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Varsities in academic limbo over dean dearth

The delay in selecting deans is causing major disruptions in the day-to-day functioning of state-aided universities, such as Jadavpur University and Calcutta University.

The appointments are pending because the government has been planning to amend the university acts to do away with the system of electing deans and introduce a system of appointing them through search committees. Metro had reported the decision on August 29.

A source in the higher education department said: “We expect to place the bill in the Assembly’s winter session.”

“Universities without deans are like colleges without principals,” said Parthapratim Biswas, the general secretary of Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association. “Many important academic activities have been kept on hold at our institution as we don’t have a dean.”

Deans are the academic heads of universities. Many important work — such as syllabus modification, changing the examination system, framing academic calendars, disbursing government funds among departments and undertaking development projects under various government-sponsored schemes — have been kept on hold for nearly a year in the two universities because there are no deans. The rules stipulate these can only be done under deans.

A source in the higher education department said the crisis would not end soon. “Even after the university acts are amended, the process of appointing deans is unlikely to be completed before five-six months,” the source said.

The deans’ day-to-day work is now being looked after by the faculty secretaries. Many teachers, however, complained the secretaries lacked the competence to handle the jobs properly. Vice-chancellors are performing some other activities of deans on a temporary basis, such as conducting doctoral committee meetings, supervising undergraduate and postgraduate admissions, monitoring the progress of research projects sponsored by the state and the Centre.

The problem, said many teachers and students, is that it’s difficult to access the vice-chancellor. “A dean is much more accessible. Many projects are being delayed because we can’t meet the VC as often as we would want to,” said a Calcutta University teacher.

The teacher said his department had been allotted grants by the science and technology ministry but the department had not received it because there was no dean. “The dean manages the disbursement of government funds. We have funds allotted to us but cannot utilise it as we don’t have a dean,” said a teacher of CU’s science faculty.

At JU, the dean is also the main signatory of MPhil and MTech dissertations. But because there are no deans, the dissertations have been approved without the deans’ signatures, said a JU student.

“My dissertation only bears the signature of my supervisor and the department head,” said an MTech student at JU. “I wonder whether it was strictly legal for the university to have approved the dissertation without the dean’s signature.”