Autonomy, not reservations: Govt must listen to expert panel on quotas for faculty at IITs

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December 23, 2020 6:45 AM

The eight-member panel, set up by the Union education ministry in April, has recommended that the 23 IITs be exempted from the policy on reservation for faculty appointments.

The panel has also stated that decisions on reservations in the IITs should be left to their respective Board of Governors.The panel has also stated that decisions on reservations in the IITs should be left to their respective Board of Governors.

The Union government must pay heed to the recommendations of a panel constituted to look into issues concerning reservation for students and faculty at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The eight-member panel, set up by the Union education ministry in April, has recommended that the 23 IITs be exempted from the policy on reservation for faculty appointments. Given they are institutes of national importance established under an Act of Parliament, the committee recommends, the IITs should be listed in the Schedule relating to Section 4 of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act 2019, or the CEI Act. Section 4 exempts institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance “specified in the Schedule” and minority educational institutions from reservations in faculty appointments. At present, the Schedule lists eight central government institutions, but none of the IITs.

Surprisingly, the government did not add the IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to the Schedule, though both are widely recognised to be among India’s best. For the oldest four IITs, it is a double whammy given they figure in the Centre’s list of institutions of eminence as well. Instead, in November last year—all the talk of greater autonomy for top-notch institutions and the vision of the new National Education Policy notwithstanding—the government had written to all the IITs, IIMs and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research to implement reservation in faculty appointments.

The panel has also stated that decisions on reservations in the IITs should be left to their respective Board of Governors. The IITs are not merely reputed engineering schools but also premier centres of innovation and research. Against such a backdrop, if the government were to force them to implement a failed policy of reservation—the fact that reservation continues to be offered not only in education but also in jobs and education is a clear indication that it has not worked—it would be doing untold harm to the global standing of higher education in India. Thanks to regulatory chokehold over tertiary education in the country, very few Indian universities are counted among the best in the world.

As an alternative to its proposal to include IITs in the Schedule to the CEI Act—if this can’t be done—the committee has suggested that the posts of associate professor and professor be exempted while reservation be followed for the post of assistant professors, reports The Print. Such bargaining won’t help Indian higher education achieve global competitiveness. The committee would have done well to follow its own advice—for PhD aspirants from the reserved category, the panel had suggested a two-year “preparatory programme” at the IITs, funded by the Centre. This could facilitate the creation of a talent pool for teaching positions.

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