University of Madras facing an acute resource crunch


Without the sanctioned strength, many departments are on the verge of losing additional funding from the University Grants Commission

With 56% of faculty positions lying vacant, University of Madras (UoM) is facing an acute shortage in terms of human resources and potential decline in academic and research activities.

Data available with The Hindu showed that at least seven departments did not have a single full-time faculty member and 14 departments had more than 70% of their sanctioned posts vacant.

The shortage is acutely felt in the three Centres of Advanced Study (CAS) in Mathematics, Botany, Crystallography and Biophysics, which receive additional grants from the University Grants Commission (UGC), and are at risk of losing them without the minimum required faculty strength and research output.

Moreover, an analysis of National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) data for the university showed that 50% of the roughly 80 professors are in the age group of 56 and above.

 

“If the vacancies are not filled in the near future, majority of the departments will not have a single Professor with retirements expected in the coming years,” a senior faculty member said. The last recruitment happened six years ago, but faced some allegations of irregularities.

G. Shanmugam, former Head of CAS in Crystallography and Biophysics and former university syndicate member, said the risk of losing CAS recognition by UGC was real. “We already lost it for the Department of Philosophy in the past,” he said.

The Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics, one of the CAS, has a sanctioned strength of five professors, five associate professors, and 11 assistant professors. However, it presently has only seven assistant professors and not a single professor or associate professor.

The CAS in Botany with a sanctioned strength of 22 faculty members now has one professor and five assistant professors. Stating the department needed a minimum strength of six to maintain the CAS status, Mr. Shanmugam pointed out that N. Mathivanan, the professor and head of the department, is now holding the post of Registrar (in-charge) as well.

Similarly, the CAS in Crystallography and Biophysics had eight faculty members, which included a professor and seven assistant professors, against the sanctioned strength of 18. “The three CAS in the university had many stalwarts in the yesteryears. Now, many departments are not even able to fully utilise their research grants,” Mr. Shanmugam pointed out.

The head of one of the departments, said many departments with research potential were not able to apply for CAS status due to lack of minimum number of faculty. “When a university does not have adequate faculty members, it is not doing justice to its students,” he said.

In a competitive environment with rankings and accreditations, the university would not be able to maintain its status if it did not have competent faculty, who formed the core of the university system, he added.

Pointing out that over 50% of the non-teaching staff positions were also vacant, a Syndicate member said the financial crisis faced by the university had to be tackled with a long-term, sustainable solution.

“A key reason for not recruiting is the deep financial crisis with the university not in a position to even honour its commitments to pensioners. However, without enough faculty we are also losing out on grants from the UGC and the State,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor S. Gowri, who took charge in August, said he was studying the issue to explore possible options to address it.



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