In the face of increasing protests by villagers against the proposed IIT-Goa campus at Melaulim village in North Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Friday announced the relocation of the project elsewhere in the coastal state.
Sawant, however, said that the new location had not been identified yet.
"This government listens to the voice of the people. Therefore, our government has decided to shift the project from Sattari to another location in Goa. We will inform the IIT officials today," Sawant told the media at his official residence here. Melaulim is located in the Sattari sub-district.
Sawant maintained that both he and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, in whose Assembly constituency the proposed IIT campus was located, had no vested interests in promoting the project at Melaulim.
Ever since an Indian Institute of Technology was allotted to Goa by the central government in 2014, it was functioning from a temporary campus shared by the Goa Engineering College in Farmagudi village in South Goa.
The two sites previously identified by the state in Canacona and Sanguem sub- districts for the permanent IIT campus were dropped in the face of protests from area residents and after pressure from the opposition, which had alleged a land scam in shortlisting of sites for the institute.
Sawant's announcement comes after the protests turned violent last week, following which cases were registered against more than 100 protestors. Several of them were booked under non-bailable Sections of law, including attempt to murder.
Sawant denied allegations by villagers that police had committed atrocities on the protesters, specifically denying the contents of a viral video which showed an Inspector trampling upon protesting women.
"No one was trampled upon. I have seen the video closely. The video was wrongly interpreted. In fact, a woman Constable was attacked with a sharp weapon. She had to be administered 21 stitches. Other policemen were injured too," the Chief Minister said.
India is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally, yet academicians are still on the fringes when it comes to entrepreneurship in the country. The gaps in academic entrepreneurship are evident in the number of data scientists, engineers and other skilled professionals who continue to seek employment opportunities - even when the job market is down - and hesitate to dream of becoming entrepreneurs, says Esha Tiwary, India head, Entrepreneur First.
In a bid to facilitate academicians to turn to entrepreneurship and be successful at it, London-based talent investor firm Entrepreneur First has launched a nation-wide programme 'Ideathon - Open Innovation' to hunt, nurture and facilitate academicians.
Driving the though is the idea that while traditionally the Indian market allowed and facilitated the entry of entrepreneurs, it was largely restricted to a family run business or those with decades of corporate experience in the industry. Things are fast changing, premier institutes in India like IIT, IIM, BITS and NIT among others are waking up to the idea of academic entrepreneurs.
According to Tiwary's chat with IANSlife, the idea is that one does not need to have years of corporate experience to build disruptive businesses. More excerpts:
Where do you think lie the gaps in academic entrepreneurship in India? What are some of those key gaps?
A.Tiwary: India is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally, yet academicians are still on the fringes when it comes to entrepreneurship in the country. The gaps in academic entrepreneurship are evident in the number of data scientists, engineers and other skilled professionals who continue to seek employment opportunities - even when the job market is down - and hesitate to dream of becoming entrepreneurs!
Traditionally, there are have been pre-defined pathways, such as family-run businesses or small-scale business establishments, for Indians to get into entrepreneurship. However, tech start-ups have opened up new opportunities and levelled the playing field for anybody with a great idea to set up a business.
Those in the academia, though, are yet to realize the potential of turning their research or discoveries into real world businesses that can have a deeper and greater societal impact. In today's time, you don't need to have a long corporate experience to become an entrepreneur, as long as you have an impactful idea and zeal to convert it into a purposeful enterprise, anyone from anywhere can build a great tech business. For this to happen, India needs to encourage and invest in market-led innovations, powered by new-age technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) etc. Getting the academicians on board can make this a rewarding experience, both for the individuals as well as the ecosystem.
Another key gap that needs to be addressed is the gender inequality in entrepreneurship in India. In 2015, only 14 per cent of the patent applications listed women as inventors. Academic entrepreneurship offers a level playing field for female researchers, who account for about 40 per cent of the academic talent pool globally.
All things considered, there's immense opportunity for India to harness the power of academic entrepreneurship to transform the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country and ride the growth wave.
Is academic entrepreneurship funded enough? If not, why do you think that is the case?
A.Tiwary: Academic entrepreneurship is considered a niche subject and not everybody understands the opportunities it presents. At Entrepreneur First, we have a global perspective as we help build start-ups in diverse markets, such as London, Singapore, Berlin, Paris and Toronto in addition to India.
