Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVI No. 15, November 16-30, 2016

A university in search of its great past

(By A Special Corresondent)

It may be one of the three original premier universities of India and may have enjoyed stellar status at one time, but if at all the University of Madras makes it to the news these days, it is for the wrong reasons. The non-appointment of a Vice Chancellor for several months has thrown it into further chaos resulting in unseemly protests. All this does not make for a world-class institution.

The University of Madras has been without a Vice Chancellor for over ten months now. There has been no action in terms of appointing a fresh incumbent. There has only been a meeting or two of the University Syndicate in the last six months. Routine activities of the institution have been taken care of by a Convener Committee, but this does not have any authority over fresh appointments or administrative reforms. As a consequence, several departments are now functioning without heads and many teachers are employed on an ad hoc basis. Important aspects of academic functioning, such as viva voces for Ph.D theses, etc., are being held only sporadically. Over 90 teachers were on probation pending confirmation till recently. Having waited for long, the Madras University Teachers’ Association launched a protest and that led to assurances that around 80 of the teachers on probation would have their services confirmed.

In the meanwhile, allegations of irregularities in the functioning of the sub-committee that evaluates private colleges for affiliation to the University have surfaced. One of the colleges has named a member of the committee in an informal complaint and accused him/her of demanding a bribe for obtaining formal recognition. This has thrown a shadow over the process by which the University selects colleges for affiliation. In any case, the sub-committee can only make a recommendation, which needs to be passed by the Syndicate and then approved by the Vice Chancellor, as and when someone is appointed to that office.

When the last Vice Chancellor demitted office in January this year, a committee was appointed to search for a successor. A shortlist was made and forwarded to the office of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, who is also the Chancellor of the University. However, the electoral code of conduct kicked in shortly thereafter and matters ground to a halt. Since then, the Governor demitted office and as is known, the present incumbent is only holding temporary charge. All this has put paid to any chances of the appointment of the Vice Chancellor in the immediate future.

It is not that the appointment of a Vice Chancellor is a panacea to all the ills that the University faces. For the past several decades now, that office is one that reflects the political colours that the State dons and it is a well known fact that selections are invariably made on the basis of political allegiance. Some of the occupants of that august chair have been men of mediocre academic or administrative capability. This has in turn cast a shadow on the way the institution has functioned. You need to only look at when the last great academic paper or study came from this University. Chances are that it was more than a few decades back.

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