Thursday, August 27, 2009


Last year, I had written about my thoughts on "reforming" JEE and GATE. In that blog post, I had written that,

is to only allow candidates who have represented the country in the (Math/Physics) Olympiad OR secured an average plus two standard deviations in their respective board exam to write JEE. Because most of the board exams follow a normal distribution, only the top 2.5% will be allowed to write JEE.

Apparently, this may be implemented by 2011. Four years back, the committee recommended 85% in the board exam as the cutoff to write JEE. This was later reduced to 60% to account for the wide variation in the marks awarded by various boards. Considering there are 40 boards who conduct the XII exam and there is a need to normalize the marks and, therefore, something like the top 2.5 or 5 percentile is being thought of.

Similarly, some GATE reforms may also be introduced. For example, I had suggested that there should be a common section on mathematics, analytical ability (similar to the old analytical section of GRE) and English comprehension that would involve reading a technical paragraph and answering questions on that. This section would be of 50 marks and would be common to all technical papers in GATE. I do not know, however, whether it will be implemented in the near future.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New pay scales - IITs

Update: Protests at IISc.

Here is a detailed site that discusses the Implications of the new pay scales. The government's response can be found here.

The newspapers that reported that UGC professors get Rs. 10,000 as AGP while IIT professors get Rs 10,500 and thus IIT professors get marginally higher. Professors of IITs in the pre-revised scale were getting 18,400-500-, which did not exist in UGC. Professors of UGC and Associate professors of IIT were getting the same scale of Rs. 16,400-450-. In the new revision, the professors of UGC get Rs. 10,000 as AGP while associate professors of IIT get Rs. 9,500 as AGP. Thus, existing faculty in the same scale of Rs. 16,400 will get more if they are in UGC than if they are in IIT.

It is claimed in many reports that assistant professors with three years experience will get more pay under UGC than those with similar experience in IIT. This is incorrect. Assistant professors under UGC are in the prerevised 10,000 scale and not in the 12,000 scale. Assistant professors in IITs are under the 12,000 scale. The correct statement is that existing faculty in the same scale of Rs. 12,000 will get more if they are in UGC than if they are in IIT after three years of experience.

I think the final implication is this. Initially, IIT faculty were unhappy with what the Mehta committee had recommended (which was much lower than what the faculty federation had recommended). Now, because the interministerial committee has reduced even what the Mehta's committee had recommended, faculty will be happy with what the Mehta's committee recommended !

Travel - Air India- relaxation

Subsequent to my last post on travel by Air India, one of the staff members of IISc wrote to me that I should write to the joint secretary for exemption. I was granted permission within a day. Here is what I wrote,

Sub: Air Travel on official duty

      I am writing this letter to you in connection with the recent circular dt. 13.07.09 of the Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India, notifying the usage of Air India for travel on official account by the officials of the Govt. and autonomous bodies.

      I intend to fly from Bangalore to Pune and back on 12th September to attend an official meeting. As Air India does not have a direct flight from Bangalore to Pune, the possible means is to fly to Mumbai first and then take a taxi. In view of the time constraints of academic schedules and the extra expenditure involved in the route deviation, I request you kindly to permit me to use the private carriers to fly directly from Bangalore to Pune and back.

      Thanking you in advance and awaiting your favorable response through FAX.

With kind regards,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MHRD notification of new pay scales

UPDATE: New scales have been notified.

The new pay scales will be notified by MHRD within this week. The notification will be based on this document.

Thanks to six of my colleagues, who pointed to two main articles on this, which are reported in The Telegraph and the comment section on the pay panel hub. I do not know anything else !

The main points for IIT/IISc/IIM are as follows:

Assistant Professor: Existing persons in the 12000-18300 up to the level of 15780 will be moved to Rs.30,000 in PB3 with AGP of 8000. All new recruits will be placed at Rs.30,000 in PB3 with AGP of 8000. Movement to Associate professor from assistant professor requires minimum three years of service as assistant professor and six years experience.

Associate Professor: Existing persons with 16400-to-20000 up to the level of 18,200 will move to minimum of 42800+9500. To become professor, one has to serve at least ten years of experience.

Professor: Existing persons in the 18400-to-22400 up to the level of 20,400 will be placed at 48000+10500. 40% of the professors who are in 10500 AGP for 6 years will move to 12000 AGP.

Director: Rs. 80,000

Please see here for more details on allowances and other benefits.

The following scales were sent by email to me. I do not know how accurate they are but they seem to be consistent with the rest of the recommendations.

Deputy Director: Rs. 75,000

Senior Professor: All the existing persons in the 22,400- will be placed at a minimum of 54000+12000.

The following is the fitment table. AGP for each scale has to be added. They are 8000, 9500, 10500 and 12,000 for Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor and Senior Professor, respectively. The fitment table for UGC is here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rankings of IIT/IISc

In the latest issue of Current Science, the director of NISCAIR, Dr. Gangan Prathap has written an article, Ranking of Indian engineering and technological institutes for their research performance during 1999–2008. Subsequently, two of my colleagues, Abi and Cogito Ergo Sum discuss the paper, especially on the quality of NITs and its comparison with IIT.

I feel to rank and compare institutions, one should compare similar institutions. For example, IISc is widely different from IITs because of the presence of departments in biology. Thus, papers from these biology departments should be removed when compared against IITs. Next, the number of faculty in all the institutions are not the same. IIT-KGP has much more faculty than IISc. In IISc, if you consider only teaching faculty and remove biological departments,the number of faculty is around 250.

