Why most faculty members have little time for research

Most universities allocate three types of duties to faculty persons – namely, teaching courses, conducting research and performing administrative duties. Ideally, there should be some flexibility as to how professors may want to utilise their time between the three tasks, but the reality is somewhat different. Many academics complain about the long working hours not because they are engaged in quality research, but the fact is they are bogged down by several administrative tasks and other activities.
Mundane tasks
Right from marking attendance in various formats, duplication of work due to the need to produce both hard and soft copies, and exhaustive documentation for course files and students’ performance, the list of ‘clerical jobs’ is endless. Weekends are spent trying to catch up on backlogs that make it impossible to focus on any meaningful research. With few or no research publications in reputed journals, the faculty’s package and promotion go for a toss.
Hampering progress
A senior professor of a technical institute on condition of anonymity says that academics are often caught up in routine administrative processes, which makes research seem like a burden. “The rules have become tighter in the last few years, and the government’s money is becoming difficult to spend. For example, the government is insisting on maintaining individual accounts for each project which increases the bureaucracy in the institutions. All projects, as per the new norms, will be routed through a single treasury account in the bank which is making the process more cumbersome. Since the import of expensive equipment has been restricted in India, researchers – and that includes academics too – will have to repeatedly seek approval from the ministry to gain access to them. Hence the purchase of research equipment is almost a one-year process these days.” A faculty will have to spend a large chunk of his time just navigating these processes.
Multiple roles
Talking further about faculty pressure, Ravi Ranjan, professor, Department of Political Science, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi (DU), says, “In government institutions, though there is ample workload, the faculty members teach as per the UGC norms where the teaching hours are time-bound. This leaves them with adequate time for research, though with the implementation of FYUP, the administrative load might increase in the near future. The private institutions, on the other hand, may not often follow the UGC norms, which calls for the setting up of a high-powered committee to prevent exploitation of faculty and engaging them in work beyond the stipulated time. Throughout the year, the faculty is bogged down by responsibilities that may include admission duties, counselling, fee collection, result publication, cultural events which leaves them with little time to prepare for their classes. The faculty are not provided proper research facility at the campus and even the teacher-taught ratio is skewed.”
Ravi Ranjan, points to the fact that due to the synchronisation between the university department and college department at DU, the faculty are upgraded with new knowledge; they also have time to visit libraries and labs, which is often not the case with many private entities, he adds.
Academics like Saikat Mazumdar, professor of English and Creative Writing, Ashoka University, is however among the fortunate few, who does not have to undergo the trials and tribulations. Long used to the Stanford model of education, Saikat explains, “Our main aim is to publish, research and write more books. We are primarily seen as writers, scientists or intellectuals; teaching is like a second job. We have to devote six hours of teaching in a week, while five days can be utilised for research and publication. And even the PhD supervision that we engage in, does not entail any fixed hours. There is no externally imposed bureaucratic structures upon us, as we have the freedom to shape things the way we want,” he adds.
Allied to academics
As long as a faculty’s administrative tasks, are allied to academics, namely, the conduct of assessment and evaluation, student mentoring, student progression analysis, placements, etc as laid down by the UGC, AICTE, it can lead to productive outcomes, says Suja Bennet, dean-Academics, CMR University where there is a clear distribution of workload through TRCPIE — Teaching(T), Research(R), Consultancy(C), Projects(P), Innovation(I) and Entrepreneurship(E). Faculty have the choice to pick the components of the TRCPIE workload based on their domain, interests, experience and past achievements.
Emphasising that faculty come with varied experience and expertise, Suja says, “Institutions, should reward/motivate faculty for authentic research output besides facilitating faculty internships/consultancy which will give them industry exposure. Facilitating collaborations with national and international universities for faculty exchange programmes can further improve their work culture.”