Our experience over the last decade shows that funding is only one part of a startup's success story. The key is to build on the business idea and find the right people to make it a reality. As a technology talent investor, our role is to bring together highly skilled individuals with different areas of expertise to solve specific problems and eventually, create dynamic and innovative companies that otherwise may not have existed! EF acts as the bridge between business and technical experts e thus bringing together the right set of founders to build high potential startups.
COVID-19 has forced a new reality in the teaching and learning space. Your thoughts.
A.Tiwary: Yes, COVID-19 has upended our lives and forced us to recalibrate our strategies and expectations. It has been, particularly, tough for the educational institutes, given the prolonged uncertainty of the pandemic situation. However, online classes could open up new possibilities for the future, with e-learning becoming more mainstream. The new macroeconomic situation has also led to the opening up of new possibilities e for example, the boom in online education has now exposed the need to better track learning ability and retention online, and also improve engagement of online teaching. All these are areas ripe for disruption by new technological businesses.
In the long-term, we need to look at ways to tap into the emerging entrepreneurial potential of India. Educational institutes must be equipped to nurture young talent into ambitious entrepreneurs and to expose students to the potential of entrepreneurship from an early age. Currently, India is home to 38,756 officially-recognised start-ups, including 27 unicorns. It's high time that we update our conventional understanding of entrepreneurship so that we can create new, exciting career pathways for Indian talent.
How does Ideathon aim to identify and enhance innovation in academia?
A.Tiwary: With the EF IDEATHON, we are working towards building an ecosystem of budding entrepreneurs who have taken the challenge to move beyond the conventional ways of doing business. It is a unique platform to encourage entrepreneurial thinking of budding entrepreneurs. While the programme is open for all talented individuals across sectors e academicians form a large part of our target group.
The event will provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a platform to showcase their talent and provide innovative, impactful and practical solutions to problems in any industry - with a clear plan that leverages tech to create 10x solutions.
Applicants need to submit a problem statement, solution, market potential and founder market fit. The shortlisted teams/individuals will be asked to present their submissions to the judges. Apart from a revolutionary idea, participants will need to present wireframe models/mock-ups, websites, working proof of concept (POC), demo videos or any other form of detailed project presentation.
The winners would be announced in December 2020 and there is a total prize of Rs 1.8 lakh up for grabs, along with a fast track application process for Entrepreneur First's next cohort.
Anyone with a technical degree e Btech/MTech/ PhD and equivalent.
Preferably, between one to six years of work experience, along with stellar academic and professional background. Graduates from any Indian or foreign university, but must currently be working in India. You can apply individually or together with a team member. A maximum of two participants are allowed in a team. One can register and submit concept note by December 7.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at email@example.com)
Teachers prefer in-class teaching over online classes as an effective method to teach students, according to a survey.
Conducted digitally by Sampark Foundation, the survey included teachers in rural government schools across six states and aimed at better understanding the needs of government school teachers who are using remote learning tools to teach students during the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey covered over 4,000 teachers from government schools in sub-urban and rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The key highlights of the findings are:
- 68 per cent requested videos on the curriculum that can be easily shared with children
- 60 per cent responded with the need for reading material and notes to be designed specifically for each class
- 51 per cent marked 'social platform' as a vital feature in learning apps to connect with other teachers and exchange ideas
- 46 per cent responded with 'question bank' as a key feature to prepare tests/worksheets
- 39 per cent are in favour of sending online assessments to students
- 31 per cent emphasised the need for a performance tracking dashboard, built in the learning app to monitor each student in a careful manner
- 68 per cent teachers voted for in-classroom teaching as an effective education method for children studying in primary government schools in rural areas
- 46 per cent respondents were in favour of live online classes via WhatsApp, video call or any other app
- 21 per cent were keen to record their own lectures and share with students via mobile phone
The survey also highlighted that majority of teachers have access to broadcasting medium such as television (50 per cent) followed with other infrastructure such as smartphones (40 per cent), feature phones (32 per cent) and radio (24 per cent).
