Higher education in India continues to be over-regulated. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has notified new rules for any college that desires to be a university under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations-2010.
Bear with me as I explain some of the rules. Among other things, if these are implemented, then it would mean that a trust (or society) that sets up a college will have pretty much no control over itonce it is declared as a deemed-to-be university. The university would be run by a board of management, which will have all power. Half of that board would be employees of the university: including the Vice Chancellor, two Deans, two Professors, Registrar, and Pro Vice Chancellor (if there is one). The sponsoring society can have only one nominee. The Centre will also have an Academician. He or she will be one among the three eminent academicians who may be nominated by the Chancellor to the board.
The second aspect of the rule is that there will be no one from the industry on the board (unless the sponsoring society nominates one). There shall be no alumni on the board, (a rule that is incidentally against the current best practices for good governance of universities across the world). Board members, other than the Registrar and the societys nominee, must be academicians. Under the new rules, promoters will not enjoy a freehand in appointing the Vice Chancellor. There will be a selection committee comprising a nominee of the Chancellor, the Government and the Board (remember that the board is not controlled by the promoters), that will select the Vice Chancellor. Lest the promoters try to control the board by appointing dummy Deans and Professors, who are then nominated onto the board, the rules clarify that Deans and Professors will be members of the Board by rotation. The Chancellors post itself cannot be occupied by the president of the society or relatives. It is expected that the society will nominate someone who is a distinguished public figure. Though well-meaning, I see far too many problems with this model.
First of all, is it fair to ask promoters to relinquish control of a university that they have created with a lot of care? Would it be fair to ask the Birla family to have nothing to do with BITS, or the Thapar family to wash their hands off Thapar Universityincidentally, two of the best Indian institutions?
Second point: is it fair to assume that a Board, consisting of exclusively academics, will have sufficient experience to manage a university? Again, when world-class universities are contemplating about appointing their alumni and industry people on board, India is moving in a completely different direction.
Also, rules state that a Vice Chancellor (VC) has to be the boards Chairman. Question arises: who then evaluate the VC? Having an executive head, whose performance cannot be evaluated, is not good governance. Fourth, if the Centre believes that this is indeed the best model, why is it not bringing this model of governance for universities that it has promoted? Over the past decade, there have been numerous demands for more autonomy by IITs and IIMs. Such demands have been rejected by the Centreit has specified that as a promoter, it must have control over these institutions. If the Centre feels that IITs and IIMs cannot be given autonomy simply because it has funded these institutions so far, why does the same logic not apply to privately-funded universities?