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A high-level panel appointed by Kerala’s Department of Higher Education has recommended appointing a separate chancellor for each university in the state and isolating academic institutions from controversies arising from differences in interpretation of the federal character of the state. Indian Constitution.
The seven-member panel led by Shyam B Menon, former Vice-Chancellor of Ambedkar University, New Delhi, observed that the governance structures of Kerala universities have proven to be academically counterproductive due to interference uninformed, overly politicized, partisan and external in their day-to-day functioning and recommended that the internal governance of the university be separated from the administrative controls of government.
“There must be a separate chancellor for each university, elected by the board of trustees from among them,” the panel said in its report to the government. The Department of Higher Education set up the panel last September with the aim of modernizing the sector deemed outdated in several respects.
He recommended that the chief minister of the state should be the visitor to all public universities and as a visitor he/she will have the responsibility to ensure that the governance of the university is in line with the overall mission which assigned to them by law.
Currently, the governor is the chancellor of public universities in the state. The panel said the vice-chancellor should be a distinguished scholar whose term should be extended to five years per term. A second term until he reaches the age of 70 may be considered.
“The vice-chancellor should be appointed by the board, from a list of three names given in order of preference recommended by the search and selection committee,” he said.
The panel also recommended that the pro vice-chancellor be chosen by the board of trustees from a panel of three university professors established by the vice-chancellor.
He said that the entire governance structure of universities, both its academic side and its administrative side, should be defined by five main principles, including academic freedom at the cellular level, financial autonomy and the governance of inside.
The panel also suggested the separation of the academic and administrative aspects of governance. Governing bodies should include members chosen on the principle of seniority and professional status and elected from specific constituencies, the panel added.
The panel’s recommendation came months after controversy erupted after Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who is also Chancellor of Universities, alleged political interference in the running of universities in the southern state.
Expressing his dissatisfaction with political interference in the appointment of vice-chancellors of state universities, Khan had sent a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last December urging him to change university laws to allow him to assume the post of Chancellor.
In a strongly worded letter, Khan had said he was ready to sign immediately if the chief minister brought in an order amending the laws empowering the CM to become the chancellor of universities. Reacting to this, the Chief Minister said at the time that his government had no intention of taking over the post of Chancellor of State Universities and that Governor Khan should continue in the post.
Clarifying his government’s position following allegations of political interference by the governor in the appointment of vice-chancellors of state universities, the CM had said that neither the current nor the previous administration of the LDF attempted to illegally interfere with the functioning of universities.