Re-visiting Architecture of Central Universities

 If the case of HNB Gahwal University is any guide I have started wondering whether the very concept of a “central university” is any more feasible or advisable to continue as it exists today, as there seem to be no university which can be run with any amount of certainty in regard to its law and order, any more. In our State also we have one regular Registrar for as many as five State Universities and no Deputy Registrars, and it tells the story of our State Universities administration.

If the “host State” does not feel accountable to the happenings of a university as it has no role to play in its administration ( so zealously guarded by the University administration ) one wonders how any academic institution can be run under an architecture as that of a central University.

High time that the very concept of a central University is re-visited  factoring in a viable “give and take” between the University and the host state. Recently, I read in papers some efforts towards making the Pantnagar University also a central one and I consider that simply most unfortunate and near catastrophic, if HNB experience is any guide. Are these Universities islands unto themselves or they have any responsibility towards the States where they are located ?
While the efforts to make Pantanagar needs to be nipped in the bud, the state must take initiative to ensure that the present architecture of all Central Universities be re-visited by the Union Government, bringing in sufficient stakes of the “host States” where they are lodged. there is thing called academic institutions obligations towards the state where they happen to be situated.

To the best of what I have seen the present incumbent VC has not covered himself with glory when it comes to having ordinary relations with the host state of Uttarakhand. By all accounts Uttarakhand deserved a better set of persons who happen to be sent as the VCs of the central Universities located here.

The State governments must have sufficient say in the matters related to all academic institutions, central or otherwise, as ultimately their peaceful working is to be ensured by the host States, and this could not be on ” as and when basis” i.e. only when the University administration has pushed things to an extreme where they simply are unable to govern, as seems to be the case of HNB.

I have had occasions to interact with as many as two eminent VCs each  of three of the oldest central Universities i.e. of the Benaras Hindu University and the Varanaseya Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya and the Kashi Vidyapeeth, as District Magistrate of Varanasi ( 1983- 86 ). The VC ought to know how to manage institutions, including the local administration, to be successful. Things have worsened sine the 1980s, I guess.

R.S. Tolia

On 4/10/2012 21:09, Satish Sharma wrote:

GARHWAL POST / editorial / 7 April 2012

Varsity woes

Why should irregularities in the appointment of a couple of officials cause the HN Bahuguna Central Garhwal University to shut down and postpone its all important examinations? There obviously has been a lot of resentment building up among students, staff and teachers to have unitedly gone on the warpath against the Vice Chancellor. This would imply a general overall decline in the manner that the university is administered, which has corroded trust and confidence among all sections.

This need not, however, be the last word on the issue, because the version of the Vice Chancellor or the administration has not been made available or reported. Possibly, it is one of the failures of the system that, even on such important issues, the official version or clarification is not being publicised. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the government has allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point where examinations, always badly conducted in the varsity, have been postponed. As it is, with delayed examinations schedules and results in Garhwal University, a three year degree is obtained, more often than not, in four years. 

The frustration and anguish being felt by serious students is naturally extreme. Unfortunately, the University is also the playground for another variety of student, for whom it is where a political base is prepared through agitational politics. For such students, to go through the years of higher education without having ‘major issues’ to get agitated over would be a loss. This is, unfortunately, the baggage the university has had to carry from inception, having been constituted, itself, as the result of an agitation. Unfortunately, as has been the case with Uttarakhand, the declared objective of its formation has been forgotten, and how it has been formed has become its basic culture. That students’ union leaders from here have gone on to make it big in politics has only encouraged the culture. This is also the case with many of the teachers, who spend their entire careers with one foot in the political arena. Corruption is endemic in the functioning of the back-offices, with enormous ‘flexibility’ being practiced in a large number of areas for the benefit of a large number of vested interests.

As such, it would not be a surprise if a Vice Chancellor attempting to cleanse the system and apply ‘Central University’ benchmarks should run up against a united opposition. However, nobody really knows, because the higher powers neither seem to have taken cognisance of the agitation, nor are concerned at the shocking postponement of exams. It is also not known whether the Governor addressed this issue or expressed concern during her recent meeting with the state’s VCs at the Raj Bhawan in Doon.

Of course, the Chief Minister does not seem to have the time to take action in the matter, busy as he is making trips to Delhi or managing the contradictions in his own team. The season of dissent has clearly dawned in Uttarakhand and the impact is being felt by the ordinary people, including students, whose ordinary requirements are not being met. Among the many things that students can expect from the system is regular schedules in the matter of conduct of classes and holding of exams. What level of decline is a society in if even this becomes difficult to ensure? What claims can be made on development in a state that is expected to be ahead of others on a number of parameters merely because of its natural advantages? 

The government should, in the very near future, should give highest priority to resolving this issue so that the examinations of the University, involving tens of thousands of students are quickly brought back on track. A special task-force needs to be established with a clear mandate to cleanse the Augean stables. The door has been opened by the agitationists, themselves, the government should now take advantage by implementing reform even further than anybody expects.

R S Tolia

Late Dr. R.S. Tolia, Ph.D., was former Chief Secretary ( 2003-05 ) and Chief Information Commissioner ( 2005-10) of Uttarakhand. He also served in various voluntary positions after retirement and devoted his time for Mountain Development Agenda.

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