Tami Nadu Planning Commission's Member (Education) has listed out some criteria that he hopes will help to identify a potential VC, while keeping political influence at bay.

Vice-chancellors, the visible symbols of the university system, were chosen not on academic qualifications but by considerations of political affiliation, caste and in many cases reportedly by paying huge sums of money during the rule of the previous DMK government.

Will the change of regime also change the way vice-chancellors are chosen? The process of appointing VCs in many universities is now on. The Madurai Kamaraj University is all set to get its vice-chancellor after nearly one year. The previous vice-chancellor left last April. The talk around the MKU campus is that one of the names shortlisted by the search committee has strong political connections to the ruling party.

While each university has an independent Act on appointment of a VC, academics say there are no specific guidelines in the absence of which the search committee, constituted for the purpose of choosing a VC, does not really search, but merely shortlists and selects from among the applications it receives.

Now, who has the powers to prevent the system from reaching the abyss?

In a note to Governor and Chancellor K. Rosaiah, E. Balagurusamy, Member (Education), Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission, has recommended certain criteria to be followed while appointing VCs.

He has listed out the criteria under three categories, namely, essential attributes, desirable attributes, and expected skills and competencies, and has also enumerated procedures to be followed by the search committee.

“My note enumerates the requirements that can be used as a framework or guidelines to identify a potential VC. If these are followed by the search committee, it will put an end to denigrating the post of a VC, which is happening now because of the lack of such guidelines. Since the search committee has no yardstick to follow, they succumb to influences while deciding on a candidate,” says Mr. Balagurusamy.

Basic criteria

A candidate with not only a Ph.D., but an outstanding academic record with a minimum of 15 years of experience in teaching and research, preferably having held posts of dean, director or principal of a university or reputed institution, should be an ideal choice for a VC. The essential attributes should also include participation in national and international seminars and conferences, publication of quality research papers/books, and candidates should have necessarily demonstrated academic leadership in higher education.

Desirable traits

Among the desirable attributes, Mr. Balagurusamy suggests that the candidate has the experience of guiding doctoral scholars, working in academic bodies, managing youth and women development activities, and is also involved in curriculum development, student assessment and counselling.

He has also added some attributes such as technical, managerial and leadership skills that the candidate should posses as expected skills and competencies. The candidate for VC should exhibit an openness towards technology, and be able to generate and manage funds effectively.

But the most important competence expected in the candidate is his ability to lead by personal example, one who followed high values and ethics in all actions and deeds, able to motivate and inspire a diverse group of stakeholders, and co-ordinate with government departments and statutory bodies at the State and national levels.

Selection procedure

Then, what are the procedures that an ideal search committee should follow? It should begin by identifying eligible candidates, receiving their applications along with a detailed chronological resume and a summary description justifying their suitability for the VC position.

The shortlisted candidates should be made to present before the committee their suitability and also a tentative plan of action for the university before the final list of three names is presented to the Governor. Mr. Balagurusamy told The Hindu that he has urged the Governor to bring out the guidelines in the form of Government Order to ensure uniformity in all future appointments.