Conduct of vice-chancellors raises question on those who select them
There is no transparency in the formation of the search committees.
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It is becoming extremely challenging for vice-chancellors to complete their tenures in Indian universities given several adverse conditions.
Under these circumstances, turning BHU and JNU like universities into world-class institutions would always be a big challenge for vice-chancellors.
The conduct of vice-chancellors in the recent past has raised several questions on their selection process. Frequent confrontations between students, teachers, and university administration have maligned the image of reputed universities.
Minister for human resource development, Prakash Javadekar, has confirmed that BHU vice-chancellor, GC Tripathi, is on an indefinite leave.
With their irresponsible behaviour and comments, many vice-chancellors have irked people in the country. As "active" head of the university, a vice-chancellor's role in various decision making and policy formulation becomes important. Are the government-appointed committee members, who search for vice-chancellors, "sensitive enough" in selecting the right candidates for the post?
The Bombay High Court observed that the "search committee" which appointed Rajan Welukar as the vice-chancellor of Mumbai University did so without the "application of mind".
After Welukar's "controversial" tenure ended in 2015, MU got another Sanjay Deshmukh as its VC. Deshmukh has contributed a lot in the field of environment, mangroves and water conservation. But due to his lack of professionalism and after an unprecedented delay in the declaration of results, the government asked Deshmukh to go on indefinite leave.
The question is why the search committee is unable to find the candidates for the post.
Whenever governments take strict action against vice-chancellors, the decisions of "search committees" also come under question. The committee, after all, comprises of "high profile" intellectuals.
Interestingly, there is no transparency in the formation of the search committees. People do not know about the process and norms followed for the selection of the members of the committee and who takes the "final call" on the appointment of a vice-chancellor?
Can a policy-maker or a subject expert run a university efficiently? From the case of Sanjay Deshmukh and his likes, it can be inferred that expertise alone does not guarantee high-level professionalism and ethical conduct.
People may have contributed in their respective fields but if they do not have the ability to handle students and university administration, there will be chaos and anarchy in the system. Sometimes VC's have "hidden" agendas and "vested" interests but it becomes clear much later.
It becomes rather easy to figure out few deserving candidates for the post of a VC based on curriculum vitae and achievements. But getting a good quality and visionary person for such a position is really difficult. Focusing too much on a single parameter will always yield poor results. Therefore, the applications for VC's should be looked at very carefully at several stages and then looked at holistically.
Usually, a vision document is prepared by an applicant for the post. What should be the vision of a VC? How will a VC attract "corporate" fundingto their institutions? How the centres for excellence will be launched within a university system? During the evaluation process, it is also important to figure out the how multifaceted a person is. The formation of the search committee, the selection process of the VC and the conduct of VC are not isolated from each other.
The founder of BHU, Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya ji, was a multifaceted person and a great visionary. He believed that formation of strong character is much more important than cultivation of intellect in higher education systems. Will our newly appointed VCs be able to live up to Mahamana's expectations?
Dr S Radhakrishnan was once a VC of BHU. Later, he became the President of India. He was the chairman of the University Education Commission, also known as the Radhakrishnan commission, which was formed by government of India in 1948.
According to the Radhakrishnan Commission, the aim of university education should be to preserve the culture and civilisation of the country. To be civilised, one should sympathise with the poor, respect women, love peace and independence, and hate tyranny and injustice. Will the VC's infuse these ideals in the youths of Indian universities?