Finding candidates for Professors of Practice will be a challenge for universities

The UGC has directed higher educational institutes (HEIs) to start the necessary procedures to onboard Professors of Practice. While institutes hail this new academic practice as a necessary step to increase the industry-academia connection, they are unclear about the way forward. Finding the correct candidates, deciding a timetable and finalising the suitable remuneration could act as roadblocks.
Best candidates
JN Baliya, Head (Department of Educational Studies), Central University of Jammu, says, “The norm of hiring experts as ‘adjunct faculty’ has been in practice for a while now. The only difference was that most experts joined academia once they were retired and wanted to share their experiences with young students. Finding the right working professionals as ‘Professors of Practice’ might be a more time-consuming process. Experts with a bent towards the field of academia will be the perfect candidates,” he adds.
Managing schedules, financials
Strategic decisions need to be taken to make the concept of ‘Professors of Practice’ more attractive to working professionals, says Baliya. “Fixing a suitable timetable will be the priority. While involving these professors in academic activities will be preferred, they may not always have the time. Thus, instead of asking them to take charge of an extensive curriculum, topic-based credit courses can be assigned to them while the rest can be taken up by the regular faculty,” he adds.
In addition, a hybrid model can also be worked out, where the professors need not be on campus for all the lectures. “This may not be an ideal situation but will provide flexibility to candidates and increase the talent pool,” he says.
However, Yogesh Singh, vice-chancellor, University of Delhi (DU), says that a hybrid model or taking charge of a few credit courses is not the objective of the policy. “At DU, we are looking to find candidates who will be able to stay at the campus full-time for at least one semester. This is the only way students will be able to understand and learn from the experiences of these professionals,” he says.
Also, Baliya says that giving the experts apt renumeration to make the offer conducive for them will be essential. However, Singh clarifies that for any central university, it will be difficult to offer these experts more than the salary of a regular professor.
Getting these experts to take a leave or making do with a professor’s salary will take some time. “Initially, universities will have to bank upon the personal connections of the faculty and administration. Gradually, as the practice becomes popular, getting experts to agree to take on the responsibility will become easier,” says Singh.
Depends on the specialisation
Singh says, “It will be easier to find Professors of Practice in core subjects like Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Pharmacy. Even in Social Science subjects like Political Science and Psychology, we may get experts who work in related NGOs. However, we do foresee a slight difficulty in identifying experts to teach in subjects like Philosophy, Sociology, and History.”
Immediate steps
Singh says that competency enhancement schemes can be organised to train professionals across fields so that they attuned to idea of teaching and joining the world of academia. “Such a step will gradually build the interest among experts,” he says.