University teachers not only work in tertiary-level and research institutions, but also contribute their expertise to many national and international missions. Professors have been/are Union ministers and advisors to prime ministers/ministries. In addition to universities/colleges, private coaching institutes, private education-content companies/web portals, and think tanks, some can be consultants to big companies and international bodies.
What do they do?
Radhika Govinda was a French language teacher at Alliance Francaise during her college days when she was bitten by the teaching bug. After her bachelor’s in political science from Lady Shri Ram College in 2002, she bagged a French government scholarship for a master’s at the renowned Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, popular as Sciences Po. She went on to win a number of scholarships and awards and earned a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2009.
Now an assistant professor at Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD), Govinda says it’s a coincidence that she belongs to a family of academicians — including her husband, her parents, and their parents.
“Being a university teacher is a tremendous experience: while it offers the opportunity to mould opinions, to shape young lives, in a sense, one is also constantly learning and growing,” says Govinda, a South Asia specialist, whose research interest overlaps political science, gender and development.
The budding university academic spends hours preparing for classes at AUD, which itself is a young kid on the city’s high-education block, attempting to be a change agent in teaching. This involves going through texts and audio-visual material, trying to make her lessons interactive as well as “theoretically astute”.
“In the past year, I have had the opportunity to not only teach on but also design courses in both graduate and undergraduate programmes that are vastly interdisciplinary,” says Govinda, 30. “I have presented research papers at conferences. I recently coordinated a three-week social science research methods festival that the university organised for research scholars and early-career faculty from all over India. To get this experience so early in one’s career is extremely rewarding.”
However, there are few such people around to grab the opportunity in India. According to Ashok Bakhshi, director, Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Delhi, about 40% of teaching positions are vacant in Central institutions in the country. Incidentally, that’s not the only consequence of rising enrolment in colleges.
Shyam Menon, professor of education and vice chancellor, AUD, explains, “Many students will be first generation post-matriculates, and will need more compassionate and yet intellectually stimulating guidance which the teachers should be in a position to provide.”
With the spotlight on research, aspirants should also be prepared to push the boundaries of knowledge.
The 21st-century university is a changed landscape. Different disciplines are evolving: from being aloof bubbles to multi-symbiotic partners.
. Intellectual vitality
. High levels of self-motivation, especially to focus on research
. A genuine interest in and dedication to your discipline as well as be curious about other areas
. Be innovative
. Analytical and critical thinking skills
. Ability to reason and hold an argument on a topic
. Strong verbal and written communication skills
. Technological savvy
How do I get there?
Maintain a consistently good academic record up to your masters/MPhil/PhD. The University Grants Commission (UGC) conducts the National Eligibility Test to determine eligibility for lectureship and for award of Junior Research Fellowship in 77 subjects. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research holds the NET for life, physical, chemical, mathematical and earth atmospheric ocean & planetary sciences — jointly with the UGC. Information on exemption, subject list and other details are on www.ugcnetonline.in