'Nomination raj' dominates State university bodies

In the legislature session held in July, two bills — the University of Horticultural Sciences Bill, 2009, and the Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University Bill, 2009, were passed.

In the horticulture bill, provisions have been made to nominate members on the board of management, academic council, research council, extension education council and board of studies.

In the draft bill, there was scope for only 13  members. But in the final bill it went up to 17. Of these 17, seven will be nominated members. On the academic council, of the 10 members, five will be nominated members. On the extension education council, of the 20, at least there will be five nominated members.

Surprisingly, more than half of the members on the board and councils are officials. They include principal secretaries of departments of horticulture, finance, agriculture, director of education, registrar and the list goes on.

In the case of music varsity, the syndicate will have five bureaucrats, eight nominated members including an MLA and an MLC. In all, there are 14 members on the syndicate.

But this nomination culture or bureaucrats out-numbering subject experts on the syndicate is not new. Even the nine universities established under the Karnataka State Universities Act are following a similar culture. Each university has not less than 20 to 22 members.

When Dr M S Thimmappa was the vice chancellor of Bangalore University, he had taken the ruling party head on when the government tried to nominate six people on the syndicate.

The then VC had opposed the nomination on the grounds that five of them had no academic experience and the nomination would be in violation of the Karnataka Universities Act, 2000. He had said that for politicians Vidhana Soudha is the place and not a university. When the matter went to high court, Thimmappa’s contention was upheld.

Thimmappa says that usually nominated politicians come with their own agenda and hence they should have no place in an academic body.

The general complaint is that local inquiry committees (LICs) have become corrupt bodies. Members of academic council and syndicate, besides subject experts as well as the deans are on the committees.

An LIC is meant to grant provisional affiliation for existing or additional courses or variation in intake in the existing course by a college. There are many instances where the LIC members have been caught red handed while accepting bribe from college managements to give the required clearance.

The recent case was the Lokayukta police trapping M Jayalakshmi Devi, Bangalore University syndicate member while accepting Rs 2 lakh bribe from a college management for granting permission to open a new college or course. She was a nominated member.
Each and every college has to be inspected annually by the jurisdictional LIC. It has become common knowledge that all shortcomings in a college are set aside with bribe playing a significant a role. The ‘fee’ for renewal or approval or any other clearance from an LIC runs to lakhs of rupees, is the general complaint from many colleges.

But one can’t blame only the nominated members, including politicians, for corruption, as even academicians have been found guilty of accepting bribes. The nomination culture began only in  recent years. Earlier, a percentage of members to the syndicate were elected.

The elections were fought just like any assembly election. Money used to play a major role in the polls. And, those who used to spend naturally tried to get back what they had ‘invested.’ So the ‘give and take’ system between the LIC members and the educational institutions existed at that time too.

In addition, having too many officials as ex-officio members on the  varsity bodies is also not serving any purpose. It is generally observed that bureaucrats spare no time to attend these meetings. Even if they attend, in what way can they qualitatively contribute for the improvement of education if they are not academicians or if they have no knowledge of the subjects being dealt by the varsity?

It is surprising to see that at least half a dozen officials will be on the syndicate of Gangubai Hangal varsity! What do they know about music, dance or any form of art? Isn’t it too much to expect a finance secretary or an education secretary to know about art, culture, music and dance?

Then, what is the way out to make an academic body live up to its purpose? The chancellor (Governor) and the vice chancellors have to put their foot down on the ‘nomination culture’ and the Chancellor should have the final say when it comes to nomination of non-academicians. Also, vice-chancellors should cross-check the veracity of the reports filed by the LICs before accepting them.

The government too should show some commitment towards upholding the quality of higher education, rather than completely ‘polluting’ it.

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