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Stop official interference

University community should agitate to eliminate provisions for representation of government officials, MPs and MLAs in governing bodies. Public should agitate against vacancy of VCs.

Stop official interference

Today, Universities have to deal with a set of complex issues relating to admissions, appointments, curriculum and financing, besides its public image. 

The key objectives of an institution of learning are to disseminate, create and preserve knowledge by teaching and research.  Add to this promotion of the spirit of intellectual inquiry and continued pursuit of excellence and you would end up making a powerful influence on society.  The primary goal is to encourage individuality and diversity within a climate of tolerance and mutual understanding. The temple of learning is meant to extend the benefits of knowledge and skills for the development of individuals and society by associating itself with local problems of development. 

Changing nature of university

Some of the rapid changes in recent decades have significant implications for governance. The changes are reflected in increasing numbers, changing curricula, growing student strength, higher expectations on faculty competence, 

newer fields of study for graduation, compulsions of research performance by students and faculty, etc. These tectonic shifts require new forms of relationship between the university and the state, in the case of publicly funded institutions and between the university and the trust in the event of private players.

For universities to perform these functions efficiently, the government and other agencies should refrain from intervening in the internal governance. Conserving the autonomy of the institutions is essential to protect academic freedom, the advance of knowledge and the pursuit of truth.

The responsibility for governance rests on the university's  board. The board should lay down the path of governance, respect the culture of decision-making, approve a budget and establish guidelines for resource allocation. It should ensure open communication with campus constituencies, ensure accountability and transparency, and exemplify the behaviour it expects of other participants in the governance process. Boards of universities should play a significant role in relating their institutions to the communities they serve. They should also have the final responsibility to appoint and assess the performance of the head of the organisation. 

Notwithstanding who funds it, it is necessary to ensure the full autonomy of the university by arm's length relationship between the governing body and the funding agency. The involvement of all the stakeholders in the governing body such as the faculty, students, public, donors, the state, alumni, etc., is necessary to ensure the credibility of the policies proposed by the governing body. 

The governing body should not micromanage the institution. It should restrict itself to laying down broad policy guidelines and performance targets and leave it to the head of the establishment to fulfill the mandate. It must carry out periodic external peer review of the institution by eminent educationists, researchers and administrators, and keep to minimum government officials and representatives of the sponsoring body.

 

Current pattern of governance

The two major governing bodies of older universities are the Senate and the Syndicate. The Senate is unwieldy with a  strength of two hundred plus. Although it has the ultimate power on all matters concerning the university and is chaired by the chancellor, its decisions lead to chaotic situations. All newer universities have avoided the Senate. 

Nowadays Syndicates (or Board of Management) manage universities. In the case of state and Central bodies and most deemed universities, the vice-chancellors chair the Syndicate.  The unwieldy size of some governing bodies (35 members) is a matter of concern. Ideally, it should not exceed ten members for effective decision-making. 

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