Friday, December 6, 2013

Higher Education: Remedy Worse than the Disease

A Bill is passed in the Karnataka Legislature to increase the number of Government representation in the Management of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences where hitherto the large number of Members of Syndicate and Academic Council belonged to medical profession. The Bill now envisages  adding to these Bodies the Civil Servants - Secretaries of various Departments -  and Nominees of the Government. Further, it also aims to take away the power of the Chancellor who is the Governor of the State in regard to the constitution of Search Committee to select Vice Chancellor wherein now there is a Government Nominee who will also be the Chairman of the Search Committee ( not the Chancellor Nominee as Chairman as is the practice so far ). It also restricts the term of Vice Chancellor to only one term of 3 years rather than two terms of three years each as it was hitherto. Incidentally, the term of Vice Chancellors in Universities of General Education(where large number of Universities exist) is also one term but of four years duration. Similarly, the considerable representation of Civil Servants and nominations from the Government exist also in the Universities of General Education. Yet, there is no reason why ills of the one system should be repeated in the other!

Take for instance the provision of Government nomination to University Bodies. The University Act  and the  new RGUHS Bill says that they should nominate only the eminent educationist or eminent persons from the profession. Yet, in actual practice, the nomination made to University Syndicate and Academic Council are not only no where near any eminence but also not even educationist or professionals at all. Once it was made an issue, a Vice Chancellor, yours truly, rejected the nomination of members to Syndicate on the ground that it violates Act as none of them are educationist and one of the provision of the Act is that it is the duty of the Vice Chancellor to uphold all the provisions of the Act and he will have all the powers to do so. The matter went even to High Court by a PIL. Court chastised the Government and before the delivery of the Judgment, the Government had to withdraw the nomination made to save the face. But that was only momentary because soon after that Vice Chancellor left, yours truly,  after the completion of his term, Government went about nominating again the people of no eminence, non-educationist and non professionals. What is the guarantee the same fate will not accrue in RGUHS also?

The Governor and Chancellor of Universities in Karnataka has suddenly started making a statement in the last few weeks that he will not allow curtailment of Chancellor's power and he would always uphold the autonomy and independence of Universities. One wonders is it not devil quoting scriptures! The very same Chancellor, not long ago, has appointed a person as Vice Chancellor who was (and is)facing serious criminal charges in the High Court and in spite of the dissent note against appointing him on the same grounds by one of the Search Committee Member. What is more, that was that VC's second term as Vice Chancellor although first term was from a different University in Karnataka. What was the necessity of going all out, throwing away all decency and probity, to make him VC yet again without at least waiting for the Court verdict? Similarly, another Vice Chancellor, who was facing criminal charges was not only not allowed being enquired but even given an extension as VC by this Chancellor. His nomination to University Syndicate too does not speak high on the count of eminence or excellence among Professionals he nominates.Yet, the Chancellor talks about excellence and quality in Higher Education, autonomy and independence of University. In fact, as it was said too, that the Government plan to curtail power of the Chancellor is emanated by such doings of the present Chancellor. It  appears the Governor's concern is not really against erosion of autonomy, independence and self-governance of University but it is his self interest; whenever that is affected by curtailment of his power or authority to make his own choice of VCs, he would speak loud against the Government, be it BJP or Congress. However, not that Government is better off. Again as the sayings goes, the move to amend the RGUHS Act emanates from the situation where the present VC did not respond favourably to the overtures of the Government concerned to appoint their men/relations to the University posts. Yet, the Minister says the RGUHS Act amendment is to stem corruption and red tape in that University. Government and majority bureaucrats are notorious in corrupt practices as many surveys by Transparency International and other Agencies have revealed. How do we expect them to go and eradicate corruption and delay in the University? Is it not the remedy that is worse than the disease? It will further vitiate the academic atmosphere of the University by filling with even more corrupt manoeuvres and nepotisms.

Look at the best of Institutions/Universities that have achieved quality and excellence such as IISc, IITs and IIMs in our own country or more incontrovertibly, Cambridge and Oxford, Stanford and Harvard Universities abroad and see how they achieved excellence and eminence. Truly eminent people are appointed as Vice Chancellors who is assisted by people of proven competence and commitment to the quality and excellence in education. They are held responsible for all that goes on in the Institution. There is no interference from the government and politicians as well. This way, such institutions create quality professionals who contribute to the welfare of the society.

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