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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hiring of Foreign Faculty by IITs

Today, I came across this Telegraph news item.

This telegraph story suggests that what is limiting the growth of IIT faculty (and that of other central universities) is the rule that no one can get a work permit in India unless his/her salary is at least US$ 25,000 per annum. Wow. I did not know that there is a queue of foreigners lining up to join Indian universities, and if only we are allowed to pay them less than 25K USD, they will fill up all the vacancies, and we can grow and all that.

I would have ignored the article and what it says, if I hadn't heard from some IIT Directors in the past the same lament that if the government could give some foreign professors work visa even if they are paid less than 25K USD, then they can attract foreign faculty to their campuses.

Why does government have this 25K US$ limit. The answer is obvious. The Government wants to protect Indian jobs, and does not want companies in India to hire a whole lot of Chinese and Bangladeshis. It is assumed that the number of jobs at the middle level and higher levels are few. Not many foreigners are interested in coming to India at those levels, and in any case, there is enough competitive talent at that level in the country that one does not expect foreigners to be all over the place.

Is 25K US$ too high, and indeed so high that IITs can not pay this much to their faculty. Let us look at the salary of an assistant professor who is regular employee, that is s/he has completed 3 years of experience after PhD, and completed the contract. The minimum basic will be Rs. 30,000, AGP is Rs. 8,000, DA is Rs. 34,200, HRA (assuming 30%) is 11,400, Transport allowance (including DA) is 6080, contribution to NPS is 7,220, that is Rs. 96,900 per month. Remember, this is the MINIMUM and selection committees can allow a somewhat higher payment. Also, the DA will increase from 1st Jan. 2014 and hopefully the dollar value will remain stable. But let us look at the current figures only. In addition, many IITs pay Rs. 25,000 per month of joining bonus or initial settling down bonus, or whatever you call it. We then have many perks, not the least of which is earned leave, which can be encashed when you resign and go back. The bottom line is that the salary of a young assistant professor with just 3 years of experience after PhD is more than 25,000 US$ a year (and if you feel that the numbers add up to 24,999 $ and not 25,000 $, let me also point out that our boards are allowed to offer higher payments, and we have used this flexibility to offer 25,000 rupees per month to new faculty members, and this number could very well be 25,100 for the foreigners).

I can see that there might be issues in recruiting a foreigner who has just completed his/her PhD, but not others. Also note that these issues have come about only in the last one year with value of rupee vis-a-vis US$ going on a free fall. The issue wasn't there a year ago, and yet our performance in recruiting foreigners last year wasn't quite spectacular.

So the only thing that an IIT needs to do to take care of this lower limit of US$25,000 per annum salary is to give details of all components of the compensation in the appointment letter, monetize the perks, and then offer the total compensation package on so-called cost-to-the-institute basis.

But this will require hard work. One will have to design a new appointment letter, which might take an hour or two of someone's time, and we are all busy doing research.

Even now, if we do not want to do any of this cost-to-the-company stuff, the problem will still be only for people with less than 6-8 years of experience after PhD. How many faculty members have we been able to recruit who have more than 8 years of experience. I must say that the number is close to zero.
Excuses, excuses and more excuses.


gautam barua said...

USD 25000/- limit was and is very much an issue if you wish to hire young faculty. When we are not able to hire Indians at any but the entry level, is it fair to suggest that foreigners with experience could have been / can be hired? Your cost to company approach will not work as there can be objections from MHA and MEA. There is no accepted way to monetise our benefits like housing, medical, LTC, etc. If there are no ways, they wont count.
What a relaxation will do is to allow IITs and others to try and attract Phds who are citizens of other "poor" countries (Nigeria, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Malaysia) to consider starting their academic career in India. Whether this is going to help is a moot question, but there is no denying that this opportunity is being denied by this limit. The limit needs to be removed for academic and research jobs.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

Gautam, I have seen some of the institutions (Govt) actually spell out all benefits in the appointment letter. How can MHA or MEA object if I am spelling out everything as per Government of India norms that we actually follow. The only issue could be with perks where the monetization is an approximate number. So let us give that up. But then as I said in my blog, instead of Rs 3 lakh as joining bonus, give them 4 lakh as bonus. If the board can approve 3 lakhs extra for all Indian permanent employees, it can certainly approve 4 lakhs for a foreign national who is coming for a year. (And indeed IIT Kanpur had done this for a faculty member from Singapore.)

