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Varsity bill seal on policy rollback

The Mamata Banerjee government has restored representation of students, research scholars, officials and other non-teaching staff in the highest policy-making bodies of the universities, bowing to pressure from various quarters.

Copies of the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, which incorporates changes into the university ordinance promulgated by the government in October and new provisions, were distributed among members of the Assembly on Tuesday.

The bill will be placed in the state legislature on Friday.

The ordinance had barred non-academicians from becoming members of the executive councils and courts (syndicate and senate of Calcutta University) of 13 state-aided universities in an attempt to rid institutions of higher education of politics and ensure that only academicians run academic institutions.

The 14th state-aided university, Presidency, is not under the ambit of the bill.

We had to make changes in the ordinance and introduce clauses to include representatives of students, research scholars, non-teaching employees and officers in the policy-making bodies of universities, considering strong demands from various groups of people associated with higher education, a senior official of the state higher education department told Metro.

Representation of librarians in the policy-making bodies has also been restored, in another departure from the ordinance.

The clause to empower the registrars and finance officers with voting rights and a say in the framing of policies has been scrapped.

Under the existing act, the registrar and finance officers are members of the decision-making bodies but do not have a say in the framing of policies. They also do not have voting rights.

The executive councils will continue to enjoy the power to veto appointment of teachers. The ordinance gave vice-chancellors the power to take the final decision on the appointment of teachers on the basis of recommendations by selection committees.

A clause in the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, states that the committees should send their recommendations in writing to the syndicate.

The changes in the bill were made on the basis of feedback from several sources.

The chairman of the West Bengal State Council of Higher Education, Sugata Marjit, had written to the vice-chancellors on November 8, requesting them to pass on the feedback of teachers, students and non-teaching staff on the ordinance to Abhirup Sarkar, the head of the expert committee on higher education that was set up to draft the ordinance, and him.

The committee held two review meetings, on November 24 and 28 to discuss the feedback.