Friday, June 27, 2014

A Tale of Two Vice Chancellors: Kalyani Mathivanan and Dinesh Singh are poor representatives of academic leadership

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Indian higher education is poor and the fact that not a single Indian University finds a place in the top 500 universities of the world is but a reflection of the abiding poverty that resides in the ports of our universities. I once had as the Vice Chancellor of the University where I teach a man who was dismissed for forgery and after he took charge he indulged in every crime that I used to refer to him as Chancellor of Vices. His virtues, if any were hidden from public view but his vices and women were put on full public display and the whole University Administration was made an accomplice to his misdeeds. He even sold the red sand from the University campus when the East Coast Road was constructed and he demanded a cut from every contract and a commission for every job/ appointment. With such singular characters around, I sometimes wonder that it is a miracle that Higher Education has survived, albeit is a shrunken form. To cut a long story short the quality of men and women who run our Universities is poor and their intellectual apparatus in serious state of disrepair.

Two Vice Chancellors have been in the news for all the wrong reason and their "achievements" illustrate the lowest level to which Universities in India have shrunk: Madurai-Kamraj University and University of Delhi. Dr Kalyani Mathivanan, the Vice Chancellor of Madurai-Kamraj University hails from a very powerful political family in that she is the daughter in law of Shri Nedunchezian a former Education Minister in Tamil Nadu. Without any academic background this lady was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of Madurai-Kamraj University. She was only a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English in a private college in Chennai before her appointment as VC. The Madras High Court has struck down her appointment on the ground that she is unqualified to hold the post as she did not fulfill the UGC mandated 10 years experience as Professor. This is not the first incompetent Vice Chancellor but the first to be told so by a judicial pronouncement and this judgement sets a precedent. There are Vice Chancellors in several universities who are equally incompetent but Dr Kalyani Mathivanan has earned the dubious distinction of having her appointment set aside. Unfortunately, the appointment of Vice Chancellors are made on the basis of extra academic considerations and I hope that the new Government of Hon'ble Narendra Modi sets a good example.

The case of Dr Dinesh Singh is different. He sought to reform Indian undergraduate education by introducing the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). Even though he was able to bull doze his way in the Academic Council of the University and the Executive Council there was opposition to the FYUP right from the inception of the programme. The UGC did not utter a word in protest then. After the new Government came to power the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) took up the matter and forced a roll back. For nearly 10 days there was chaos in Delhi University. The UGC did succeed in its effort of rolling back the FYUP. This raises a larger issue: Can political parties impose their decisions on the Universities thereby undermining the so called autonomy of the Universities.

The real reason why Universities are in a state of absolute disrepair is because the Governments appoint third rate politicians who use their positions to enrich themselves and govern the Institutions with total disregard for rule, procedures or even basic decency. I hope lessons are learnt from these two sordid incidents.


R Amarnath said...

Every job in academics/administration in Madurai University and every other university in the state is a political favor to someone. Most of them show up just to eat fried snacks, drink tea and smoke during breaks.

Bahu virupaksha said...

Worse. The jobs in Tamil Nadu are sold at the rate of 30 lakhs for a Junior faculty post and 10 crores for a VC's post.