Scholars seek lucrative careers, move from public to private universities

Private institutes like Ashoka University, O P Jindal University, Shiv Nadar are drawing forth students and professors of public universities like DU, JNU and so on. Patriot speaks to the academicians to find out why

Public universities such as Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU), Aligarh Muslim Universitiy (AMU) are known for their excellence and, therefore, a lucrative option for academic pursuits. However, that dynamic is changing now as private universities are becoming an even bigger attraction — not only among students, but also among professors.

Let’s take an example of the department of Sociology in Delhi University. From 2016-20, four permanent professors have moved to private universities. Professor Deepak Mehta joined Ashoka University, professor Yasmeen Arif is teaching at Shiv Nadar University (SNU), Subhashim Goswami has also joined SNU as an assistant professor. And a few more professors are also planning on joining. Many guest faculties also left DU for either state universities or private universities, because it was not offering them permanent positions.

Many guest faculties left Delhi University for either state universities or private universities, as it was not offering them permanent positions

This phenomenon is pervasive across all departments. From Economics, History to Political Science department of DU and JNU — a certain number of professors have left their department to join these private universities, while a few more are planning on it.

If one checks the profiles of professors of the History department of SNU, then it shows that Professor Jaya Menon came from AMU, Professor Ajay Dandekar came from Central University of Gujarat, and Assistant Professor Anubhuti Maurya was teaching in DU till 2019 before joining Shiv Nadar. Similarly, professor Nayanjot Lahiri who taught in JNU for several years is now teaching at Ashoka, professor Aparna Vaidik has also taught for some years in DU before joining Ashoka.

Interestingly, not only senior but mid-career professors are joining these private universities. Also, early career researchers after completing their PhD from public universities are happily joining teaching positions at private universities. A look at the faculty profile of Ashoka, SNU, O.P Global Jindal University shows how good researchers, not only from Indian Universities but also from universities abroad are drawn towards  these private universities.

Interestingly, not only senior but mid-career professors are joining these private universities Photo: Jawaharlal Nehru University/ Getty Images

Talking on the condition of anonymity an assistant professor from Shiv Nadar University, who switched from DU last year, says, “The atmosphere of research is diminishing in DU, and balancing teaching and research was tough.”

A senior professor from the Sociology department of DU explained this phenomenon in detail. “There has not been any progress in DU for the last 15 years. It is an absolute dead end. No promotions, no perks, no appointments.There was nothing much that was holding people back. In the sociology department, we have 12 guest faculties and only half of this number are regular colleagues, so we are overworked and tired of it.”

Adding on to it, the professor also said, “It is not easy to make mid-career switch, when people are invested in the job for so long, research funds are tied up. I know many such professors, who switched when there was no other way.”

Now since private universities are attracting good professors, that in turn also attracts research students. We found that there is an increase in the number of students, who are looking to pursue their research from private universities especially from Ashoka and SNU.

Satyam Kumar Rai, research scholar in economics from Ashoka University says, “Many students take admission in a public university to get 24X7 access to its facilities and prepare for government jobs. There are very few students who are doing this in Ashoka.” Interestingly, Rai wanted to pursue his PhD from a public university, as he thinks that “public universities are still in demand because they do have good professors and offer a good research atmosphere”. However, he doesn’t regret joining Ashoka because of their hassle free administrative process and higher stipend.

Rohit Kumar Rajak, who is pursuing PhD in history from SNU, also believes that if presented with an option, a majority of students still prefer public universities but they have limited seats. “JNU had only one seat this year for PhD students in History,” he said. Rajak thinks that in public universities, students have to wait for their scholarship, and have to run from counter to counter to get reimbursement for research work. This is also another reason why students are moving to private universities.

Tulika Singh, a researcher in History from JNU has an interesting opinion about private universities. She thinks the profile of a research scholar in private universities is designed keeping the requirement of academic standard and job market. She says, “The profile of research students that private universities have designed is, by and large, a replica of what universities abroad have, something that public universities lack.” And that gives stability, while researching. 

“The vogue in public universities, however, has been on focusing on only research while pursuing your degree. While this has its own benefits but at the same time, all of us want a stable job and a good profile in the end. Right?” she added.

Students at large from public universities are unhappy with their university administration. “A research student needs a lot of administrative support in the university. One would need it for varied purposes such as approval of taking research leave, the intimation of existing opportunities for the concerned field, approval of forms with ease, many more. It is disturbing if such essential needs are not treated as a priority.” they say. Such complaints were not echoed by students in Ashoka, SNU, O.P Jindal University.

There has been an increase in the students who are looking to pursue their research from private universities, especially from Ashoka (above) and Shiv Nadar University(cover image)

However, private universities are very expensive. So at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, these universities are not a viable option for a majority of students, at least those who want to study conventional courses.

To compete on this aspect. Ashoka and various other private universities have designed interdisciplinary programs and courses replicated from renowned universities in western countries. They offer choices to students to study performing Arts, Media Studies, Creative Writing along with your major course.

Moreover, the innovative approach of private universities is outmaneuvering public universities. The popularity of the Young India Fellowship (YIF) program by Ashoka University to attract professionals, and students has forced many other private universities to launch such a program. But public universities are still stuck in their old system.

One of the greatest attractions in private universities is the exposure they are providing. Ashoka has partnered with as many as 17 internationally renowned universities. And the strong public relations, marketing help these universities in ensuring better placement for their students, which is not the case with any of the public universities.

The alumni of public universities complain about redundancy in the syllabus, which is making students unfit for the job market. Arun, who studied Social Work from DU said, “ We are seeing a transition from non- governmental organisations to social enterprises, and the current curriculum doesn’t prepare us for it. I don’t even know, after this project, who will employ me.”

(Cover: Shiv Nadar University Campus)

+ posts