We are disturbed by developments during the last couple of months in Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala. The university, under the vice-chancellorship of Prof. Rajan Gurukkal, a well-known historian, has been trying to set new standards in higher education in the State, by establishing academic relations with other universities in research and teaching, setting up inter-university centres of excellence, refashioning the curriculum and syllabi, and ensuring the collaboration of scholars of international repute. These initiatives appear to have adversely affected the interests of those who would like to maintain the status quo. They are now out in the open to remove the Vice-Chancellor and take back the university to a state of administrative tardiness and academic mediocrity. This is being attempted through a newly reconstituted Syndicate which seems to uphold political rather than academic interests.
The tendency to control universities by forcing out vice-chancellors and filling syndicates with political nominees every time a change in government occurs is harmful to the health of the institution. It impairs the autonomy of the university which is essential for any meaningful academic pursuit. Higher education is a field in which continuity is essential, without which the system would not be able to make any headway. The coercion of a Vice-Chancellor is no way to manage higher education.
During the tenure of Prof. Rajan Gurukkal, the University has attracted national and international attention. Some of us who had visited the university as a part of the Erudite programme had experienced an academic culture and scholarly ambience which are rather rare in Indian universities. Prof. Gurukkal's academic commitment and administrative skills have been largely responsible for it. It is therefore surprising that frivolous and unfounded allegations are being levelled against him. Convinced as we are about the academic achievements of the university under Prof. Gurukkal's leadership, we appeal to the Hon'ble Chancellor, H.E. the Governor of Kerala, to ensure its academic freedom and administrative autonomy.
Prof. C.N.R. Rao, Scientific Adviser, Government of India, Prof. Romila Thapar, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Ananthamurthi, former Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, Prof. K.N. Panikkar, former Vice-Chairman, Higher Education Council, Kerala.
Keywords: Mahatma Gandhi University