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UGC calls for VC selection system review

'The existing system of the HRD minister chairing the panel for selecting IIT directors was a bad practice'
“The UGC/ministry of human resource development as well as state governments must seriously review the mechanism by which vice-chancellors are appointed. Good academic leadership is essential for improving the research culture, including the quality of PhD/MPhil degrees,” the committee said.

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 30.07.19, 08:54 PM

A panel of educationists set up by the University Grants Commission has found flaws with the existing system of selecting academic heads of institutes of higher learning and called for a review, implying that politicians should not be part of the process.

The recommendations came in a report the four-member committee, headed by Prof. P. Balaram, former director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, submitted to the higher education regulator last month on “Improving Quality of Research”.

“The UGC/ministry of human resource development as well as state governments must seriously review the mechanism by which vice-chancellors are appointed. Good academic leadership is essential for improving the research culture, including the quality of PhD/MPhil degrees,” the committee said.

The UGC is studying the report.

Vice-chancellors of central universities and directors of the Indian Institutes of Technology are now appointed after approval from the Visitor, the President of India.

The HRD minister chairs the selection panel for IIT directors and the minister’s office forwards the recommended names with preferences to the Visitor, who usually approves the preferred person.

In the case of selection of vice-chancellors, the HRD minister recommends the names for a search panel, which is set up with the Visitor’s approval. The panel submits names of possible candidates for the post to the minister who forwards them to the Visitor indicating his preference.

In universities funded by state governments, the government concerned sets up search committees, approves the recommendations and sends them to the governor, who is the chancellor of these institutes.

So, whether it is central institutes or those run by a state, governments have a considerable say in selections and appointments.

Prof. Balaram said the existing system of the HRD minister chairing the panel for selecting IIT directors was a bad practice.

“The presence of the HRD minister on panels to select directors of IITs is an example of bad practice. Whoever is in a position to approve the selected candidates should not be part of the selection panel. If they don’t like a selection, they may reject it,” Balaram told The Telegraph.

Generally, people on a selection panel should be different from those who approve, he said, adding that academics of repute should select vice-chancellors.

“If you can improve the selection process in central universities, maybe, state universities will follow,” Balaram said.

The four-member committee had examined the issue since appointments of vice-chancellors are discussed widely and there have been controversies over appointments in recent years.

“The VC must be a respected academic. The post is not merely that of an administrator, the VC must have a vision. He must spend time on academic matters,” Balaram said.

In February 2016, Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Prof. Sushanta Dattagupta became the first VC of any central university to be removed by then President Pranab Mukherjee after a fact-finding committee indicted him for alleged financial and administrative irregularities.

Pondicherry University vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy was removed in June 2016 after a committee found her responsible for giving false information about certain publications.

In January 2017, J.P. Singhal, VC, University of Rajasthan, resigned following Rajasthan High Court’s critical observations about his appointment.

Singhal, general secretary of Sangh affiliate Bharatiya Shiskhan Mandal, was a lecturer without a doctorate degree when the then Vasundhara Raje government appointed him vice-chancellor in July 2015.

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