Friday, 24 August 2012

New shape and form for universities?

A committee set up by the State Higher Education Council to review the Acts that govern the conduct of universities envisages a more powerful vice-chancellor, slimmer Syndicate and Senate and a university recruitment commission. G.Mahadevan has the details.

Vice-chancellors with more administrative powers, slimmer syndicates and senates, a council of deans and a university recruitment commission are among the key recommendations being considered by a committee set up by the Kerala State Higher Education Council to review the Acts that govern the conduct of universities in the State.

The committee, sources in the council say, is likely to submit its final report by August-end.

It is understood that the committee is drawing up a model Act whose provisions may be adopted by the universities. Contrary to earlier indications from the council, the committee has so far not considered recommending a uniform Act for all universities in Kerala.

A major discussion point in the committee in the run-up to the preparation of the draft report was the perceived inability of vice-chancellors to take independent and bold academic and administrative actions from time to time.

“Almost all powers of execution are now vested with the Syndicate. We are tying to see if the vice-chancellor can be empowered academically and administratively to a much higher degree,” N. Veeramanikandan, convener of the committee, told The Hindu-EducationPlus here. One such area of empowerment may be in disciplinary matters.

The committee may decide to recommend the constitution of the council of deans to act as a “bridge” between the administrative and academic parts of a university. This council will advise the vice-chancellor on all academic matters.

Dr. Veeramanikandan said there was a proposal in the committee to recommend capping the Syndicate strength at 15 or even below. Similarly, the committee had deliberated on the pros and cons of redrawing the contours of the senates.

“We have debated the need or otherwise to have representatives from some sections of society which now has representation in senates. We have also discussed the advisability of recommending capping the size of both the senate and the academic council,” he said.

The committee may recommend the creation of up to eight posts of deans in universities, including those of academic administration, curriculum and faculty development and research. “We plan to define clearly the functions and powers of each of these new posts so that the universities know what precisely is expected out of such officials,” Dr. Veeramanikandan said.

Also on the anvil is a university appellate tribunal — one for each university — headed by a retired judge. There will be academic members in these tribunals.

This is to try and offer a platform for the public to settle legal disputes with varsities instead of taking such cases to the regular courts.

The committee has discussed the advisability of recommending the university recruitment commission. One argument that was put forth by committee members in favour of such a body was that it would remove the “power of patronage” from the Syndicate thus reducing the possibility of corruption and nepotism.

“Our core effort here is to strengthen the academic character of universities,” Dr. Veeramanikandan added.

Source - The Hindu