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Govt sets ball rolling for uniform varsity policy

Calcutta, Dec 9: The government today asked universities across the state to begin an exercise from tomorrow to explore the possibility of introducing a uniform pattern of management and governance in their institutions.

The move follows a recent University Grants Commission (UGC) proposal that asked state-aided universities to examine comprehensive modifications of rules to implement a uniform system of administration, planning, management and academic activities. The directive was aimed at bringing about 300 universities across the country registered with the UGC under a uniform system.

The UGC circular was sent to all the universities in the state and the higher education department last week. Along with the circular, the commission sent a draft “model act” on the lines of which it suggested the universities to modify rules. The varsities were asked to examine the “model act” and give their opinions by December 15.

Responding to the circular and the “model act”, the West Bengal Council of Higher Education met today. Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and senior officials of his department and the vice-chancellors of various universities, however, expressed mixed reactions to the UGC plan.

“We welcome several proposals in the model act, which will protect the present autonomous character of our universities. But there are certain points in the act that indicate centralised control of the institutions. We have to study these contradictory portions in detail. The government will be in a position to give a clear cut stand on the issue after we complete the study,” said Jawahar Sircar, the principal secretary in the higher education department.

The government has also sought the UGC’s permission to extend the deadline for submitting opinions to February 15. The extension, according to officials, is necessary as it would not be possible for the government and the universities to study the “model act” in full within the December 15 deadline.

“I have written to the UGC seeking the extension. We hope the authorities will understand our problem,” said Sircar.

However, sources in the education department said the portions in the model act that the government considers “contradictory” are those that propose to do away with the practice of having a majority of elected members in the administrative and policy-making bodies of the universities. The UGC suggests the inclusion of a larger number of nominated members instead.

The government is believed to be opposed to the idea as almost all the policy-making bodies of the universities in the state are formed through elections and are mostly controlled by the CPM.

The government is also opposed to a proposal that implies governors will no longer be university chancellors but rather function as a “visitor” and will appoint a renowned academic as a chancellor.

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