- Recently, TN CM M.K. Stalin announced that his government was exploring options to empower itself to make the appointment of vice chancellors of universities, taking the powers away from the Governor-Chancellor.
What was the issue?
- Though no major issue has erupted in the area of higher education between the State government and TN Governor R.N. Ravi.
- However, the equation between CM & Governor have not been good. Even after three months of TN Assembly adopting a Bill to scrap the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) as the sole guiding factor for admission to undergraduate medical courses, the governor has not yet forwarded it to the President.
- Stalin has complained that even after he met and requested Mr. Ravi to take this up, the Governor has not taken any action.
Executive Power of Governor
- The Constitution of India vests in the Governor all the executive powers of the state government. Governor of a state by virtue of their office is the Chancellor of most of the Universities in the State.
- Why Chancellor?
- The dignity and impartiality of the office of the Chancellor puts the Governor in a unique position with regard to protecting the autonomy of the Universities and saving them from undue political interference.
- As a Chancellor, the Governor has the power to direct inspection of every component of the Universities and affiliated colleges, required due action on the result of inquiry. The Chancellors powers are governed by respective state universities acts. In many states, Chancellor appoints VC or search committees for appointments of Vice Chancellor.
Why the disputes?
- The disputes are, quite naturally, more common in states run by political rivals of the party running the Union government, which appoints the Governors through the President of India.
- The Governor-CM tussle is seen in Maharashtra, TN, WB, Odisha etc.
The Governor Chancellor Issue
Its not just TN..!!
- In recent times, in December 2021 the Maharashtra legislature adopted a Bill curtailing the powers of the Governor in the appointment of vice chancellors in State universities.
- West Bengal government had also announced that it was considering a proposal to make the Chief Minister Chancellor of all State universities.
- In December 2021, in the light of a controversy over the selection of vice chancellors for two universities, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had even suggested that a special session of the Assembly be held to divest him of the charge of Chancellor of universities in the State.
- Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act which brought appointments to universities in the state under the control of the state government was challenged by UGC.
What is needed?
- Lets not discuss whether Governor should be Chancellor of State universities or not but focus on what is expected out of Chancellor..!!
- Ideally, what is expected, from Governor as Chancellor is to keep state politics away from education & maintain autonomy of the Universities.
- Governor must ensure complete transparency in regulation of universities, appointment of vice chancellors etc.
- All the details regarding applicants, composition of the selection panel, interviews, and the factors that guided him or his predecessor in the appointments made in last 10 years should be made public.
What happens with Central Universities?
- Under the Central Universities Act, 2009 and other central acts, the President of India shall be the Visitor of a central university.
- President’s role is limited to presiding over convocations, Chancellors in central universities are titular heads, who are appointed by the President.
- The vice chancellors are appointed by the President from panels of names picked by search and selection committees formed by the Union government. Act also adds that the President, as Visitor, shall have the right to authorise inspections of academic and non-academic aspects of the universities and also to institute inquiries.
- Unlike state and central universities which have a ‘Chancellor’ as the head, a private university may be headed by Chancellor or President or Chairperson or Dean etc appointed as per university rules.
- The Private universities , must adhere to University Grant Commission (UGC) rules and regulations for its operations. It’s the UGC which regularly sends teams to inspect Private universities.