Kerala moots proposal to scrap Governor’s role as Chancellor in state universities

If approved, this will be a major deviation from the practice of the Governor being the ex-officio chancellor of the Universities
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan giving address
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan giving address
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The state will witness drastic changes in the higher education system if the government accepts the recommendations mooted by a panel constituted to suggest reforms. The most important recommendation is that the Chief Minister will be the Visitor of public universities and each of them will have a Chancellor. The recommendations have been made by a Commission chaired by Shyam B Menon, former Vice-Chancellor of Dr BR Ambedkar University.

If approved, this will be a major deviation from the practice of the Governor being the ex-officio chancellor of the Universities. This assumes significance given the current rift between the state government and the Governor, who has refused to sign several ordinances passed by it. The Commission was constituted to examine important aspects of the existing system of higher education in the state. The government issued the order regarding the same in September 2021.

The Commission is one of three panels constituted by the government to make recommendations to overhaul the state’s education system. “The Chief Minister will be the Visitor of public universities. Each university will have a Chancellor, who must be a person of eminence who has distinguished herself/himself in public life through a lifetime of excellence and leadership. The Vice-Chancellor must be a distinguished academic, selected through public notification, and a worldwide search. A new process for selecting the Vice-Chancellors is proposed,” reads the summary of the Commission report.

As per the recommendations, the principal officers of the university will be the Visitor, the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro Vice-Chancellor who will be supported by the Registrar, the Finance Officer, the Deans and the Heads of Department. “The Vice-Chancellor must be a distinguished academic selected through public notification and a world-wide search,” says the report. The panel has also proposed a new process for selecting the Vice-Chancellors. “The university system is based on five pillars: academic freedom, financial autonomy, governance from within, bottom-up-structure of representation in academic and administrative bodies and a complete separation of academic and administrative strands of governance,” the report also reads.

Stating that Kerala urgently needs to declutter its fragmented university network, the panel proposed to end mono-disciplinary universities and to gradually cluster the existing smaller universities into larger and viable entities.

The panel recommended that all universities in the state be brought under the Department of Higher Education for improved coordination. It also called for the elevation of top 20 government colleges in the state as constituent colleges as a specific step to improve their functioning.

The panel recommended that selected aspiring self-sustaining institutions be elevated to the status of private universities after ensuring that they abide by the philosophies of scholarship and social justice. “The system of approving deemed to be universities must be ended. We also specifically recommend the enactment of a Kerala State Private Universities Act,” the report reads.

T Pradeep Institute Professor, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai is the convenor of the panel. It was asked to recommend a comprehensive set of policy initiatives to structurally transform the sector. 

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