A university Vice-Chancellor is expected to be the embodiment of scholarship, wisdom and high academic stature once occupied by likes of Dr Radhakrishnan and Zakir Husain. Unfortunately, one cannot easily identify people of such outstanding calibre, in general, in the Indian universities. In the JNU fiasco, the role of the vice chancellor was questioned and his lead to a debate on the autonomy of the universities. The committee in its report had at length discussed the role, powers and reforms needed in the office of vice chancellor who is guardian of the universities.
The report states:
“A Vice Chancellor as the academic and administrative head of a university plays a definitive role in university depends very largely on the Vice Chancellor’s professional standing and administrative acumen. The present system of appointing Vice Chancellors has often been manipulated to such an extent that it no longer results in the appointment of competent persons as Vice Chancellors. A university Vice-Chancellor is expected to be the embodiment of scholarship, wisdom and high academic stature. In the past, this position had been occupied by persons of the eminence of Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Laxman Swami Muddaliar, Pandit Amarnath Jha, Dr. Zakir Husain, Dr. Amrik Singh, among others. Unfortunately, one cannot easily identify people of such outstanding calibre, in general, in the Indian universities.”
Raising serious questions, the selection procedure that is followed in the appointment of the vice-chancellors the report states, “The appointment of Vice-Chancellors is generally made on the basis of the recommendations of a search committee. The membership of the search committees, with representatives from the government and academia is ostensibly independent, but in actual practice it is usually not so. In most cases, the chairman is a government nominee and amenable to suggestions about the choice of selection. The other members are usually also selected from among those with a similar inclination. The Search Committees goes through the motions and process of selection, but their recommendations are unfortunately generally predetermined. The result is that, in fact, most vice chancellors are political appointees, and often quite willing to follow the official line in the management of the universities. Over a period of time, governments have come to effectively control universities by appointing people who are beholden to them as university officials".
The report adds that the vice chancellors should be appointed on the sole basis of merit, “Appointment of the Vice-Chancellor on the basis of academic merit will ensure that the VC has credibility in the eyes of the faculty and students. Several committees in the past have made recommendations for making the process of selection of VCs transparent and objective. It is high time that these are implemented in letter and spirit. The above is possible only if the process of appoint of VCs is depoliticised. This needs national consensus. Central and State Governments have to come together and agree on a common agenda for appointing persons of academic eminence only as VCs. Unless this is done, there is little hope of improving the education standard and management efficiency of improving the education standard and management efficiency of our universities," states the report.