And as I say in my blog, even if there is a difficulty in hiring very young faculty members (fresh PhD or PhD with up to 3 years of experience), I would consider this as a serious problem, if IITs had something to show in the higher experience group (people with 5+ years of experience after PhD). IITs do not even have many foreigners who want to come for a one-semester sabbatical where there are alternatives to work permits.

Also, for faculty members with fresh PhDs, there are alternatives. Don't give them a salary at all. Give them a per diem. Again, your board can decide what per diem to offer to such candidates. I know of places who got it approved form the board that the spouse can also be paid air fare for short term visitors. And then you negotiate with the person that you will take care of lodging, boarding and some other expenses, and get only a small per diem. And if they are visitors, and not employees, they don't need work permits.

So, government rules are not a hindrance in 90% of cases. In 5% of cases, there can be some alternatives. To only point to the remaining 5% and argue that if this 5% is taken care of, then everything will be great is not correct.

gautam barua said...

Joining bonus? I missed that! Will a joining bonus count as pay? In any case, is IITK giving a joining bonus to all new faculty? IITG (and I suspect the 8 newer ones (although you never know about IITGn) ) cannot give any joining bonus as it does not have any funds for this. So maybe your crib is about the "old five"! However, I stray.
I am not able to understand the logic of para 2 of your response. My contention is that the ONLY faculty you can target and hope to get significant numbers are fresh PhDs. One semester sabbaticals are a different issue and should not be mixed with offering appointments. Per diem - it is a matter of opinion if this is as good as a regular job. The issue I thought was whether the 25K limit was a hindrance to offering long term appointment to foreigners. That is the issue the IIT Directors have been talking about, and I hope I have been to argue convincingly that it is indeed a hindrance.

Himanshu Shekhar said...

Dear Dr. Sanghi/Dr. Barua,

I have a question that I hoped either of you could shed some light on. On one hand, we keep hearing news of faculty shortage in IITs, on the other hand, I have heard from numerous applicants, several applying from abroad, that their application did not even receive a response. Also, it seems that especially old IITs, and some new ones (eg. Gandhinagar, Hyd) are hiring excellent candidates. Could you offer some insight into the dynamics here? Thanks!

iitmsriram said...

Old thread, but MHA has just issued a circular (dated Dec 20) reducing the minimum salary to 14K USD for faculty appointments at IITs, NITs and central univs.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Himanshu, Sorry for not having your comment approved earlier. Somehow slipped through the cracks. There is shortage of good candidates, and those departments which are aggressive and give quick response, deal with applications professionally, seem to be able to attract more faculty, and on the other hand, departments which lack professionalism seem to suffer.

Emma said...

Hello. I just found your blog. I keep reading about Indian universities 'opening up' to hiring foreign faculty but I am having difficulty find many advertised positions. I am an academic in the arts/social sciences/foreign languages field and am keen to find work in India. Do these faculty positions I keep reading about (in newspaper articles etc) exist or is it all hot air?

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Emma, the vacancies exists very much. We are always looking for faculty in pretty much all disciplines.

Emma said...

Good to know Dheeraj. Any advice on where to look for those vacancies would be greatly appreciated.

CatGunHome said...

For an average Joe like me, Indian academic (and maybe other jobs too, I won't know) salary calculation is all black magic. There is no concrete info anywhere in the web. It is all voodoo. Those who can, must be really smart. I see things like "Rs.15600 – 39100 and AGP - Rs.8000" and for my life, cannot guess what can be the real/gross salary could be!

nikhil chauhan said...

The salary provided by iits is a big joke...when you further discount the living standards provided by India, even Pakistani universities fare much better