A high-level panel appointed by the Kerala Higher Education Department has recommended appointing a separate Chancellor for each university in the state and insulating the academic institutions from controversies arising out of differences in interpretation of the federal character of India’s Constitution.
The seven-member panel headed by Shyam B Menon, former Vice Chancellor of Ambedkar University, New Delhi, has observed that the governing structures of Kerala’s universities have turned out to be academically counterproductive through uninformed, over-politicised, partisan, and external interference in their day-to-day functioning and recommended that the internal governance of the university should be sequestered from the administrative controls of the government.
“There must be a separate Chancellor for each university, elected by the Board of Regents from among themselves,” the panel said in its report submitted to the government.
The Higher Education Department constituted the panel in September last year in a bid to modernise the sector that has been deemed outdated in several respects.
It recommended that the Chief Minister of the state must be the Visitor of all public universities and as Visitor, he/she will have the responsibility of ensuring that the governance of the university is in congruence with the broad mission mandated to them through legislation.
Currently, the governor is the chancellor of the public universities in the state.
The panel said the Vice Chancellor should be a distinguished academic whose term should be enhanced to five years per term. A second term until he/she attains the age of 70 may be considered.
“The Vice-Chancellor should be appointed by the Board of Regents, from a list of three names stated in order of preference recommended by the Search-cum-Selection Committee,” it said.
The panel also recommended that the Pro Vice-Chancellor shall be selected by the Board of Regents from among a panel of three professors of the university drawn up by the Vice Chancellor.
It said the entire governing structure of the universities, both its academic and its administrative side, should be defined by five major principles including academic freedom at the cellular level, financial autonomy and governance from within.
The panel also suggested separation of the academic and administrative strands of governance.
Governing bodies should comprise members selected on the principle of seniority and professional standing and election from among specific constituencies, the panel further said.
The panel’s recommendation came months after a controversy erupted after Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who is also the chancellor of universities, alleged political interference in the functioning of the varsities in the southern state.
Expressing displeasure over political interference in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of the state’s universities, Khan had shot off a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in December last year urging him to amend the Acts of the universities to enable him to assume the position of the Chancellor.
In a strongly worded letter, Khan had said he was ready to sign immediately if the Chief Minister brings an ordinance to amend the Acts empowering the CM to become the Chancellor of universities.
Reacting to it, the Chief Minister then had said his government had no intention of taking over the position of Chancellor of universities in the state and Governor Khan should continue in that post.
Clarifying his government’s stand in the wake of the Governor’s claims of political interference in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors of the state’s universities, the CM had said neither the present nor the previous LDF administration have tried to illegally interfere in functioning of the varsities.