Prof E Balaguruswami, former Vice-Chancellor of the Anna University, had once commented in a conference that ‘the Vice-Chancellors he met were mostly corrupt’. A sizeable number of academicians are also of the same view that the selection procedure of the Vice Chancellors at most of the Indian universities is controlled by politicians and hence, favouritism reigns. The recent cases of PIL filed by several people challenging appointment of Vice Chancellors in some universities throughout the country has brought this highest academic and administrative post in the university system under the scanner and has moderated its significance.
At present, appointment of Vice Chancellors in Central Universities is done by Visitor (President of India) or Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the Search Committee. While in case of State Universities, different states follow different procedure where, in some cases, it is the Senate which decides shortlists and sends the name to the Governor (Constitutional Head of a State) or it is the Search Committee which carries out the process instead of Senate.
UGC has its own guidelines, Union HRD Ministry has its own, and states have their own set standard rules and regulations and all these make VC selection procedure look like a process which is free from any malpractice. But on ground, the situations are completely different and in many of the cases it has been found that some or the other rule or procedure has been flouted while appointing a person as the Vice Chancellor. Thereby giving rise to questions like, has the rules and regulations of UGC not robust to select right candidate for the post of Vice Chancellor? Does the whole selection procedure require over hauling? Do the politicians and top bureaucrats control the process that it is difficult to get rid of?
The new UGC Regulations on Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education says that the VC should be a distinguished academician, with a minimum of 10 years of experience as professor in a university system or 10 years of experience in an equivalent position in a reputed research or academic administrative organisation. In past few years several Teacher Associations have been informing the Centre, State, UGC and other bodies have said that most of the VCs in the State Universities lack all these requirements.
Taking note of it, Union HRD Ministry had set up a committee headed by Prof NR Madhava Menon and it recommended that a revamping of the whole system of Vice Chancellor selection is required to minimise the malpractices being followed in the appointment. The committee recommended for doing away with the office of the Visitor in Central Universities and vesting these powers in the Office of the Chancellor, freedom to recruit distinguished faculty from anywhere in the world, to take up consultancy assignments and at the same time open the institute to independent reviews. Thus, advocating a thorough modification of the process of appointment of a VC.
Prof PT Chande, President, Association of Indian Universities talking to India Education Review on the recommendations of Menon Committee, said, “I am totally in favour of it as this process of VC selection is continuing for years and it needs over hauling and there is huge amount of favouritism in the selection process. The VC should be an academician along with understanding of administration because he has to also manage the University. At present universities in different states have different selection procedure for the VC in some state the Senate selects the VC while in some it done by the Search Committee and after interviewing they recommend the names to the Governor. The Governor should himself meet the person to be appointed and should also conduct an interview after that only the selection process should get over because interview is equally important.”
“Both the Central and State Universities need this change and I don’t think that the UGC regulation requires too much of change because, at present, in central universities it is the Centre which decides whom to appoint and in case of State Universities, it is the State Government which decides thus there is political intervention in the appointment, we have to stop that,” added Prof. Chande.
Many of the experts are also suggesting several reformative steps which include the Search Committee should have a UGC nominee, the retiring VC should not preside over the meeting of senate or syndicate when it meets to decide nominees to be suggested to the expert committee for the post. The names selected by the Search Committee and suggested to the Chancellor should be made public and the term of the VC should not be more than five years and if a person is to be appointed again, the same procedure should be followed, thus making the selection process transparent than the existing one.
There have been several PIL filed across India and the one which generated the debate was filed against the appointment of VC of Mumbai University and the Petitioner Jayant Jain challenged the selection procedure of search committee nominated by the Chancellor on the ground that it flouted provisions of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 and Ordinances and Statutes of Mumbai University.
According to Jayant Jain, President, Forum for Fairness in Education, “The process of VC Selection is manoeuvred at each and every stage. There is a complete political control over the process and the existing rules and regulations needs to be changed to bring transparency in the system.” Vice Chancellor is the ‘Principal Academic and Executive Officer of the University’ and role is to function as a link between the academic and executive division of the university. While in the present scenario there is a cut throat competition to hold or acquire the post, all these characteristics are over and done and only prejudice prevails.
Therefore in such situations, it is just like imagination with very little relation to reality to turn Indian Universities into world class higher education institutes where the selection for the top most jobs is not done through fair means and correct procedure.To make Indian University world class, only an improvement in the quality of teaching will not solve the purpose; it will also require freedom to the Universities and it will come only when the post of Vice Chancellor is held by a person with very little proximity to the Ruling Political Party and he should be true academician and not mere an administrator. Also, the appointment should be done by the State Government in case of State Universities and by the Centre in case of Central Universities on recommendation of Search Committee of faculty, students, alumni and others as VC will be responsible to these people.