The country may face an extraordinary shortage of teachers in higher education, said M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman of the Board of Governors IIT Kanpur.

Speaking at a summer training programme in physics and chemistry for students at the University of Madras here on Monday, he said: “The respect for the teaching profession is gaining momentum as the country has woken up. The government is also determined to strengthen higher education.”

Stressing the need for reforms in higher education, he said: “Today, we have ruined our engineering education by separating it from basic science. The system is producing persons who are incompetent to grow up. No subject should be treated in isolation as the walls between disciplines are breaking down.”

But our universities continue to show total rigidity in admission procedures, he said.

“The State government should set up an academy for advanced interdisciplinary science training and organise lectures by eminent scientists throughout the year. This would motivate youth for research,” he said.

“Many engineers have started to show interest in basic science research,” said V. Devanathan, vice-president of Tamil Nadu Academy of Sciences.

Vice-chairman of Science City P. Iyamperumal said the contribution of retired scientists was also crucial in igniting young minds.

Addressing a summer training programme in mathematics for students at Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics, S. Kesavan, Deputy Director and Dean of Studies, Chennai Mathematical Institute, said the number of motivated students of pure sciences and mathematics in Tamil Nadu is decreasing.

“Tamil Nadu had one of the largest chunks of such students a few years ago. But the number has come down drastically.” Funding is not a constraint for education and research programmes, but getting motivated students is a problem, he added.

“Many bright students who have joined basic science and mathematics courses at reputed institutes in Chennai have been compelled by their parents to join engineering courses. Parents should understand that there are enormous opportunities for students of basic sciences and mathematics,” said Mr. Kesavan.

“We are trying to motivate our students and make them better learners. If motivation starts at the school level, students of higher education will be more prepared for learning,” said K. Parthasarathy, director and head, Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics.