Faculty crunch cripples premier vocational institutions

Uma Keni Prabhu

There is a huge countrywide crunch of faculty in AICTE approved institutions in Applied Arts and Crafts, Architecture and Town Planning, and Hotel Management. The faculty gap is putting students to great inconvenience.

According to figures available with AICTE, 56% of teachers’ posts are vacant in Applied Arts and Crafts category, 51% in Architecture and Town Planning and 43% in the Hotel Management and Catering institutes.

Admitting this AICTE chairman SS Mantha says that there is a shortage of about 20% – 25% of faculty in all the AICTE approved institutions. “Applied Arts and Crafts, Architecture and Hotel Management institutions seem to have the most vacancies,” he added. The norms for the Teacher Student Ratio prescribed are as follows: for a Diploma Program it is 1:20, for a Degree Program it is 1:15 and for PG Program it is 1:12.

Government colleges are not too far behind. In the premier Sir JJ College of Architecture, there are 300 students studying in 5 different years of B.Arch courses. “We have only 8 full time faculties on the roll," says Rajiv Mishra, the institution’s principal.

According to Mantha these are practicing professions and one would rather like to practice than serve as faculty due to opportunities available in the industry. Besides, the salary structure is also important. “What can be earned as teacher as against what can be earned by being a registered practitioner matters,” he adds.

Academicians say poor salaries, stringent norms and archaic service conditions discourage professionals to turn to teaching. People do not want to join especially private managements because there is no service security, the pay packets are abysmally low and the workload is too heavy.

Young graduates prefer to join the industry because of good opportunities and high salaries in the market. When they start, the industry salaries are on par with that of the teaching faculty. “However, within three months the salaries in the industry double whereas a lecturer/ assistant professor has to wait for at least five years for his next promotion,” Mishra says.

In business schools, where 27% of teaching posts remain vacant, the problem has another dimension. Dr R Gopal, Director, Dean and HoD, Padmashree Dr DY Patil University’s Department of Business Management, says that most of the lecturers/ professors are women. “Typically a woman (barring exceptions) takes up a teaching job only because this job allows her to fulfill her homely obligations - like children`s studies. They are not into this because of their love or passion for teaching or out of commitment for shaping up the new generation. Consequently, the profession suffers."

Secondly, teachers have to follow the prescribed quality norms. They have to acquire a Masters and also a PhD to rise up in the career path. “Now if a teacher has to go through all that in the name of quality they would rather join the industry and make more money,” Mishra observes. According to an estimate almost 90% of the faculties in private colleges do not conform to the qualification norms set by the AICTE.

For hotel management education, it is a huge challenge to meet with the demand for good faculty, and an even bigger challenge to retain them. Most graduates find a job because the growth of the hotel industry has been pretty consistent. Since many students join the industry these institutes have to depend on the industry people for teaching.

The faculty for hotel management is a different ball game. Here there is no fixed stream of teachers, says CA Sunil G Karve, chairman, Governing Board, Kohinoor Education Trust. “The concept of a ‘teacher’ is not at all developed here.”Kohinoor gets faculty who are actual practitioners of the trade. For instance, the faculty who teaches culinary skills is in real life a chef in a renowned hotel, and the one who teachers how to manage a front desk is a front desk manager.So what is the solution to this problem?

“There is no immediate solution in sight for this,” says Karve. “Tired of late hours and heavy schedules, lot of industry men and women, after long years of service, settle in the teaching profession. I think this is a good trend.”

Dr Gopal stresses on faculty development programs. He says his department allows teachers to do consultancy where 30 percent of the earnings go to the institute, while 70% is kept by the teacher. “But we tell teachers, the consultancies are not at the cost of their teaching responsibilities." Additionally teachers have to regularly make presentations before the peer committee (comprising of fellow faculties) and the presentations are discussed including the communication style. It is necessary for the director or senior faculties to mentor these new faculties.

AICTE has implemented several steps to improve the faculty numbers and quality, says Mantha. First and foremost is the e-governance effort to bring transparency, accountability and flexibility, integrating the entire eco system. This has increased the credibility of the system and improved brand value. This has attracted several new faculties to the system thus improving the deliverables and outcomes in the teaching learning process. Various initiatives with CII to promote industry interaction, mandatory internships and setting up of research parks has also helped in improving faculty quality.

In order to improve the faculty crunch AICTE has created among other things, promotional schemes on creation of research facilities for PG education, given prominence to e-subscription at library and digital library facilities, and allowed starting of PG courses in 2nd shift to help teachers to take up PG education while keeping their jobs.

Mishra, however, has a practical solution. That you are a university topper doesn’t mean that you are a good teacher, he says. “Teaching is a skill and any dedicated average graduate may be a better teacher. Hence, there is no reason why colleges should not employ willing average graduates," Mishra signs off.