Pondicherry University’s reputation takes a beating

For the Pondicherry Central University, the journey in recent years has been more about the downhill experience and less about scaling heights.

Barely weeks after the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) declaring Pondicherry University as among the 11 “non-performing” universities, has come another blow to its reputation with the release of the latest rankings by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).

In the latest rankings, the 32-year-old Pondicherry University which was ranked 13 in 2016 has plummeted to 37 among Universities — ranking 59 among all categories of institutions — with some academics fearing that on some counts the scores could possibly reflect a nadir in the institution’s over three-decade history.

The main parameter — Teaching, Learning and Resources score has significantly fallen from 70.64 in 2016 to a mere 44.07 in 2017, while another all-important parameter — Research and Professional Practices shows the score plunging from 79.93 in 2016 to a new low of 26.33.

The Graduation Outcomes score has come down from 97.60 of the previous year 2016 to 72.73 in 2017. And, in terms of the overall score out of 100, which astonishingly touched 74.44 even during the period of turbulence in 2016, the performance has steeply fallen to 42.70 in the latest rankings.

Equally worrisome is the downward trending on the perception scale. While the perception was at 80 in 2016 it has fallen down to a most dangerous level of 4.67.

Academicians say that while reasonable grace period is due for the institution to regain itself from the recent past of maladministration and nepotism, and then the ill repute following the sacking of its previous Vice-Chancellor by the President (who is the Visitor), the starting point of any process for rejuvenation should have been the reasonably quick appointment of a Vice Chancellor.

However, it has taken several months for the MHRD to initiate the search process and given the multi-level scrutiny the task entails, further delay is not unexpected.

It is learnt from reliable sources that the pick will now be from a pool of about 14 candidates who were short-listed from over 400 applicants.

“And, given the ignominy of having allowed a person with fraudulent academic claims to sit at the helm, this time the scrutiny can be expected to be much more intense,” a University official said.

Faculty members in various departments of Pondicherry Central University raised concerns over the absence of a permanent vice-chancellor and other administrative staff.

The University top post is not the only one that is being run by make-shift appointees for over a year together now (see table). At least a dozen statutory posts have not been filled with full-time appointees.

“This has considerably weakened the University administration’s ability to handle academic and administrative issues in an effective and efficient manner. There is also inordinate delay in the decision-making process on the academic and administrative fronts,” says a university official.

Corrupt administration

Faulty have also attributed the reasons for being listed as a non-performing university to the corrupt practices in the administration over the years. A faculty member said that though the criteria for listing Pondicherry Central University under the non-performing universities category is still unclear, corrupt practices over the years have disturbed the academic activities in the university.

“Former vice chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy was dismissed in 2016. Since then the administration is functioning without a permanent V-C. In the last year-and-a-half, the administration has spent close to ₹60 lakh on legal opinions alone,” said the faculty member.

Reservation rules flouted

Another faculty member underlined that there were issues of proper implementation of reservation as per Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act 2006 and Amendment Act 2012. “Besides, students belonging to reserved categories who appear in the general merit list are pushed to reserved category and there is a deliberate delay in allotting a supervisor,” the faculty added.

As per the UGC guidelines, every interview panel should have a member of SC or ST communities, and SC and ST students should be interviewed separately. However, none of the departments have followed this rule.

“The University had failed to handle several issues including the protest against the magazine, admission of students for PhD programme, promotion of teaching and non-teaching staff, clearance of long pending bills, failure to implement 25 per cent reservation to students belonging to the Union Territory of Puducherry and many more,” added the faculty.

When contacted, Registrar (in-charge) M.Ramachandran refused to comment and asked The Hindu to contact the University’s public relations officer.

Assistant Registrar (i/c), Public Relations Officer, M. Vallathan said that they have not received any official communication from theMHRD. “Only when a vice-chancellor is appointed, will the other posts be filled and the academic activities also be streamlined,” he added.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 7:26:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/pondicherry-universitys-reputation-takes-a-beating/article17819443.ece

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