Bi-directional Movement of Indian Academia-Industry Personnel – Need of the Hour

No job is permanent today

Let’s face it – no job is permanent in today’s world! And especially so, what with the crises like the recent COVID-19? Professionals working in academia-industry should shed their ‘silo’ vision. Academia-industry interactions should become the buzzword. And act as if they are two sides of the same coin PERIOD

Faculty know that they have three prime responsibilities. They are teaching, the conduct of research, and offering service to the institution/university they are working in when required. Juggling this tripod delicately on their heads is a sine qua non to survive the jungle. Especially the ‘private’ universities’ corporate one! However, it is nearly the same even in government setups.

Universities a.k.a. Caste Bastions

Indian universities, especially private ones, are bastions of mostly different castes. Foreign universities also have this situation sometimes (mostly hidden) where the fault lines are based on religious sects! Many institutions/universities employ staff, mostly the relatives of the chancellor or the owner/s of the university to maintain an elaborate ‘espionage’-like network throughout the campuses! So much so that, the chancellors of the universities feel as if they can control the very air everyone breathes in their ‘corporate’ higher education kingdoms.

The recent step by the Indian government to curtail the tenure of the chancellors to five years is welcome and much-needed in the right direction. This does not mean that the well-ensconced ‘chancellors’ would shy away from the ‘proxy’ rule. ‘Proxy’ rule is such a reality in India that even jailed politicians have ruled states using this method.

Politically ‘Convenient’ and ‘Correct’

            Commoditization of education is such that students feel that if they pay the fees, that’s it! They will automatically get the degrees. And the private universities also seem to encourage this, of course not openly! But who would like to kill the golden geese, i.e., the geese which lay the ‘proverbial’ golden eggs? The students too are very intelligent. They join the ‘politically’ correct universities as advised by their parents so that they don’t face any sort of issues.

The students too (not all of them) fail to heed the words of the faculty. And are neither motivated nor allow themselves to be motivated by others in performing and publishing quality research. Even if they publish, those research articles are like ‘broken arrows’ (with my sincere apologies to John Wu), but more on that later. For them, obtaining their degrees at any cost and moving on to the next level in their lives is what matters to them. The same students if they go to foreign universities are forced to toe the line. And do what is required of them to become good-quality students and researchers!

Moolah drives the Hula

            When money becomes the sole factor for running any business (including a not-for-profit one like higher education), one can only easily imagine the state of affairs! Human resources, especially the faculty, who should be accorded the highest priority, are minute cogs in the ‘corporate’ higher education juggernaut! Anyone who doesn’t fit is removed using any reason. Thus, the faculty community is in a very precarious situation.

‘Birds of the same feather flock together’! You must be aware of this cliched saying. But it wonderfully applies to the situation of the faculty.

Those faculty members who sometimes usurp the research ideas of other faculty after successfully obtaining research grants. Or indulge in other wrong-doings like failing to give due credit to the Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) in the research publications arising from the grants are promoted to higher positions as long as they are sincere in juggling the tripod mentioned in the first paragraph. And obtaining grants. Of course, the things talked about here are probably exceptions but even these should not be condoned. As these are not reported mostly and just tend to be forgotten or taken lightly even by the personnel present in the highest echelons!

The Sorry State of Academia-Industry Affairs

            With such a sorry state of affairs in academia, it is pertinent that the doors of industries should always be wide open. And they should welcome faculty with open arms. While in advanced and developed countries like the USA, the bidirectional movement of professionals from academia and industry is not scoffed at and is actively encouraged.

However, the situation is the exact opposite in India, though slowly things are changing for the better. The recent adoption of the tremendously successful ‘Professor of Practice’ concept from abroad (after its stupendous success there) in India is another step in the right direction. This will help in increasing the bilateral interactions between academia and industry and the development of innovative products.

Needed: An Academy/Body to promote the bidirectional movement of professionals in the Academia-Industry

            The above-mentioned entity would go a long way in helping professionals from academia secure jobs in industry and vice versa. I am not aware of any such organizations already existing in India. Even if they do exist, a few more under the sun would be better. A few salient issues which these kinds of organizations can address –

    • Offer psychological counseling to professionals who are sometimes emotionally bruised due to sudden lay-offs.

    • Provide at least small financial assistance to professionals (if required) affected by lay-offs. Of course, this money can be recovered from the professionals once they settle down in their jobs/businesses/ventures.

    • Enhance pertinent skills by arranging the required training in industries and academia.

    • Provide the required connections to the professionals by connecting them with the human resources, managers, or even the CEOs/owners of well-established companies, founders of start-ups, etc.

    • Ultimately help in enhancing and enriching the lives of the professionals and their families by helping the former get good and decent jobs.

    • And also involve the professionals who have been helped in the above-mentioned ways in helping other such professionals who have been affected in their lives in various ways.

A permanent fund can be maintained by the concerned organization to take care of the above-mentioned aspects and employing the required personnel for the maintenance, upkeep, etc. of it.

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