44 per cent teachers emphasised the need for textbooks and notes to be handed over directly to students for effective learning. The survey also reported that 33 per cent teachers leverage videos shared on YouTube, Baithak, Diksha and other apps, to teach students. Teachers also agreed that broadcasting educational programs on television or radio might be an effective education method, provided the content is simple, interesting and impactful for students. Over 28 per cent teachers also stressed upon the importance of weekly visits to children's homes and teaching in a group of 3-5 students in one session.
The survey found that children in government schools in rural areas find directly calling teachers over phone, an effective medium to solve doubts and queries, which in turn improves learning outcomes. However, 59 per cent respondents also considered students discussing their queries and doubts with elder siblings, relatives, other educated people in their neighborhood.
Close to 60 per cent of the teachers surveyed, are in favour of live video classes conducted by them on WhatsApp and over 40 per cent prefer to resolving student's queries once a week in person. The survey also highlighted peer-to-peer doubt resolution on a digital discussion forum, as an effective medium to solve student queries.
Addressing impactful methods of learning assessment, 54 per cent teachers voted for online quiz while 52 per cent were in favour of questions asked during live online classes. 48 per cent found printed assessments as effective means of learning assessment and 25 per cent requested for an assessment app or an online platform for students.
The Maharashtra government is planning to hold the current Academic Year (AY 2020-2021) HSC and SSC Board examinations in mid-April and early May, Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad said here on Monday.
"We are considering holding HSC exams after April 15 and SSC exams after May 1," Gaikwad tweeted late on Sunday.
The Minister added that the government is consulting the health officials on the possibility of reopening schools for classes 5 to 8, and decision would soon be taken on this.
Normally, the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) conducts the crucial HSC exams in February followed by SSC in March.
This year, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, the state schools are shut since the past 10 months and students have been attending online classes.
While endorsing the Minister's announcement, the Mumbai Principals Association (MPA) has said that the exams should be pushed back even more since students will not get sufficient time to prepare for these critical exams.
"The online classes are just okay and not very efficient. There is no decision on reopening the schools for regular classes so far. January-Febebruary 2021 may be a washout.
"That leaves only March-April for the students to prepare for the exams, which is not sufficient," MPA Secretary, Principal Prashant Redij told IANS.
Moreover, many people from urban areas are still stuck in their native villages, and there could be further delays hampering their efforts to prepare for exams.
Redij expressed concerns that given the feedback received on the online education, "there could be a drop in academic standards, students' performance and the overall Board results this year".
According to MPA's estimates there are a little more than 150,000 schools in the state attended by over 10 million students who are taught by around one million teachers in the public and private sector.
Parents and students also apprehend that they stand to lose a second consecutive year of the much-awaited annual summer vacations, and they would be compelled to cancel their holiday plans even this year.
Apart from the fiscal expectations from Budget-2021, the educationists want more autonomy in developing regulations, norms and standards for schools
The stakeholders of school education are anxiously waiting to see what the Union Budget of 2021 has in store for the stratum. Since we have got a new National Education Policy in July 2020 (NEP 2020), it is expected that funds will be allocated for the establishment of a statutory body by the name of School Education Commission (SEC) for streamlining the schooling sector, and that there will be rational disbursement of the budget pie. The NEP may not be able to bring about any positive difference in the absence of a professional body for running schools across the nation. It is expected that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will consult educationists from the higher and school education fields separately and then reach a decision rationally.
There are nearly 33 crore children in schools and approximately 8 crore students engaged in higher education in India. The school education consists of 12 years of education whereas higher education consists of three years of undergraduate and two years of master’s programme. Besides, a few select students opt for the research degree programme. Higher education, thus, consists of at least three to five years of studies. Once the recommendations of the NEP 2020 are implemented, the total period of schooling — after the three years of pre-school are added — will consist of 15 years and the duration of higher education will shrink to just four years.
Similarly, there are nearly 1 crore teachers engaged in schools and, after the three years of pre-schooling are added, nearly 18 lakh new teachers will be added to the total number of existing teachers. The number of teachers in higher education, however, is much less. To decide the norms and standards of higher education in the country, we have a University Grants Commission (UGC) but we rarely realise that there is no such organisation which decides the norms and standards for education in schools. To put it simply, school education is for the masses whereas higher education is largely for the elite.
