Governor lashes out at higher education policy

Khan says universities are packed with political nominees and non-academics

December 10, 2021 08:09 pm | Updated 08:35 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

In a sign of growing discontent towards the government’s policies in the higher education sector, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has formally conveyed his annoyance on various issues, including the appointment of vice chancellors of Kannur University and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit.

In a rather caustic letter shot off to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on December 8, which has been accessed by The Hindu , Mr. Khan, who is also the Chancellor of State universities, took a sarcastic swipe as he “advised” him to assume the position of the Chancellor by amending university Acts to “carry out your political objectives without any dependence on the Governor.”

In a similar vein, he has “promised” to sign an ordinance to transfer the powers of the Chancellor to the Chief Minister since it has become “impossible to protect the universities from the baneful continuous political interference and erosion of their autonomy.”

Expressing dismay at the goings-on in the sector during the last two-and-a-half years, Mr. Khan claimed to have been pressurised to execute steps that violated the prescribed rules and procedures. He also lamented universities were “packed with political nominees” and “non-academics have been taking academic decisions.”

Asserting the reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as Vice Chancellor of Kannur University was “against his better judgement,” the Governor said he had been advised by the government to take a decision that was not consistent with the rules and contrary to law. He had apparently signed the order to avoid a controversy and steer clear of the dispute with the government.

Referring to the appointment process of the Vice Chancellor of the Sanskrit university, he alleged violation of the UGC guidelines with the selection committee headed by the Vice Chairman of the State Planning Board recommending only a single name for the position, despite the norms mandating a panel of three names. This was despite the Advocate General’s opinion that the UGC regulations shall prevail over the provisions of the Act of any State University, the letter said.

He also found fault with the government’s decision to pass an amendment to the University Act, which has not only taken away the power of the Chancellor to appointment the University Appellate Tribunal, but has also done away with the requirement to consult the High Court in the matter. “How can you dispense with the consultation with the High Court in a matter of appointment of a tribunal which will exercise judicial authority,” he asked, while adding the government will have absolute power to appoint tribunals if the amendment became law.

Questioning the government’s commitment towards higher education, the Governor cited the non-payment of salary of the Vice Chancellor of the Sree Narayana Guru Open University as an example of its lackadaisical stance. Besides, the government gave clearance for faculty appointment over a year after the university came into existence. It risked the possibility of being unable to launch its academic programmes even in its second year, Mr. Khan said.

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