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