The Schooling Network
We have been examining the various education boards for assessing and certifying learners for the secondary and senior secondary levels. The Central Government has two boards — the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for general students and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) for non-formal learners. Most States in India have their own examination board for assessing and certifying learners in their State. The mandate of the boards is to conduct examinations and certify the students taking the tests. These boards are not academic bodies which have the domain knowledge to design and develop curriculum or textbooks. The CBSE also assesses learners for admission to technical institutes. Some State examination boards as well as private institutes conduct entrance tests for admission to technical colleges of their respective States.
It is apparent that these boards are established to conduct examinations but they are not organisations with the academic domain knowledge which can help them decide about the academic content and the norms of these examinations. To decide on the content and pedagogy, we have the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) which is an “autonomous” but subordinate body of the Ministry of Education (MOE). The NCERT works under the direct supervision of the Education Ministry. Since it may not be prudent to comment on the functioning of the NCERT, suffice it to say that we have not been able to produce children who feel proud of our country and wish to serve this great nation.
According to a recent report, most board topping students are settled abroad. The first desire and dream of every school pass out, it seems, is to migrate to a developed country. The design of curriculum and the curriculum framework, one of the major responsibilities of the NCERT, is definitely under question. Similarly, the research on schooling, another major responsibility of the NCERT, is questionable.
None of these organisations is a “statutory” body, so the norms designed by these are not mandatory for enforcement by the rule of law. We need a statutory body (created by an Act of Parliament) to decide on the regulations related to schools.
The Government School Network
It may not be incorrect to say that overall, the Government schools have not performed well, with the exception of the Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs). From time to time, a few Government schools in some States show promise but, with the passage of time, they again plunge into mediocrity as the administrator is transferred out. The first choice of most parents invariably is a private school for the education of their children.
The Governments make their own norms and implement them through their own schools but they have failed to compete with the private schools. The expenditure per child in an average Government school is much higher than per child studying in private schools; however, the learning outcome is quite the opposite.
In other words, the Government has not provided a level playing field for all schools. There should be an external agency which should decide on the norms and standards and force the Government as well as private school managements to adhere to the regulations. The system of the Government being both the regulator and the player has resulted in the failure of the public school system. The countries with the best performing schools — like Finland, Sweden and Norway — have least Government control. The school regulators in the best performing countries are completely autonomous.
The Budget allocated for education is bifurcated into two parts: One for higher education, which goes to the UGC for disbursement to universities and institutes of higher education; and the Budget allocated for school education is disbursed by the Ministries of Central and State Governments.
We are all aware that a major reason behind establishing the UGC was rational disbursement of the “grants”. If the disbursement of grants needs rationalisation in higher education, then why is it not the case in school education? Some States have raised the issue of disbursement of funds for school education, which is done through the Programme Implementation Committee (PIC) of the Ministry of Education, Government of India, and called it “arbitrary and politically motivated”. We have often brushed this demand under the carpet but we need to seriously think about it if we need good education to reach down to the last child.
Prayer to Finance Minister
It is not suggested that the Government’s control should be completely withdrawn but there must be autonomy in developing regulations, norms and standards, which can be enforced upon the Government and private schools alike.
In a recent judgment, the Allahabad High Court (Writ — Case No. — 19287 of 2020) has pronounced a verdict against the decision of the CBSE not to permit change in name, saying: “…the Rules as framed by the CBSE do not have any statutory flavour and cannot be considered to be the ‘law’ as required for placing reasonable restrictions on the rights enshrined under Article (19)(1)(a), in terms of Article (19)(2) of the Constitution of India.”
Therefore, autonomy from the Government’s interference is required but, at the same time, there should be regulations in place which give freedom to the teachers and principals of private schools to work in an “exploitation-free” environment. The teachers and principals in a large number of privately managed schools (and some Government schools as well) work under severe exploitative conditions. This will end only if there is a statutory body to regulate the schooling system. This may not suit the political party in power but this is urgently and desperately required to build a strong nation. It is expected that the Union Finance Minister will consider allocating a separate Budget for the establishment of the School Education Commission in the upcoming budget and mark a landmark change towards formulating a Bharat-centric education.
(The author teaches at the School of Education, IGNOU. The views expressed are personal.)
