Synopsis: The governance structure of public universities must be reformed on an urgent basis as it may help them become world class universities.
55 central universities, endowed with prime land and extensive central grants, are crown jewels of the Indian academic system.
However, lately, these universities are facing governance-related challenges. Six vice-chancellors (VCs) of central universities have been sacked and another five have been charge-sheeted.
Need for Public universities
- There are some important public universities, where cross-disciplinary research to solve complex modern problems take place, with the focus on all the major branches of learning.
- Locus of innovation has been switched towards innovative private universities which have failed to develop into broad-based universities with the full range of humanities, social and natural sciences and the professional disciplines.
Thus, central universities must be saved to save the academia.
What is the governance structure in public universities?
As each of the 55 central universities is governed by a separate Act, there are difference in governance structures, but broadly it is as follows:
- VC: President of India is the Visitor of the university. On his behalf, Ministry of Education appoints chancellor.
- For that purpose, Ministry appoints search committee to interview multiple candidates and to come up with the list of 3 candidates. From the list ministry appoints a VC.
- Senate or court: It is chosen through different process and constituted of nominees from various stakeholders, including the government, faculty, students, and citizens.
- Technically, this is the governing council (GC) of the university.
- Executive council: Council carry on the university work. It is chaired by VC and appoints the registrar.
- Finance committee: Finance committee is appointed to maintain financial checks and balances. It is headed by a chief finance officer.
What are the issues in governance structure in public universities?
- GC has no say in the selection of the VC and meets only once a year. In theories, it approves the annual plan of the university, presented by VC. But in reality, plan is approved without discussions or questions.
- After approval there is very minimal direction or monitoring from the GC throughout the year.
- Size of the GC is very big to organise any fruitful meeting. For example; GC of Delhi University has 475 members.
Example of IIM
- In contrast to the general Governance structure, IIM structure is much better version.
- It has set a limit on the members of GC at maximum of 19. All of them are expected to meet s certain standard i.e. eminent citizens with broad social representation and an emphasis on alumni.
- Functions of GC includes:
- Selection of Director,
- Providing overall strategic direction,
- Raising resources,
- Monitoring the performance of director
Example of Harvard
- Until 150 years ago, Harvard was also a government university and was on verge of collapse.
- It only became what it is today after governance reform by creating an empowered board comprising its most successful alumni. They brought dynamism, oversight, and resources with them and made it a world-class university.
- Thus, it is apparent that the governing councils of all central universities IITs, and all other central institutions is restructured by an Act of Parliament.
- Boards of these universities should comprise of their most eminent alumni.
- Recently the billion-dollar endowment campaign announced by university is being spearheaded by its most successful alumni, many of them created Unicorns, or billion-dollar companies. If alumni like them invited to GC, they may help it become a world-class university like Harvard.