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INDIA: New efforts to attract global academic talent

As part of its strategy to entice talent into higher education and research, the Indian government is targeting top-level people of Indian origin working in the West and making it easier for them find out about job opportunities in the country.

With huge expansion in the number of young people in higher education projected for the next few years and some 48% to 52% of academic and research posts vacant across publicly-funded state and central universities, the need for academic talent has become pressing.

Hosted by India's Education Ministry a new website is being launched which will provide updates about vacancies in faculty positions across all of India's higher education institutions.

The website will also provide information about reforms in higher education and keep academics and researchers of Indian origin posted about important policies and legislation such as the Foreign Education Providers Bill currently being considered by parliament, to allow in more overseas private institutions.

If that bill is passed this year, some are predicting an influx of foreign institutions that may entice academic talent from public universities, exacerbating the current shortage.

Indian academics working abroad, commonly known as Non-Resident Indians or NRIs and overseas-born Persons of Indian Origin, PIOs, can register and become part of India's global human resources, an education ministry official said.

Foreign nationals looking to explore opportunities in India are also being targeted.

"The website is part of a larger strategy to attract global human resources to India, especially in research and higher education," said a senior government official who did not want to be named.

"We have opened over 30 new higher educational institutes in the last three years and we need world-class faculty for them. We also need leaders who can inspire our universities to become the best."

While Indian universities were already fighting a faculty shortage, the establishment of new institutions has only worsened the problem.

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) - the premier engineering institutes - will require around 12,000 teachers in the next 10 to 12 years to maintain a teacher student ratio of 1:10. The 13 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) need 450 teachers over next three years. There is 30% vacancy rate across engineering colleges.

To combat this shortage and attract faculty from abroad, higher education institutions have devised various schemes such as standing advertisements throughout the year for faculty positions.

"We cannot match the salaries that many NRI faculty get paid in foreign countries. But we are compensating by instituting young faculty fellowships, providing research grants, and are also encouraging our faculty to ask for what they want in terms of research facilities," said Professor M Balakrishnan of the Department of Computer Science at IIT Delhi.

The website will also act as a platform for extending foreign collaborations, especially for partnerships with government institutions.

"We are not looking for human resources in the form of faculty and researchers only. We are looking for inputs, expertise and leadership. If experienced NRI faculty want to give feedback on education reforms, or run leadership courses in collaboration with Indian institutes, the website will facilitate that in the future," the government official said.

"It will also give them information about how they can give back to the country by establishing alumni funds and public private partnerships."
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