According to UNESCO, in 2020, one billion students, two-thirds of the global student population, faced either school closures or uncertainty. The most vulnerable populations, particularly girls, remained especially at risk. 2020 brought remote, virtual learning to the horizon at a pace and scale never before. Is this to be carried forward into 2021?
As per Antonius Raghubansie, Director of Learning Services, British Council India. the year 2020 saw people turning to online resources to pursue their love for reading in the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, this was fuelled by the need for safety and reduced access to physical libraries and stores.
"The British Council online library content witnessed a 67 per cent increase in subscription over the last year (as of November '20). We are also seeing users above the age of 18 show increased preference for audiobooks - evident through a 192 per cent increase in checkouts over 2019 for our online library members. E-resources available through online library memberships gained popularity, especially among young readers, owing to the convenience of accessing them safely from personal devices at home. We foresee this trend continuing in 2021, as readers including families, professionals and young kids, would continue to prefer online resources for infotainment. In view of the current situation, we anticipate both E-books and audiobooks to continue gaining favor among learners in a digital-first world," Raghubansie told IANSlife.
"One thing that will remain in 2021 is blended pedagogy. We have seen the flexibility that the online mode has provided and there is no denying of its advantages. Entire industries have shifted to the virtual platform and the education sector will also have to continue in a blended format. Institutes must develop their digital infrastructures to match up in this post digital era. Meetings, seminars and such activities will remain online. However, in terms some experientials, campuses will have to be opened up for these activities, but a blended pedagogy is here to stay. This will also have a long-term impact, especially on valuable programs. The institutions that adopt the new method, new mode and new model will flourish while the others may perish. The quality of educational institutions will get enhanced and the number of students enrolled will only increase in the digital mode," said Prof. Mahadeo Jaiswal, Director of IIM Sambalpur.
"COVID-19 has taught our teachers and the education sector to use technology to seamlessly impart education to all students. This trend will continue in the coming year and more smart campuses and digital libraries will be implemented to cater to the new-age learner. This digitization of the education sector will have a long-term impact, democratizing education globally. We will also continue to see a hybrid learning model, which will pave the way for the future of education with access to both classroom teaching and online education, catering to each student's unique needs while giving them the best of both worlds," said Rahul V Karad, the Visionary Educationist, and the Managing Trustee & Executive President, MAEER's MIT Group of Institutions & Executive President, MIT World Peace University (MIT-WPU), Pune.
To help Indian parents solve certain homework problems in the remote learning times, Google on Thursday said that users in the country can now use Lens to click a photo of a maths problem and learn how to solve it on their own in Hindi or English.
Google Lens is an image recognition technology developed by Google, designed to bring up relevant information related to objects it identifies using visual analysis based on a neural network.
"Now, right from the Search bar in the Google app, you can use Lens to snap a photo of a math problem and learn how to solve it on your own, in Hindi (or English)," Google announced during its 'L10n' virtual event.
To do this, Lens first turns an image of a homework question into a query.
Based on the query, Google Search will show step-by-step guides and videos to help explain the problem.
More people are using Google Lens in India every month than in any other country worldwide.
"As an example of its popularity, over 3 billion words have been translated in India with Lens in 2020," Google informed, adding that Lens is particularly helpful for students wanting to learn about the world.
IPU Admissions 2020: As per the latest update, the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (IPU) has formally begun the online registration process for spot counselling round for admission to various undergraduate courses offered by it. Students seeking admission to IP University can register online by logging onto ipu.admissions.nic.in. To make the process of registering for IPU Admissions 2020 counselling process, a direct link to the official portal has been placed below. Using this link, candidates can register for spot counselling round of the IPU Admission 2020 conveniently.
Click on the direct link: https://ipu.admissions.nic.in/IpuAdmiss/page/Page?PageId=1&LangId=P
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal has asked the National Testing Agency to prepare a fresh syllabus for the competitive examinations including JEE Main and NEET conducted for the admissions to the Engineering and Medical Courses in the country. According to reports, the National Testing Agency will assess the situation across the different states and central school education boards before finalizing the syllabus. The ministry will also be launching a campaign seeking views from stakeholders on the schedule for conducting the board examinations next year.
