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Leaving universities without permanent leaders

In absence of permanent leaders at the helm, varsities in J&K are grappling with multiple issues impairing their progression
12:00 AM Jun 10, 2024 IST | Syed Rizwan Geelani
leaving universities without permanent leaders

Over the past few years the J&K government has chalked out new reforms in the higher education sector particularly at the university level, post implementation of National Educational Policy (NEP), and the universities have started offering new courses for the students.


While the universities are in a mode of transformation, the absence of full-fledged leadership in several universities is playing a spoilsport and the new initiatives to be implemented are taking a back seat in absence of the permanent vice chancellors.


At present, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) Rajouri, Cluster University Srinagar and Cluster University Jammu are without permanent Vice Chancellors which is hampering the overall functioning of these institutions.


Recently, the Government in a surprising move quashed the panel of VCs for the two universities following which the concerned Registrars had to put the post of VC for re-advertisement for the two universities.


Recently the post of Vice Chancellor (VC) of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) Rajouri was advertised afresh after the panel of candidates submitted to the Chancellor of the University was quashed.


Not only this, before that the panel of candidates for appointment of Vice Chancellor Cluster University (CU) Jammu was quashed and the notifications for the post if VC was advertised afresh on May 01 of 2024.


The advertisement for the appointment of VCs in both the universities was issued afresh two months after the panels of candidates for VC post of CU Jammu and BGSBU Rajouri were submitted to the J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha who is also the Chancellor of the J&K Universities, by the search committee, for the appointment of the new VC for both the Universities.


Earlier, the hunt for the appointment of new VC for BGSBU began on January 1 of this year after the J&K government constituted the search committee to draw the panel of candidates for the appointment of new VC for the University.

The process for appointment of VC BGSBU is being operated through SMVDU as the notification issued for inviting applications for the post of VC BGSBU has been issued by the Registrar SMVDU.

Also, the interaction of the candidates shortlisted for the post of VC BGSBU as per the previous notification was held with the search committee in February in New Delhi following which the final panel of candidates was submitted to the J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha who is also the Chancellor of the J&K Universities.

Similarly, the shortlisted candidates for the post of VC Cluster University Jammu also had interaction with the search committee and the final panel of candidates was submitted to the Chancellor for the appointment of VC for the University.

However, the decision to advertise the post of VC afresh surprised all the stakeholders as all eyes were on appointment of VCs but instead the process was started afresh.

The post of the VC of any University is purely academic in nature and the appointment is always expected to be made on merit.

But the re-advertisement of the post raised many questions. There can be a possibility that the candidates might have not got the clearance from the concerned agencies or the panel of candidates did not satisfy the Chancellor of the J&K Universities. Or, there can be another reason that the candidates possessing high intellectual repute, and the internationally acclaimed academicians were not attracted by the VC positions advertised by the J&K government. During the last year, the Universities in Kashmir and Jammu division received lukewarm response from the students for PG courses and there is a possibility that this year, the institutions don't attract the eligible candidates for the VC position.

Whatever the reasons, the fact of the matter is that the absence of permanent VCs is impairing functioning of universities vis-a-vis academic and administrative matters. The incumbent VCs in these Universities are not in position to take crucial policy decisions as their three-year term has already expired.

The J&K government appointed Prof. Akbar Masood as the VC BGSBU Rajouri on February 13 of 2021 for a three-year term. His term expired in February 2024. Also, Professor Bechan Lal was appointed as the VC CU Jammu on January 25, 2021, for a three-year term while Professor (Dr) Qayyum Husain was appointed VC Cluster University Srinagar (CUS)  on April 1 of 2021 for a three-year term. The terms of both the VCs in CU Kashmir and Jammu have expired.

While the appointment of new VCs in BGSBU and both the Cluster Universities is awaited, the incumbent VCs are continuing the offices beyond the age of 65 years which is not well taken by the stakeholders. The former VCs had to demit office at 65 years of age.

Ideally, the VC of any university should not be allowed to continue beyond 65 years as per UGC guidelines. Even the UGC chairman cannot continue beyond 65 years of age. The policy should be the same for all universities as well.

The Chancellor of the J&K Universities, Manoj Sinha had taken the right step at the right time as the search committees were constituted before the expiry of the 3-year tenure of the incumbent VCs. But at the same time, the re-advertisement of the posts has delayed the completion of the process.

It doesn’t augur well for higher educational institutions, especially universities, to remain headless and leaderless, more so when the Search Committees for appointment of new VCs for the two universities have already been constituted nearly two months ago.

It requires serious policy intervention by the Chancellor’s Office—the office of Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor—to make appointment of VCs in all universities in Jammu and Kashmir a time-bound affair with fixed deadlines, right from inviting applications for the coveted position to finalizing the candidate. The entire process can be (and should be) completed within a span of not more than 40 days, including 20 days for submission of applications, 10 days for screening of eligible applications/shortlisting of candidates for interaction with the search committee and 10 days for identifying the final candidate by the Chancellor’s Office.

When the appointment of the permanent VC is delayed by whatever reasons, it costs dearly for the growth and progress of the University. The waiting period is marred by a lot of negative politicking in the universities by its faculty and administrative staff which greatly impacts the image and reputation of these institutions and makes the functioning of new VCs all the more difficult and challenging.

While the appointment of VC is awaited in three Universities, the government must rise to the occasion and expedite the appointment process wherein merit alone must be the consideration for appointment of VCs and nothing else.

Timely appointment of VC in these universities can lead to better functioning of universities which cannot be allowed to operate on any temporary arrangement. It can lead to timely recruitments and concretising policy decisions which have huge implications on the student community.