CHENNAI: Employing Staff On temporary contracts helps businesses by extracting the same work, for lesser pay. But what comes as a surprise is that several top universities in the State are also doing the same.
This is not for blue collar jobs, but for the teaching faculty. They are called “guest lecturers” or “teaching fellow”, the nomenclature varying between universities. But the striking similarity is that they all get paid abysmally low salaries. Despite their PhDs and for teaching students in top universities, they get between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 a month.
Technically they are employed only for six months. But contracts get renewed through the years and in many cases the guest lecturers continue for a decade and more. They do almost the same job as regular staff, but are astonishingly ill-paid.
At Anna University, which is the State’s top technical education institution, 30% to 40% of the teaching faculty in most departments are guest lecturers. In the Madras Institute of Technology, Chromepet, which comes under the University, 17 out of 40 teachers in the department of electronics are guest lecturers.
Similarly, in information technology department, of the 24 teaching staff 11 are guest lecturers. In the university’s biotech department, of the 41 faculty members 15 are guest lecturers.
“In 2002, they were paying about Rs 7,000. Then it was raised to Rs 10,000 and after a few more hikes, we are now getting Rs 20,000,” says a guest lecturer who has served the University of Madras for 13 years.
Senior professors in some of these universities say that the varsities avoid recruiting new hands, but manage the show with temporary lecturers. “I left my job in a leading private bank in 2005 because my passion was teaching. But after 13 years, I am stuck with Rs 16,000,” says a guest lecturer with Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. When he responded to the recruitment call by the Teachers Recruitment Board, he says the offer came with a demand of Rs 15 lakh as bribe to a few persons.
“When I applied in a few private colleges, they didn’t consider the bank work as experience and offered just Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000,” he says.
“The Government had directed the universities not to issue salary certificates because it was feared that guest lecturers might claim permanent status as some of them had worked for 10 to 15 years,” said R Dhamotharan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers Association.
Various rulings of the courts say that any person who works more than 480 days in two consecutive calendar years, should be made permanent. A senior professor in Anna University said that on an average the guest lecturers work for four to five years in the university before they move to some other job. “It is difficult for them to manage with such little salaries. But the problem is the universities are not recruiting permanent teaching faculty, and managing with temporary staff.”
Senior officials of these universities deny that young graduates are being exploited. “The teaching fellows are also allowed to upgrade with a PhD which generally takes four years and hence their contract is extended. They are also given regular increments,” said S Ganesan, registrar, Anna University.
Others argue that the purpose was to prepare graduates to be good lecturers. “They should have a certain kind of caliber beyond having cleared the NET/SET or completing a PhD. Getting one has become easy,” says S Samuel Asir Raj, Department of Sociology, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University.