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Appoint industry experts as professors of practice at IITs, says panel

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A panel set up by the education ministry has suggested that the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) be allowed to hire industry experts as ‘professors of practice’ to help deepen academia-industry collaboration and offer greater professional exposure to students.

It has also advocated “industry leave” and “dual appointments” for IIT faculty.

The idea, said the panel’s report, is to “open up opportunities for the academician to propose solutions to real world problems” and to step up professional interaction between the IITs and industry in greater national interest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly underlined the need for academic institutions to help address challenges that the country’s masses face and to scale up innovations.

The IIT Council, the apex body on IIT-related matters chaired by Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, met on Monday to discuss the proposal and is learnt to be closely looking at its recommendations to reboot faculty at the IITs.

A committee was set up last year under the chairmanship of K Radhakrishnan, scientist and chairperson of the board of governors of IIT Kanpur, to advise on ‘recruitment of faculties in IITs’ in terms of industry interaction and mobility of faculty.

In its report submitted on December 28, 2020, this committee recommended to institute the ‘associate professor of practice’ and ‘professor of practice’ at all IITs to attract mid-career and senior professionals in service at industry and research institutions.

These recruitments will be distinct from regular faculty appointments and can be capped at 5-10% of the total faculty strength, the report suggested.

The panel also suggested a three-year contract for candidates with 10-15 years of professional experience, including at a senior management position. The candidates must come at least with a master’s degree and desirably a PhD or domain knowledge and can be paid up to 50% of their industry remuneration, it suggested.

A professor of practice is expected to design and develop new practice-oriented courses, advise students in their projects and link them with appropriate external stakeholders, besides engaging in department building activities, enhanced industry collaboration and mentorship in innovation projects. The professors of practice apart, the committee also called for bringing in industry experts as “adjunct faculty” for holding lectures of 10-12 days’ duration.

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