Sunday, August 15, 2010


On Independence day, as you stand in front of the Tata statue in IISc, one is thankful for what IISc has provided - academic freedom.

There is a lot of discussion of tenure and how many non-faculty (and some faculty) view it. In USA, there are very few "deadwood" professors in major research universities. This is because there is a fairly rigorous review system even for tenured professors. The salary of an active high flying professor could be nearly twice or even fourfold that a less active professor. This is in addition to the summer salary, where a faculty would make nearly 20-30% more by bringing in funding. Therefore, while tenure in an US university assures a lifetime job, constant evaluation makes sure that there are significant differences between professors. When I was a graduate student, I used to see many professors (all tenured) on Sundays, holidays (even on independence day :-) because they loved what they did for research. For them, tenure meant that they need not submit a list of publications with the h-index to get their contract renewed. Tenure in such places are also essential because one can work on long-term problems.

In India, one does not have such problems. There is job security right from day one and there are no salary differentials at any level or between levels. This gives you the ultimate academic freedom.


Anonymous said...

The linking of performance to salaries is not a good idea *in India*, where there is never any objectivity of judging or awarding merit.

Anyone familiar with the grant awarding agencies and their committees know that the highest grants are often given to the person who is able to "influence" the chairman of the committee and it has hardly to do much with merit.

Did not Professor Balaram write sometime back in the 10 Jan 2009 issue of Current Science that selection as fellows or awards were mostly only for people with patronage?

If tenure system was introduced in India, I would not have been surprised if you would not have been tenured !


Giri@iisc said...

"If tenure system was introduced in India, I would not have been surprised if you would not have been tenured !"

Neither would I have been surprised.

However, as my advisor told me, "The ultimate job security is not in tenure but on your research credentials." So, I believe that I could have managed to get some other job :-)


Anonymous said...

there is a minus side to this story also. i see most of the profs in iisc fooling around and enjoying life(making their students to work for them), since there is hardly any system to review or evaluate them. however there are a few profs who are able to do very good work under this system, because of the academic freedom given to them by iisc

so what is the solution?. i doubt there could be any easy answer to this.

Rajesh said...

August 15, 2010 9:38 PM:

I do not know in which the majority of profs in IIT/IISc belong.

I am more worried when Prof. Giridhar writes that he himself would not have been surprised if he was denied tenure.

Goes to show how much people in the academic system itself trust the system.

Anonymous said...

It is precisely this reason which makes me afraid of the tenure system followed at NCBS. Specially scary is the part and I quote "The level of performance expected from a new appointee to be granted tenure is being continuously ratcheted upwards. Hence, it is not advisable for a new appointee to go by what has happened in the past for others. Those currently at similar levels, in best institutions anywhere, would be a wiser touchstone of comparison"

So if you are not liked for any reason non-academic, standards could suddenly change in the xth year after joining and suddenly you find yourself denied tenure.

Maybe such things do not happen at NCBS or there are safeguards that I do not know of but it sure does sometimes happen in the western part of the world where tenure criterias tend to be a little bit more defined.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

I am a new faculty in IISc. Before that I was a tenure track faculty in a US University.
Now to continue effective collaboration and also to serve as co-PI in some projects, the US University has offered me a non-paid courtesy Professor appointment. Is this allowed within the laws of IISc. Its like holding an adjunct professor position in other Universities.


Anonymous said...


I think it is. Please check with your divisional chairman or the council section.


Anonymous said...

I am a faculty in NIT

You wrote about ppl working on holidays and weekends.
I am sorry to inform you that in the last departmental meeting I was asked to seek permission to work on off working hours. My students and me work on all days including Saturday and Sunday and even festival days. it was pointed out that students cant work on off working hours and not only so, student can work only if there is a supporting staff in the lab even during working hours.

Giri@iisc said...

I never said that academic freedom exists in NIT !