Former Anna University VC writes to UGC Chairman to 'Save Universities from the Onslaught of Politicians'

"This may lead to a large scale corruption, nepotism and political influence in the selection process of Vice Chancellors," wrote E Balagurusamy
Pic credits: E Balagurusamy
Pic credits: E Balagurusamy

Chairman, EBG Foundation, Coimbatore and Former Vice-Chancellor, Anna University, Chennai Professor E Balagurusamy wrote a letter today, December 5, to the University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar appealing to, "Save Universities from the Onslaught of Politicians". Citing the issues between state governments and their governors regarding the appointment of VCs, the chairman said, "This may lead to a large scale corruption, nepotism and political influence in the selection process of Vice Chancellors," as stated in the letter by the former VC of Anna University. 

"In Tamil Nadu, there were instances when sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law of ministers and politicians holding the posts of Lecturers and Assistant Professors were appointed as Vice Chancellors. Astonishingly, a personal assistant to a minister and a personal secretary to a Vice Chancellor were appointed as Vs of leading universities," he stressed. 

Is it only in Tamil Nadu?
No! He proceeds to explain that "In many other cases, money-power and caste-connections played major roles. Similar cases have been reported in other states as well." Further, "Mediocrity and corruption have become all-pervasive in the higher education system in the country resulting in a complete erosion of autonomy and integrity of the university system," he added. 

Giving inferences to similar incidents in other states, the letter mentioned West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Moreover, "In most of the non-BJP ruled states, universities have been told not to implement National Education Policy," it added.

The letter read:
West Bengal: Government appointed VCs for 25 universities "without the concurrence of the Governor as Chancellor."

Kerala: Reappointment of a vice-chancellor without the knowledge of the Governor. Also, "in one of the universities in Kerala, Search Committee sends only ONE name to the Governor as per the direction of the state government."

Tamil Nadu: Government appoints an enquiry commission against an honest vice-chancellor without approval of the Governor, purely for political reasons. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister issues instructions to all the vice-chancellors of state universities not to implement any orders and guidelines issued by regulatory bodies like University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Medical Commission (NMC).

Political gimmicks and vote bank politics
"Last year, Tamil Nadu Higher Education minister ordered cancellation of annual examinations of Anna University and to conduct examinations afresh using a pattern suggested by him so that maximum candidates could pass. A political gimmick!" the member of the Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu, Balagurusamy, mentioned. 

Moreover, there was conflicting judgement given by the Supreme Court and High Court. While in one case, the SC has reinstated VC who was dismissed by HC stating "the university Act does not stipulate the condition that the UGC Regulations should be followed. In another case, the same apex court has declared the appointment of a vice chancellor 'null and void' as the appointment is not based on UGC Regulations," said Balagurusamy, who is also the Member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), New Delhi highlights. 

But why this tussle between the two? 
Balaguruswamy opines that since state governments are funding the state universities, they consider it as their right to exercise complete control over the functioning of universities, while Governors feel that as chancellors they have statutory powers to appoint vice-chancellors and oversee the functioning of universities. In cases like these, Vice Chancellors are caught between autonomy and accountability, he added. 

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