Thursday, December 7, 2023

Politicisation of higher education


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At a recent meeting of Vice Chancellors (VCs) of private universities in Meghalaya, the National Education Policy 2020 was discussed in great details and there were suggestions that instead of pleading for more time to implement the NEP which actually is an attempt at dynamic educational reforms, universities should work at collaborating and sharing spaces. Vice Chancellor, University of Science and Technology (USTM), Prof GD Sharma who was formerly with the University Grants Commission, offered to collaborate in the value addition of local produce such as tea, turmeric etc. in their well- established laboratory at their main campus in Baridua. In the course of his deliberations, Prof Sharma also rued the fact that appointment of Vice Chancellors to central and state universities under the present dispensation has been completely politicised and political affiliation has replaced merit. While politics in itself is part and parcel of human life, what is adversely affecting universities is the ideological thrust that is being imposed on how universities should be run and who should or should not be appointed in the academic and administrative cadres.
Vice Chancellors are people of eminence with a good academic record. The Supreme Court in a judgment had said that a VC should have a minimum teaching experience of 10 years as a professor in a university and his/her name should be recommended by a search and select committee. The court referred to Section 10(3) of the University Act, 2019 which provided that the committee should prepare a list of three persons for appointment as VC based on their qualification and eligibility. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations, 2018, the VC of a university, in general, is appointed by the Visitor/Chancellor, from a panel of three to five names recommended by the duly constituted Search cum Selection Committee.The Visitor is empowered to call for a set of fresh names in case of dissatisfaction with the given panel.
The Vice- Chancellor (VC) is considered the ‘Principal Academic and Executive Officer of the University.’ As head of the University, he/she is expected to function as a ‘bridge’ between the executive and the academic wing of the university. It is precisely to facilitate this expected role that universities are always in search of persons with values, personality characteristics and integrity in addition to academic excellence and administrative experience. Vice-Chancellors are to ensure that the provisions of the Act, Statutes and Ordinances and Regulations are fully observed and he/she should have the power necessary for the discharge of this duty.What is happening in the North Eastern Hills University (NEHU) would appear that the VC has acted in a manner that is prejudicial to the smooth functioning of the University by appointing people in the administrative cadre without following due procedure. In this manner he has ignited protests that have mired the functioning of NEHU. This extra-constitutional act is unwarranted and has given rise to the alternative politics of ideology within the campus. The University is not a place for promoting political ideology of any colour. It is best if Universities remain wedded to academics and not to political partisanship.

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