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Recruitment freeze in VC-less varsities

New Delhi, Aug. 3: The Central University of Orissa is 139 teachers short.

The Central University of Tamil Nadu is slightly better off. It has 122 fewer than the total number it can appoint.

While one has just 18 teachers, against a sanctioned strength of 157, the other has 29, against a sanctioned faculty cap of 151.

So where have all the teachers gone?

They haven’t gone anywhere, just that the appointment of faculty has come to a halt since December at these two institutions, along with 10 other new central universities, despite large-scale vacancies, severely affecting academic activities.

The reason is there has been no regular vice-chancellor in any of these institutions since March this year, although a list of possible candidates had been recommended by May by 12 search panels that were set up when the UPA government was in power.

Norms don’t usually allow acting vice-chancellors to recruit faculty.

In December last year, the previous human resource development ministry had asked the regular VCs not to recruit faculty as government norms don’t allow heads of institutions to hire anyone in the last three months of their tenure.

The new BJP-led government, which assumed office in May, recently restarted the process of finding VCs for some of these 12 institutions — one each in Kashmir, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. But it has been sitting on most of the recommendations.

Take, for example, the case of the varsity in Koraput, Odisha, which has just 18 teachers against a sanctioned strength of 157 (see chart). Worse, the university does not have a single professor. Among the 18 faculty members, 17 are assistant professors and one is an associate professor.

A university official said research output has been negligible while doubts have been raised about the quality of teaching at the institution. “No appointment is happening in the university. All classes for master’s degree students are being managed by a few young assistant professors,” the official said.

The situation is almost similar in these universities, which were all established in 2009 except the ones in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand that were state varsities before being taken over as central universities the same year.

The terms of the regular VCs of all these 12 universities ended by the first week of March, some five months after the previous HRD ministry had started the process of choosing the vice-chancellors last October.

The ministry had published advertisements and around 500 academics had applied.

Under the Central Universities Act, 2009, the ministry had then set up search-cum-selection panels for each university. Each panel had five experts — three nominated by the university concerned and two recommended by the Visitor, the President of the country.

The search panels submitted their recommendations by May this year. By then, the government had changed at the Centre. In the meantime, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi wrote to the President requesting him not to go ahead with the process.

Joshi, a former HRD minister, claimed the search panels had not been properly constituted and a panel had a college principal as the head.

The new HRD minister, Smriti Irani, is learnt to have asked the higher education department to push the appointment process. Accordingly, the ministry has sent the recommendations of some of the search panels to the President.

A source said the former VCs were to blame for the vacancies. “Each vice-chancellor spent five years at the university. They had enough time to appoint faculty,” the source said.

A former vice-chancellor of one of these varsities cited the disadvantage of location of many of these universities as the reason for failing to attract good teachers. “Good faculty, particularly professors, prefer to work in institutions located in cities. They want good facilities, including air connectivity. Most of the new central universities are located in remote areas,” the former VC said.