately affects the students. This could also affect students’ job situation. This could explain the surveys that have shown that 80% of Indian engineers can’t find a job. Some students are capable but the process of campus placement is lengthy. This decreases the quality of matching between the companies and students. 
This could be the reason why many are unsatisfied with their jobs. One of the companies that are trying to solve this problem is Direct, which has sponsored this video. Direct is introducing the process of direct hiring in India. For a traditional hiring process, you receive a job listing. Then you apply for the job and companies shortlist the candidates. And then you receive an interview call. Direct aims to shorten this process with direct hiring. Direct is an app where you can create a profile and the companies can directly approach you on the same platform. Thus you don’t need to seek another platform. The best part about this app is that you don’t have to pay for anything. Why don’t you give it a try? 

The app consists of over 20,000 recruiters. Many of the recruiters will be present at the Washroom Hiring Day event on 22nd April where the experts will help the candidates understand the requirement of jobs in different fields. You’ll also learn to use Direct to find the best job for you and how you should set up your profile to improve your chances of getting a job. The second factor which leads to the decline of academic freedom is when the government dictates what the professors should teach and research about. For example, Gujarat gave universities a list of 80 topics on which the students can write their Ph.D. theses. The topics are regarding the government’s scheme.

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