Con­tro­ver­sial ap­point­ments

NEW OR­DER Academicians ques­tion the ap­point­ment of heads of pan­els se­lect­ing VCs of DU and JNU ‘AMEND THE AR­CHI­TECTS ACT’

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Jee­van Prakash Sharma

There was much ado when Di­nesh Singh, out­go­ing Delhi Univer­sity (DU) vice-chan­cel­lor, rec­om­mended former Isro chief K Kas­turi­ran­gan as a mem­ber of the search- cum- se­lec­tion com­mit­tee to l ook into his s uc­ces­sor’s ap­point­ment. Now, how­ever, the ap­point­ment of the panel’s head, the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) chair­man, is also be­ing ques­tioned by ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts.

As Singh had ap­pointed Kas­turi­ran­gan an hon­orary pro­fes­sor for life at DU, rec­om­mend­ing the former Isro chief ’s name in the ap­point­ment panel was seen as a con­flict of in­ter­est is­sue. How­ever, as Singh, who com­pletes his term to­day, had ad­mit­ted to an over­sight while nom­i­nat­ing Kas­turi­ran­gan and as his (Singh’s) rec­om­men­da­tions had been ap­proved by the DU ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil (EC), the de­ci­sion of which was fi­nal, drag­ging Singh into the con­tro­versy was un­nec­es­sary, ex­perts say.

A move that can be more con­tro­ver­sial than Kas­turi­ran­gan’s nom­i­na­tion is the in­clu­sion of UGC chair­man Ved Prakash as third mem­ber and the head of the search-cum-se­lec­tion com­mit­tee. Ac­cord­ing to DU statutes, two EC nom­i­nees and one nom­i­nee of the Vis­i­tor (Pres­i­dent of In­dia) can be part of the se­lec­tion panel.

“UGC is re­spon­si­ble for fund­ing DU and its af­fil­i­ated col­leges. UGC and DU ne­go­ti­ate on the financial re­quire­ments for var­i­ous aca­demic ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing qual­ity im­prove­ment pro­grammes. DU’s bar­gain­ing po­si­tion is likely to be com­pro­mised,” says Prof MM An­sari, mem­ber, UGC.

Adds An­sari, “Any ‘con­nivance’ be­tween UGC and DU may jeop­ar­dise the func­tion­ing of the univer­sity, as has hap- pened re­cently in the case of the four year un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gramme (FYUP). Last year, Delhi Univer­sity in­tro­duced FYUP with UGC ap­proval but rolled it back in 2015, again with the UGC’s con­sent.”

JL Gupta, an elected mem­ber of DU’s EC says that as the coun­cil has cor­rected its stand and re­placed Kas­turi­ran­gan with former UPSC chair­man DP Agar­wal, the Vis­i­tor should also im­me­di­ately with­draw the UGC chair­man’s name and nom­i­nate some­one else.

In the case of Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity (JNU), where the cur­rent vice chan­cel­lor SK So­pory is re­tir­ing in Jan­uary 2016, the two mem­bers of the search com­mit­tee, former Isro chief K Rad­hakr­ish­nan and former diplo­mat Ashok Sen, have been ap­pointed on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the JNU ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. The third mem­ber and com­mit­tee head, Prof Dhiren­dra Pal Singh, is the Vis­i­tor’s nom­i­nee. In­ter­est­ingly, he is at present the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­sess­ment and Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Coun­cil (NAAC), a statu­tory body to as­sess and ac­credit in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try.

“Keep­ing in mind the ra­tio­nale be­hind cre­at­ing NAAC, ie, to as­sess and ac­credit the qual­ity and sta­tus of a col­lege or a univer­sity in terms of its per­for­mance, re­lated to ed­u­ca­tional pro­cesses and out­comes etc, it goes with­out say­ing that ap­point­ing the NAAC di­rec­tor in any panel to search for a VC is a di­rect con­flict of in­ter­est. Any co­op­er­a­tion with the (NAAC) di­rec­tor and the VC of a par­tic­u­lar univer­sity will in­ter­fere with the im­par­tial as­sess­ment of per­for­mance of the univer­sity,” says VN Ra­jasekha­ran Pil­lai, former di­rec­tor, NAAC.

In­dia has a huge pool of ex­per­tise in al­most ev­ery area of in­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment, says An­sari. “First, en­gage peo­ple of high cred­i­bil­ity and in­tegrity for ap­point­ment of univer­sity of­fi­cials like VCs and make th­ese ap­point­ments trans­par­ent rather than pick­ing up per­sons of cer­tain ide­ol­ogy. Sec­ond, serv­ing of­fi­cials like the UGC chair­man or VCs should not be as­so­ci­ated with the se­lec­tion process. Third, pre­pare a pool of se­nior aca­demics and put their names in the pub­lic do­main. Let the univer­sity’s bod­ies pick up their VCs through a demo­cratic process. The gover nments should not in­ter­fere with the ap­point­ment process,” he adds. Can the pres­i­dent of an ed­u­ca­tion reg­u­la­tory body also hold the po­si­tion of prin­ci­pal of a pri­vate col­lege? The an­swer is a sur­pris­ing yes, as ac­cord­ing to the Ar­chi­tects Act of 1972, the pres­i­dent of Coun­cil of Ar­chi­tec­ture (CoA) can si­mul­ta­ne­ously hold the po­si­tion of prin­ci­pal or di­rec­tor of any pri­vate ar­chi­tec­ture col­lege.

Ac­cord­ing to sec­tion 3 of the Act which refers to CoA memberships, five mem­bers can be heads of ar­chi­tec­tural in­sti­tu­tions in In­dia im­part­ing full time in­struc­tion for recog­nised qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Ac­cord­ing to sec­tion 4(1), the pres­i­dent and the vice pres­i­dent of the CoA have to be elected by the mem­bers from among them­selves.

“It should have been man­dated in the act that once any CoA mem­ber is elected pres­i­dent, he should cease to be a prin­ci­pal of any pri­vate in­sti­tute,” says DT Vinod Ku­mar, mem­ber, CoA. Some prin­ci­pals in pri­vate in­sti­tutes who were ap­pointed CoA pres­i­dents have bla­tantly mis­used the pro­vi­sions of the Ar­chi­tects Act to fur­ther the in­ter­ests of the pri­vate in­sti­tutes in the teach­ing of ar­chi­tec­ture. Many top gov­ern­ment col­leges have suf­fered due to dis­crim­i­na­tory de­ci­sions of the Coun­cil,” al­leges Ku­mar.

Many col­lege prin­ci­pals have time and again lev­eled al­le­ga­tions on the Coun­cil that it pro­motes pri­vate col­leges and is bi­ased against gov­ern­ment col­leges.

For in­stance, the Chandi­garh Col­lege of Ar­chi­tec­ture, a re­puted gov­ern­ment col­lege, has been fight­ing a case against CoA in Pun­jab and Haryana high court al­leg­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in grant­ing en­rol­ment to its stu­dents.


Ap­point­ments of head of search com­mit­tees in DU (top) and JNU (be­low) have to be con­sid­ered care­fully, say ex­perts.

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