The Central Board of Secondary Education along with the different state boards have decided to reduce the syllabus by 30 percent for the class 10 and 12 board examinations due to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Education Ministry has stated that the NTA will come out with a new syllabus for the competitive exams after conducting an assessment on the scenario in the different boards at present. The ministry will also launch a campaign to seek opinions from the parents and teachers on conducting the board exams next year.
JEE Main NEET Exams
The National Testing Agency has earlier stated that the first session on JEE Main 2021 exams is expected to be conducted in February 2021 instead of the usual January 2021. The application process for the same is expected to commence from next month onwards, however, the exam dates for the NEET 2021 examinations are yet awaited as the exams are usually conducted in May. The exams this year were delayed due to the pandemic.
DU PG 2nd Merit List 2020 Released: As per the latest update, the University of Delhi has formally released the 2nd Merit List 2020 for Delhi University PG Admissions 2020. According to information available right now, the DU PG Merit List 2020 for 2nd Round has been released in the form of PDF files available on the official website. Candidates who had registered and were seeking admission to postgraduate level programmes offered by the university can now check their selection status by logging onto portal du.ac.in. Alternatively, candidates can also check their selection status via DU PG 2nd Merit List 2020 easily via the direct link given below:
The liberty of the Vice-Chancellor of a university is not a shield against malpractices. In a democratic set-up, all individuals, no matter how high an office they hold, are accountable
Disciplinary action against over a dozen Vice- Chancellors (V-Cs) of Central Universities (CUs) over the last few years has been a cause of consternation. However, the polarised politics of universities views this from diametrically opposite prisms. While a larger segment hails it as much-needed spring cleaning, some consider it a pernicious design to whittle down institutional autonomy and academic freedom. The overall spectacle is worrisome and needs to be seen in the correct perspective, albeit in a detached manner.
The office of the V-C is an exalted one, and the academia views him as a friend, philosopher, guide and the high priest of the temple of higher learning. The constituting Act and the statutes, Ordinances and regulations of every university vest the V-C with certain powers and autonomy so that s/he executes her/his office efficiently and faithfully. The autonomy of the V-C is not a shield against accountability. In a democratic set-up, all individuals, no matter how high an office they hold, are accountable. In fact, higher the station, greater is the public scrutiny.
The Constitution of India guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of the laws. It is unsparingly unexceptional as the President of India, too, can be impeached by the Parliament for violation of the Constitution. All public functionaries and public bodies are ultimately accountable to the legislature through the Minister-in-Charge.
The Indian higher education system, which is the second-largest in the world, comprises 54 Central Universities, 411 State Universities, 123 deemed universities and 282 private universities. The V-C is the chief executive and the administrative head of the university. A great responsibility, therefore, lies with the V-Cs in terms of the implementation of the national higher education policy, institutional reforms, nurturing the spirit of enquiry and research, building an ecosystem of innovation and adoption of international best practices of good governance.
According to the University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) handbook, “the V-C has to evolve as the leader of a symphony orchestra” with the attributes of developing teams and teamwork. S/he also has to build partnerships and collaborations delicately interwoven with collegiality, friendship and intellectual engagement. This goes hand in hand with devising a deliverable action strategy, ensuring accountability of the self and various governing bodies of the university and steering an institutional monitoring and evaluation mechanism on the university’s performance, built on transparency. An ideal V-C is a great visionary, a true leader able to procure willing cooperation of the teachers, a constant source of inspiration to the students, an ace administrator who is able to maintain a conducive educational ecosystem, and is well-acquainted with the latest developments so as to bring global visibility to the university.
Plus, s/he must have the highest level of competence and her/his integrity must be beyond reproach. Like Caesar’s wife, the V-C must be above suspicion. S/he must execute her/his office faithfully and diligently and ensure that the provisions of the constituting Act, statutes, ordinances and regulations are fully observed. S/he must make various appointments as per procedure, delegate powers for day-to-day work to the officers of the university and audit their performance and exercise all administrative, disciplinary and financial powers as defined in the statutes and ordinances.
