5 Steps to Attract Indian Academics from Overseas

Insights from some leaders and industry experts

1. Building the Right Work Environment

You might as well forget about getting the right people if you have not built the kind of environment that may attract high achievers.

These days its common knowledge that most quality faculty from overseas get pulled in by the leader at the helm of the institution. They come in because they get inspired by the leadership and believe that some Indian institutions are changing the way Indian higher education used to work. However, even the best leaders in a weak environment may fail to get the right people. Institutions with weak internal governance and bureaucracy must pull up their socks before they think of recruiting from overseas, says

Dr B Venkatesh Kumar, Consultant, Higher Education, South Asia Region, The World Bank and Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Dr Kumar has co-authored a TISS, Penn State University and Rutgers School of Management & Labour Relations study a study based on this subject: Will they return?

Professor Sudhir K Jain, Director, IIT Gandhinagar who has been actively engaged in attracting the right faculty for this new IIT adds, Improving our internal environment so that scholars from diverse backgrounds can thrive would attract talent from overseas.

An encouraging work environment that promotesteaching excellence and opportunities for research and for gaining experience would go a long way in attracting high quality faculty from overseas.

Its only if you believe that you have the right environment or you are moving towards creating the right environment that you should even consider taking the next steps.


2. Identifying Recruits

Your potential recruits will mostly be those whose reasons to come back to India include family, giving back, helping to build Indias higher education system and comfort with the society and culture. Earning, research support, academic environment, red tape, and corruption are the reasons to remain in the US.

3. Reaching out to the Best Fits

Dr Kumars co-authored study Will they return? describes overseas potentials as being clued in to happenings in the Indian academic scene. Since personal networks (50%) and newspapers (45%) are the top means of obtaining information, less so list serves and blogs, hence newspaper ads and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn may yield the best responses for

faculty position openings.

According to Sudarshan, Networks help fill most dominant faculty positions with overseas recruits. Conventional methods like social media and ads in specialised industry publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education,USA, are also useful.

Jain advocates ongoing communication with potentials through a variety of means to build interest, convey current and probable opportunities and inform this base about the institution and recent happenings. Its all about building a relation.

Dr Kumar proposes creating a new Teach for India Higher Education fellowship programme - on the lines of the successful Teach for America programme - targeting post doctoral and doctoral candidates entering the slow US job market. Giving these candidates, of Indian origin and otherwise, a positive two to three year teaching and research experience here would add value to their careers,

build the Indian institutions reputation and possibly, inspire them to stay on after the fellowship is over.


4. Making Hiring Rules and Compensation Flexible

Compensation is an important aspect for any recruit, and most certainly for overseas recruits. However, the Indian higher education sector is structurally rigid. Little elbow room for flexibility in candidates remuneration limits the recruitment opportunities for overseas candidates, who tend to be appointed at the higher end of the salary scale. Sudarshan proposes that institutions that

can afford to, offer globally competitive salaries to attract and retain exceptional academicians, and he believes that this realisation of granting flexibility to institutions on compensation levels will help them attract the right overseas faculty.

5. Helping Them to Fit in and Stay

Any institution stretching itself to accommodate overseas recruits would like some assurance of the candidates ability to make good. In that, each overseas potential must be judged individually. Anand reckons that 8 out of 10 recruits settle down well here - Provided the overseas recruits come with intent, the chance of their integrating in the local milieu is high. Institutions must create

the right ethos for such faculty to integrate themselves, and one of the key areas is to sensitise existing faculty to the need to welcome and assist such recruits.

Professor Milan Sanyal, Director, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics who has recruited 20 Indian scientists from leading scientific and research institutions in the west over the last two years cautions that sizing up potentials for their ability to fit in requires face-to-face interaction. So candidates must visit the institute for a seminar (jobtalks are especially useful) and discussions or an interview prior to recruitment.

Ravis experience is that dotting all the is and crossing all the ts helps such faculty integrate faster and ensures that the institution gets the desired returns.

As a rule of thumb, Ravi also believes that faculty with 5 to 7 years of experience behind them are a better hire than individuals with only a couple of years of experience who are likely to want to go back for more and individuals whove worked abroad for 10 to 15 years because they could find it difficult to settle down here.

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