As far as the NITs are concerned, its not just the number of faculty, but also the number of faculty who have PhDs from a "good" institution. In almost all places (except IITs/IISc), research is not required for promotion etc. However, the fault is not entirely with NITs or any other organization. A top NIT in chemical engineering had only 10 faculty on its rolls till recently. They offered 38 courses for the undergrad and postgrad program. Some of its faculty were involved in administration also and thus many faculty were teaching 5-6 courses a year. How can one do research even if one wants to?

Some posters have connected the research output to funding. Let me emphasize that except for the start up grant given to faculty in the first year, NO money for research is provided by IISc/IIT to its faculty to conduct research. Yes, there are centralized facilities (like TEM, computing etc) that have been established but these are initiatives by groups of faculty. Therefore, faculty have to go out to various governmental and non-governmental agencies and get funding for projects. This is mostly lacking in NITs. Many NITs have complex purchase procedures for buying any item above Rs. 5000. Therefore, even if faculty bring in money, spending it is not trivial.

Let us look at the doctoral output of these institutions. There are roughly 1000 engineering doctorates per year. Among them, 550 are from IIT/IISc. Even among the rest, if you remove the staff who are registered for Ph.D, the numbers for each NIT is abysmal. Research is normally done by graduate students. Many students who do not get admission to IIT go to NIT for their undergraduation. However, the same is not true for many postgraduate students. If they do not get admission in IIT/IISc, there prefer to go for a job in the industry and not go to NIT. Thus, you have a peculiar situation. The cutoff in terms of GATE percentile is 98+ for IIT/IISc while people with even 70 percentile do not want to join a NIT.

The same applies for faculty applicants.For example, the chemical engineering department in IISc receives 20-30 applicants per year and we select one at the most. The situation is similar in IITs. Even a new IIT received 60 applications in chemical engineering and they selected three. In IISERs, it is even worse. In the chemistry department of one IISER, they received 260 applications in that year and they selected four. Even though the press and faculty constantly talk about lack of doctoral students (our selection ratio for doctoral students is 10:1) and lack of faculty in IIT, what is meant is lack of "good" people. Many of these faculty applicants have Ph.D from either IIT/IISc/top 50 school in USA/Europe. When they are denied a faculty position in these places, they do not prefer to go to a NIT. There are exceptions in each case but they are few.

Why? Because the systems are not in place to do research at the same level as IIT. I do not think money alone (or funding alone) will solve the issue of research output. Systems like liberal purchase procedures, encouragement for faculty to do research, setting up of centralized facilities, attracting faculty from abroad to join NIT, sending faculty to international conferences, interaction with faculty from IIT/IISc etc. have to be put in place. All this will certainly improve quality of faculty and, once faculty are active in research, postgraduate students will come in large numbers to NITs. And until that happens research quality and quantity in NITs can not improve.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Travel - Air India

Except for Aug 15, I have been (or will be) traveling on every Saturday in the period of June 6 to Sep 5 (both inclusive). I normally travel on the principle of FFin (first flight in), LFout (last flight out) i.e., I normally take the first flight to the destination early in the morning and return by the last flight from the destination to Bangalore.

The government has now formulated a new policy that government employees traveling on government money can travel only by Air India/Indian Airlines. The last time I had traveled by Indian Airlines flight to Delhi, they had run out of vegetarian meals. When I told the attendant that I would then just have coffee, he questioned me as to why I was a vegetarian and whether I could not make an exception. Some of my copassengers who were also refused meals were more incensed by this attitude.

Anyway, I do not mind traveling by AI/IA. After all, at the worst case, one can look at it as that government money from one source goes back to the government from another source. From Bangalore, you can still do FFin/LFout to Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. You can not do that for Chennai but I guess you could travel by train. For Hyderabad, there is a flight at 3:30 am (yes, a.m) and I guess going to the airport at midnight is not always a nice option. Maybe it is time to look at train travel to Hyderabad also and good overnight trains are available. But what about Pune to which I travel frequently? There are no flights from Bangalore to Pune operated by AI/IA. The option suggested by the government is to fly to Mumbai and then take a taxi to Pune. Will this not result in a loss of money (paid to a private taxi driver) as well as the time of the person traveling?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Double Nelson

Double Nelson is a term used to denote 222. Yesterday, I got my 222nd paper accepted. Considering that I started my career in IISc in 1998 with 19 papers and 3 in the pipeline, this is my 200th paper from IISc. The list of my publications and the citations thereof. This can be attributed to several factors: supportive administration, excellent colleagues/friends, funding, but, most importantly my students. Most of them are more hard working and more intelligent than me and the credit really belongs to them.

PS: All papers were written from India and I have not traveled abroad after I returned from USA and, in fact, I do not even have a valid passport anymore.

PS2: For those (especially in India), who associate larger to mean poor quality, let me just inform that I have the largest number of citations for any engineering faculty in India in this ten year period.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cabinet approves new pay scales

The Union Cabinet today approved the revision of pay scales of Faculty, Design & Scientific Staff and other academic staff of the Centrally funded institutions. The Cabinet also approved giving financial assistance to States for implementing the above revised scales.

Update in the morning: The newspapers report it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

JEE cutoffs

The cutoffs in each subject and the marks obtained by the topper and the last candidate in JEE 2009 has been announced. The Minimum Qualifying Mark for Ranking in chemistry, mathematics and physics (out of 16o each) is 11, 11 and 8, respectively. The overall cutoff to get a rank in JEE is 178 (out of 480). The website mentions that the overall cutoff is 178 out of 160, which is ridiculous. The tables should have been checked before being published.

Rank 1 scored 424 (out of 480). Rank 501 scored 302. Here is the graph showing that the difference in marks between 5000 and 8000 is minimal.

Opinions and comments

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