Faculty in a research-focused university are expected to do quality research and quality teaching – knowledge creation and dissemination being the twin goals of such an Institution. Due to the importance of research, for faculty positions in such institutions, PhD degree is normally a requirement.

However, just after PhD, neither the person, nor the selection panel of the institute, is fully sure whether the candidate is fit for an academic career with twin objectives. There are PhDs who are good in research but either do not like teaching or are not good at it, and there are those who can do good teaching but cannot do good research. For the former, a career in a research lab (Govt. or private) is more suitable, and for the latter a career in a teaching focused institution is better. For those who can do good research and do good teaching, an academic career in a research focused university is not only the most suitable, but probably the most rewarding and desirable. (It is not clear what the most suitable career path is for those who are neither good at research nor good at teaching!)

Often the clarity on which category a person belongs to and whether he/she can effectively manage a twin-objective academic career comes only after a few years of experience in academia. Unfortunately, often due to “permanent” nature of the academic jobs in India, even in research focused institutions, after the few years of experience, the person does not leave to follow what may be more suitable and appropriate path, but remains in the current job, even if he/she is not cut out for it. Clearly, such a person is unlikely to succeed in this twin-goal academic career, and the Institution is unlikely to derive the type of output it expects from such a faculty. Even the best academic institutions have many faculty members who are not quite fit for the twin-objective career, but stayed on….

To ensure that only the suitable candidates remain in the twin-objective career, it is important to systemically support movement of faculty in early years. In other words, if a faculty member or the Institute finds that he/she is not suitable for the twin-objective career, the system should encourage him/her to leave the institution early to pursue careers most suitable for themselves. The tenure system, in which a new faculty member has some initial period to prove, both to one-self and to the institute, that he/she is suitable for this career, before the job is made permanent, is one of the best model for this. Championed by the US it is now followed in some form in most countries – now even IITs given an initial contract of three years to allow the new faculty to prove that they are suitable for the career.

Overall, a limited attrition among early stage faculty, supported through a system like the tenure system, is desirable both for the Institution as well as the faculty members, and the presence of some attrition among early stage faculty is a healthy sign. In fact, it is the absence of any attrition that should be a source of concern.

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