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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 1-2, December 24, December 31, 2022 (Double issue)

The issue of Appointment of Vice Chancellors in Karnataka | P S Jayaramu

Saturday 24 December 2022

by P. S. Jayaramu

(20th December, 2022)

The revised Bill violates NEP norms and Aatre Committee recommendations

The issue of appointment of Vice Chancellors of Public Universities in Karnataka has come to the fore again with the Government of Karnataka (GOK) coming up with a revised draft Bill to replace the existing Karnataka State Universities Act. In the revised draft, the Government has gone back on the issue of the Board of Governors appointing the Vice Chancellors of the public universities by restoring the powers of the Government and the Governor/ Chancellor. Clause 31(4) of the revised Bill refers to the Vice Chancellor of a public university being appointed by the Chancellor in consultation with the Government from a panel of three names recommended by the Search-cum- Selection Committe (SCS) constituted by the Board of Governors of the universities. This is a departure from the recommendation made by the Aatre Committee (2022) which the Givernment itself had constituted to submit a draft Bill The Committee had stated in clear terms that the Board of Governors ( not the Chancellor) shall appoint the Vice Chancellor from the Panel of names recommended by the Search-cum-Selection Committee. The revised Bill, which the GOK wants to perhaps get passed by the Legislature in the ongoing winter session shows the real intentions of the Government, i,e, of retaing its power as well as that of the Chancellor in the appointment of Vice Chancellors. In plain terms, the GOK wants the status quo, which is weighed in favour of itself, to continue. It is an open secret that the Search Committees, by and large, recommend names which are palatable to the Government.

By opting for the retention of the status quo, the Government is also violating the norms prescribed by the NEP 2020 regarding the appointment of Vice Chancellors, Clause 19.2 of which says :

“All higher educational institutions in India must aim to become independent self-governing institutions pursuing innovation and excellence...the BOG of each institution will be empowered to govern the institution free of any political or external interference in appointments, including that of the head of the institution”.

The revised Bill, if passed, is likely to impinge heavily on the independence of Board of Governors and the Search-cum Selection Committees in matters of selection of VCs.

The revised Bill also states that appointment of first Vice Chancellors of newly established public universities will be done by the Government implying thereby that the procedure of Seaech-cum-Selection Committee making the recommendations, as in the case of existing public universities, will not apply in such appointments. As we know, the Karnataka Government recently announced the setting up of eight public universities in the State. The revised draft Bill gives the Government complete freedom to appoint men and women of their choice as VCs of such universities.

In the governance of any public university, the Vice Chancellor occupies a pivotal position as he/she has to be a person of proven academic record, leadership and administrative capabilities. That being the case, there should be total transparency in the process of appointments, starting with the biodata of candidates who apply for such positions being put up for public viewing on the websites of the concerned universities. There should be marks assigned to candidate’s length of service, teaching and research attainments, records of research funding they have brought to their respective institutions during their service and administrative experience.The Search cum Selection Committee should allot marks/grades to the candidates in the above mentioned areas in addition to the candidate’s performance in the interaction session with the SCS which should be allowed for stakeholders viewing. Based on the marks secured by the candidates and keeping in mind considerations of social justice and gender parity, the SCS should be able to transparently draw up a panel of names and submit it to the Board of Governors for appointment. Only if such procedures are adhered to by the SCS, can the appointment of VCs be of high standards. To ensure all this, utmost care should be taken in the composition of the SCS which should include :1) a reputed independent-minded academician, 2) a public intellectual of repute , 3) a well-known alumni of the university and 4)) an acknowledged leader from industry with a proven record of interaction with higher educational institutions.

It is disturbing to note that the revised Bill has deviated from the Aatre Committee report by restoring the powers of the Government in the appointment of Registrars, Registrar Assessment and Evaluation and Finance Officers. The intention of the Government seems clear : to continue to have total control over the affairs of universities. What impact all this will have on the quality of our public universities is anybody’s guess.

It is reported that the Government wants industrialists to head the BOGs. While it is useful to have an industry representative in the BOG, the Chairpersonship of the Board should be vested with retired Vice Chancellors who have performed creditably during their term of office. The BOGs could take the help of the Forum of Former Vice Chancellors in preparing panel of names to be used while preparing the names of persons for the constitution of the BOG.

* (Author: P. S. Jayaramu is former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Bangalore University, Bangalore and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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