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State enraged at Sibal call
Sudarshan Ray Chaudhury and Kapil Sibal

Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal’s call to curb political interference in the appointment of vice-chancellors has touched the state government on the raw.

“We follow a very transparent procedure for selecting VCs,” said Sudarshan Ray Chaudhury, the higher education minister of Bengal, where Alimuddin Street is rumoured to have the final say in appointing the heads of state-aided educational institutions.

“All our VCs are renowned academics and they are discharging their duties efficiently. Before changing the selection procedure, the Centre should prove that our VCs are less efficient than the heads of central universities,” Ray Chaudhury told Metro on Tuesday.

The minister was present at the August 1 programme at Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, where Sibal stressed the need to unshackle universities from political control to ensure their development as centres of excellence.

The Union minister did not suggest any detailed guideline on depoliticising the selection procedure but pointed out that university heads should be selected by committees comprising only academics.

“We will not follow central regulations if Delhi does not consult us before changing rules on the appointment of VCs or overall functioning of state-aided universities,” an official in the higher education department said, betraying the discontent in the state administration sparked by the Union minister’s statement.

“If the Centre is so keen on ensuring that the selection of VCs is free of state control, it should first overhaul the recruitment process of central universities,” the official added.

The head of a state-aided university said: “If Sibal conducts an unbiased study, the VCs of some state-aided institutions will outshine their counterparts in central universities.”

The heads of state-aided universities — such as Calcutta, Jadavpur and Rabindra Bharati — are selected from a panel of one to three candidates.

The panels are finalised by the highest policy-making bodies of the universities — such as senate and syndicate for Calcutta and executive council and court for Jadavpur — before being sent to the chancellor, the governor.

But a source in the government said since the panels of state-aided institutions were packed with members loyal to the ruling party, a VC hopeful could not make it to the shortlist without Alimuddin Street’s nod.

For central universities such as Visva Bharati, a search committee is set up comprising a member of the executive council, court and a nominee of the Visitor, the President of India. The Visitor’s representative heads the panel.

The search committee sends a list of probable candidates — at least three — to the Visitor, who makes the final selection.

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