Affairs of state National

Saving varsities from politicians

Photo used for representative purpose only. File photo: : Mohammed Yousuf   | Photo Credit: Mohammed_Yousuf

The formation of Telangana State gives an opportunity to the stakeholders of the higher education system to have a fresh look at the past, present and future of the universities in the State. If the new State is to become a hub of quality education, making a new enactment is imperative as the old laws including the A.P. Universities Act (1991) suffer from certain inadequacies.

The A.P. Universities Act (1991), which governed higher education in the undivided State of A.P. for about two and half decades, is no more than a skeleton Act. It never addressed the maintenance of standards in higher education imparted through the State. Further, the vibrancy of academic atmosphere essential in a university, adherence to the almanac, regularisation of academic year, student discipline and accountability and more importantly the accountability and commitment of teachers are some of the most important issues that were kept in the executive domain under the previous Act.

The State government is now proposing to come out with a new Universities Act that might divest the Governor of his position as the Chancellor of the State universities and empower the State government to appoint the Chancellor for each university. In the unified State, the NTR University of Health Sciences enacted in 1986 and the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University established under an Act of 1985 initially had the Chief Minister of the State as the Chancellor of the respective universities and, in 1990, the Governor was made the Chancellor by an amendment. While the objectives of such a move cannot be faulted, it may have certain practical difficulties such as identifying the right persons to be the Chancellors, outlining their powers and functions without interfering with those of the Vice-Chancellors, and more importantly the possibility of the Chancellors becoming new power centres as there is the likelihood of politicians or those with political connections being rehabilitated as Chancellors. On the positive side one can look at the possibility of regular monitoring of the working of the concerned university, quick redress of the grievances of the teachers and students, and greater autonomy to the universities. The fact remains that having the Governor, who is a constitutional functionary and head of the State, as the Chancellor of the university would elevate the status of the university. A more proactive role played by the Governor may have a salutary effect. In spite of a provision in the A.P. Universities Act (1991) for appointment of a Rector who is placed between the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar, few universities did so. The NALSAR University Act of 1998 provides for appointment of the Chief Justice of the High Court as the Chancellor. This university contains a General Council, an Executive Council and an Academic Council apart from other bodies to administer the university through the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar. In conventional universities the Executive Council is the highest decision-making body. Thus there appears to be every justification for bringing a new Universities Act in the State of Telangana in order to bring uniformity in the academic administrative structures.

While enacting the new law, the government may consider incorporation of provisions relating to – i) Continuation of the Governor as the Chancellor with the final authority to appoint Vice-Chancellors vested with the State government; ii) appointment of Pro-Chancellors for every university; iii) mandatory appointment of the Rector in each university; iii) maintenance of standards in higher education imparted in the universities on a par with international standards; iv) uniform Statutes and Ordinances for all the State Universities; v) appointment of Estate officers by the State government for every university to protect the university properties and lands; vi) appointment of Special Officers (Law) by the State government to help the university pursue legal disputes effectively; vii) ensuring greater autonomy to the universities in internal administration and academic planning and execution; viii) enforcement of anti-ragging measures; ix) distinguishing conventional universities from professional universities; and x) prohibition of malpractices in universities examinations and research. The State Council of Higher Education needs to be strengthened and empowered more to monitor, and guide the state of higher education within the State. The universities cannot be reduced to departments of the government.

The proposed Telangana Universities Act should contain provisions for making all the institutions of higher learning in the State more vibrant and effective. The need of the hour is to create an ambience which would make the university education more qualitative, accessible, affordable, employable and enlightening.

(G.B. Reddy is Professor of Law, Osmania University)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 10:18:05 PM |

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