States vs Centre on selection of Vice-Chancellors: rules, friction

News: The Tamil Nadu Assembly recently passed two Bills that seek to transfer the Governor’s power in appointing Vice-Chancellors of 13 state universities to the state government.

As per the state govt, the Bills were required as the Governor was disregarding the state government’s opinion on the appointments of VCs, an argument also made by states such as Maharashtra and West Bengal in the past.

A look at the rules guiding the appointments of VCs across states reveal wide variations, leaving the field open for dispute, particularly in cases where there are sharp political differences between the state and the Centre, which appoints the Governors.

What are the highlights of the two Bills?

Appointment of VCs

– Proposed system: The Bills passed in Tamil Nadu stress that “every appointment of the Vice-Chancellor shall be made by the Government from out of a panel of three names” recommended by a search-cum-selection committee.

– Present system: Currently, the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor of state universities, has the power to pick a VC from the shortlisted names.

Removal of VCs

The Bills also seek to empower the state government to have the final word on the removal of VCs, if needed.

Removal will be carried out based on inquiries by a retired High Court judge or a bureaucrat who has served at least as a Chief Secretary, according to one of the Bills.

Are other states trying to curtail the Governor’s role in appointing VCs?


Maharashtra: In December 2021, the Maharashtra Assembly passed a Bill amending the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016.

Under the original Act, the Maharashtra government had no say in appointment of VCs.

If the changes take effect, the Governor will be given two names to choose from by the state government, following a panel’s suggestions.

West Bengal: In 2019, the West Bengal government, took away the Governor’s authority in appointing VCs to state universities. It has also hinted at removing the Governor as the Chancellor of the universities.

Kerala: In Left-ruled Kerala, the Governor alleged that the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University was done against his wishes. The government in Odisha has also tried to bring appointments to state universities under its control. But it has been challenged by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

What is at the root of the differences?

In some states, the elected governments have repeatedly accused the Governors of acting at the behest of the Centre on various subjects, including education.

The regulations, which differ from state to state, are often open to interpretation and disputes are routine.

What is the UGC’s role in this?

Education comes under the Concurrent List, but entry 66 of the Union List gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.

The UGC plays that standard-setting role, even in the case of appointments in universities and colleges.

According to the UGC Regulations, 2018, the “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees. Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.

These are usually followed without friction in the case of central universities, but are sometimes resisted by the states in the case of state universities.

What are SC’s observations?

Recently, setting aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat’s SP University by the state government, the Supreme Court made some key observations.

As per SC

any appointment as a Vice Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations can be said to be in violation of the statutory provisions, warranting a writ of quo warranto.

Source: This post is based on the article “States vs Centre on selection of Vice-Chancellors: rules, friction” published in The Indian Express on 26th Apr 22.

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