When former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam took charge as the governor of Kerala in August 2014, he kindled hope that the 13-odd universities in the state would get a new lease of life.
One of the main issues that the new chancellor addressed was the declining standard of higher education in the state. Set aside the inflated SSLC results and the highest literacy state tag and it is evident that Keralaâ€™s education system faces serious problems.
In October last year, the governor formed a Chancellorâ€™s Council which includes the Minister of Education, Vice Chairman, Higher Education Council, and all vice chancellors and bureaucrats.
Though the council was to lead reforms in the education sector, is enough being done? Has the governor overlooked the administrative aspect, by some chance? Does not the repeated instances of controversies involving some Vice Chancellors (VC) and Pro-Vice chancellors (PVC) indicate flaw in the administrative system itself?
In the past couple of months, several VCs and PVCs of a number of universities found themselves in trouble after allegations of misrepresentation of qualification rose.
Controversy cropped up after the governor appointed Letha as the VC of Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), alleging violations of UGC regulations. Apparently, Letha did not fulfill the criteria of having an experience of ten years. However, the chancellor has denied such allegations.
A complaint was filed against MG University PVC Sheena Shukkur, alleging that her PhD in law was fake. The New Indian Express reports that the governor has sought report on the issue.
Governor P Sathasivam with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy
Recently, a petition was filed by Satish Kumar, against nine officials of the Kalady Sree Sankaracharya Sanskrit University including VC MC Dileep Kumar and Registrar TP Ravindran, against the appointments to the post of private secretary to the VC.
Various student unions such as Studentâ€™s Federation of India (SFI), Kerala Studentsâ€™ Union (KSU) and Akhila Bharathiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have been protesting against the misappropriation in the appointment of VCs in various universities.
Akhila Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) national executive council member Shyam Raj points out that even though the formation of Chancellorâ€™s Council is a positive sign, the cases against several VCs is not being investigated properly.
â€śAppointments must be made on the basis of merit and not on the basis of political affiliations,â€ť he told The News Minute. Shyam Raj added that merit is overlooked when the sole aim becomes merely having a party representative at the helm of the university.
KSU Vice President Adv. AM Rohith also termed religious and political affiliations as the malice.
â€śWe have always maintained that allegations against VCs must be investigated at the earliest and necessary measures be taken by the government,â€ť he said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) polit bureau member MA Baby accused the ruling UDF government for having political interests in appointing VCs, â€śwhich has brought down the standard of higher educationâ€ť. The former education minister added that it is both an administrative and political setback.
A source from a university in Kerala, who did not wish to be named, told TNM that the governor has the potential of bringing drastic changes in the administration. Asked about the increasing instances of misappropriation in appointments, he said, â€śThe eventual blame is on the political game that every other political party plays with vested interest in mindâ€ť.
He pointed out that one of the UGC regulations on the appointment of VC says that a â€śVC must be a person with visionâ€ť. â€śCurrently, we lack visionaries who are capable of heading an important position as the Vice Chancellorâ€™sâ€ť, he said.