Indian Talent Pool in US Waiting to be Tapped

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 13 (IANS) Most Indian students in the US plan to return home with a desire to give back to the motherland, offering a vast pool of talent that would bring top-rate higher education to India's young, a new study suggests.

India needs to recruit at least one million new faculty members for its college and universities if it is to meet the government's goal of making higher education available to 20 percent of young people by 2020.

India thus may be able to recruit some of the academic talent it needs from the more than 100,000 Indians currently studying in the US, suggests the study by Rutgers University, Pennsylvania State University and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The survey of nearly 1,000 Indians who are either pursuing or have completed graduate study in the US found that only eight percent strongly prefer to remain in the US.

A majority, or 53 per cent, of them planned to return home from the United States after a few years of work, while 21 per cent said they were either in India already or were actively looking to return. The rest are undecided.

India's booming economy, better chances to secure a good job, the promise of an affluent lifestyle and being closer to family were the factors fuelling the movement home, the survey said.

The study finds the biggest factors deterring master's, PhD students, and post docs from returning to India are red tape, corruption, and absence of research opportunities, it said.

"The results are surprising and encouraging for Indian universities," said David Finegold, dean of the Rutgers' School of Management and Labour Relations, and one of the study's authors.

"We expected that more students would lean heavily toward remaining in the US. But our results suggest many young academics would be interested in pursuing a faculty career in India, if policymakers can address some of the key issues facing the Indian higher education system."

The study identified four key factors affecting the decision to return to India: Quality of life, career growth opportunities, hurdles like red tape and corruption, and a desire to give back to the motherland.

Just one of these four factors - the desire to give back - is strongly associated with a desire to return to India, it said.

"This study suggests some concrete steps that the government can take to address the large and chronic shortages of qualified faculty in India," said Dr. B. Venkatesh Kumar, a co-author of the study who is a Professor at TISS in Mumbai and visiting Penn State this year as a Humphrey Fellow.

The authors offer a number of proposals that could help India attract new faculty, including creating a new Teach for India Higher Education fellowship programme to provide two- to three-year teaching positions for recent US PhD graduates.

This could have the twin benefit of filling faculty shortages in India and helping new PhDs in the US who are struggling with a tight job market caused by cutbacks in public higher education.

Other policy proposals include developing leaders for Indian higher education, improving India's academic talent pipeline and enhancing the quality and transparency of higher education governance,

Also suggested are providing research opportunities for as many faculty as possible, raising the quality of state universities and private colleges, providing government-sponsored graduate fellowships and improving the staffing process in Indian universities.


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