Even though government is trying to incorporate features of US university system, like four year undergraduate programmes in to Indian universities, the research culture at premier universities is stifled due to the demand on teaching. What makes a teacher great? The obvious answers are passion for the calling, ability to connect with students and the desire to learn throughout a lifetime. “Research and teaching are like the two wheels of a chariot. Research without teaching and teaching without research are like running a chariot on one wheel," says Ashwini Nangia, professor of school of Chemistry at Hyderabad University. Neither research or teaching will advance very far when separated, as both will be incomplete in one way or another. "Some of the best stimulation to research comes from teaching students and their Qs in class, and the students get the benefit of latest in the subject only from those teachers who are actively engaged in research,”adds professor Nangia. However, reaching the zenith of scholarship is not an easy task for a teacher at an Indian University.Take the case of Justin Mathew, an Associate Professor at Delhi University’s prestigious Hans Raj College. His students vouch for the fact that no ailments or personal loss can keep him away from the classroom. Known as a student leader, original thinker, and a Liberal Marxist during his college days, he didn’t think twice before choosing a career in teaching. Today, the dreams of pursuing research along with teaching career seem unattainable for this young academic. For Justin and hundreds of academics like him, teaching has severely impacted the time available for research, as they are often caught in an endless cycle of grading student assignments, semester examinations and supervising students. In 1857, India established its first three universities in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, and today the number of universities is as high as 612. Early on, there was a balance of cutting-edge research and teaching that went on in universities and academics like RS Deshpande, Chairman of Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) laments the end of the golden age of Indian Universities. “When India became independent, the decision was made to set up a series of laboratories under the auspices of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). These would be the favoured sites for research, and the universities would focus mostly on teaching. The best talent moved to these prestigious institutes, impoverishing the universities,” says Deshpande. "Today, scholars do not want to be part of universities because they are often considered inferior to think tanks and research institutes. This has led to the downfall of our universities." With lack of support for research - access to funds and adequate time for travel - it is easy to see that there are few incentives for getting involved in teaching. It is true that only a good teacher can be a good researcher. However, the government agencies often don’t offer enough support systems for their teachers. “Hans Raj College has been ranked as one of India’s top colleges by several ranking agencies. However, if all 180 faculty members of the college come together, there is not space for teachers to sit. Further, there are not enough books in the library or enough computers in the lab,” adds Justin Mathew. Samuel Paul, former chairman of Indian Institute of Management Ahemadabad, seconds Justin and adds that it's unfair to blame teachers for the low research output. “The high demand on teachers definitely curbs the research activity to a certain extent. The universities do not plan for and provide any research support to the teachers," says Paul. "Universities should motivate the academic staff by providing incentives such as the ones given in many US universities where promotions are also based on research output. When promotions are based on chronologically predetermined norms, research culture will be badly affected.” Heterogeneous student groups It is true that one cannot make a sweeping generalisation about research in Indian universities. The situation varies across states and institutions. However, it is clear that many colleges are under-resourced and under-staffed. It is also true that in many universities interacting factors - ineffective bureaucracy, political interference, faculty and student apathy - have created a vicious cycle of problems. Further, the heterogeneous nature of the student groups often poses a big challenge for its teaching community. A modern Indian university, especially a central university, is like a salad bowl. It has students coming from various regions, economic situations, and social classes. Central Universities like Delhi University (DU) reserves nearly 50 percent of the seats for categories like Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). “In a DU undergraduate class, you will have students who had studied at Doon’s school, as well as a student who studied at a government school in UP. The teacher has to cater to both of them," says Justin Mathew. "As students have to take exams within the first six months of the academic year, it is extremely difficult for the student. So professors often tend to take extra classes for students.” Though a teacher has to be in the campus for only five hours, holding special classes for these students has become part of most teachers's routines at DU campuses. “Bureaucrats are blindly adopting US models of education in India. They don’t understand the multilingual and multiethnic nature of Indian campuses,” adds Justin Mathew. Under resourced and understaffed Majority of the universities also face a shortage of staff crunch as some of the teaching is done with the help of contract employees. For instance, there are nearly 4000 vacant teaching posts in Delhi University according to sources, and this drastically increases the work load on the permanent faculty of the institutes. Peer Pressure Meanwhile academics at higher rung of the ladder also claim that the pressure to perform is often overwhelming. For professors who head departments like engineering at elite institutions, the need to bring in industry tie-ups can be extremely stressful. “The pressure to do cutting-edge research, which will in turn bring industry consultations, is really high for academicians," says BN Raghunandan, Dean of Faculty, Engineering at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Think tanks versus Universities Experts from prominent think tanks have often expressed their disappointment over the fact that many of the best social scientists are housed in research institutes and not in the universities. However there are academics like Venu Narayan, who heads Teachers Education at Azim Premji University, who argue that much of the research and writing in social sciences and humanities still happens in universities. However, he admits that every person at a university might not be good at all forms of academic activity. “If we have a rational and impartial system that can identify individual’s abilities and encourage them appropriately, we may arrive at a more effective organisation of higher education," notes Narayan. "While faculty development has a key role in encouraging and mentoring people, I am afraid that Indian public universities do not, generally speaking, have a systematic approach to this.” It is not hard to do At several western universities, research is an integral element for career progression. When promotions are based on predetermined chronological pattern, research culture will be badly affected. During his tenure as chairman of IIMA, Samuel Paul had scheduled 50 percent of the faculty's working hours for research activities. “Universities should block enough time for its teachers to do research. Thus, when you streamline the process, it’s easy to analyze the research output with variables like the number of citations in peer reviewed journal,” suggests the former advisor to the World Bank. Even though one cannot make sweeping generalisations, it is clear that our public universities face serious challenges in the areas of autonomy, governance, and in maintaining quality of research and teaching. Many universities are too large to be managed effectively. Clearly, if we wish to ensure that universities meet some standards of excellence, whether they be global and national, we need to reorganize them dramatically.