In fact, the catalogue of duties of the V-C is vast and varied, which adds a certain aura of reverential mystique to the office. S/he represents the vibrant face of the university, engages in constructive stable policy dialogue with the Government, other universities, research funders and academia. It’s for these reasons that the V-Cs are selected by the Visitor (the President in case of Central varsities and the Governor in case of State Universities) from the panel recommended by the search committee. This committee comprises three to five members who are persons of eminence in the sphere of higher education and the choice of the V-C is based on rigorous screening of the academic attainments and administrative experience of the people on the panel.
Interestingly, the V-Cs, who faced the axe, were appointees of the same Government. A critical scrutiny of the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the V-Cs broadly falls into four categories: Allegations of financial irregularity; allegations of dereliction of duty and defiance; wrongful appropriation of funds and academic fraud.
The Visitor does not initiate disciplinary proceedings against a V-C suo motu, but on the aid and advice of the Ministry of Education or the concerned administrative Ministry. This is because Central universities relating to maritime, agriculture, aviation, sports education, and so on, fall outside the domain of the Education Ministry. The trigger point for initiating disciplinary action is provided by the media, complaints by legislators, students and teachers and in some cases, the Chancellors themselves have demanded enquiries against the V-Cs. So, the Visitor is duty-bound to refer the complaints to the administrative Ministry for ascertaining facts and considered advice with respect to the corrective action required to be taken.
Some glaring examples of acts of omission and commission deserve mention. President Pranab Mukherjee approved the sacking of the V-C of Visva Bharati university, Sushanta Duttagupta, for alleged irregularities in appointments and flagrant violation of financial rules. The V-C of Pondicherry University, Chandra Krishnamurthy, was removed for alleged academic fraud (that is claiming to have written three books though an enquiry allegedly revealed authorship of only one). The V-C of Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Arvind Agrawal, allegedly resigned when governments sought his comments on the allegations of fudging vital information in his C-V.
Similarly, amid a spate of questions in Parliament and public complaints about financial and academic irregularities, the V-C of Allahabad University, RL Hangloo, allegedly resigned before the Union Government could initiate punitive proceedings. The V-Cs of HN Bahuguna Garhwal University, JL Kaul, and Manipur University, AP Pandey, were sacked for alleged financial irregularities and long absence from duty. The V-C of Tripura University, V Dharurkar, resigned when a sting operation showed him receiving alleged bribe.
In cases where the V-Cs appropriated funds for purposes other than the approved budget heads, the enquiries were closed as there was no personal pecuniary gain or enrichment. The cases of Dinesh Singh, V-C, Delhi University and Talat Ahmad of Jamia Millia Islamia fall in this category, both of whom were known for their competence and integrity. The V-C of Jamia Hamdard, Seyed Ehtesham Hasnain, a deemed to be university (self-financed but partly funded by the UGC), has been suspended by the Chancellor following the decision of the UGC to set up a fact-finding committee to probe allegations.
The Centre has no say in the appointment or removal of the V-C of a deemed university. In a recent case, the Tamil Nadu Government ordered an inquiry against Anna University V-C, MK Surappa, following complaints of alleged financial irregularities and malpractices in semester examinations and re-evaluation, even though the DMK has demanded his sacking.
The burning question is whether stringent disciplinary action against the V-Cs impinges upon the autonomy and academic freedom of the universities, which are emulated as role models and occupy a place of pride in the academia globally? Will these penal actions impact, dilute or undermine the autonomy and freedom of the institutions of higher learning? Autonomy and academic freedom are crucial to the well-being and smooth functioning of universities and key to attaining excellence in a globally-competitive environment.
The National Education Policy, 2020, lays great focus on the autonomy of institutions of higher learning, making every college in course of time an autonomous, degree-granting college and making India a global hub of education. It is, therefore, the right time to ponder and look to the future as autonomy is not a goal to be pursued in itself, but a fundamental pre-requisite for universities to be able to develop strategic profiles, operate in a competitive environment, deliver on their very important societal duties in an ecosystem of transparency and accountability.
The veneer of autonomy cannot conceal or camouflage acts of omission and commission. A zero-tolerance approach towards corruption demands that the Government be swift and surgical to weed out corruption or unethical practices. The import of the oft quoted statements “minimum Government and maximum governance” and “light but tight regulations” is loud and clear.
(The writer is former Additional Secretary, Lok Sabha and an author)