It has been quite an eventful journey, with its ups and downs all along, for Panjab University vice chancellor AK Grover, who completed two years in office on Wednesday. During his tenure, the 61-yearold physicist, who was earlier a professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, has managed to survive controversies including the one over the appointment of his wife, Neera Grover, in a university department, not to mention frequent faceoffs on administrative issues with varsity syndics.
PU academicians differ sharply over Grover’s performance during the past two years. His opponents have often accused him of being a “slow” and “weak” administrator who focussed only on macro-management. But others point out at least a dozen new departments were set up during the tenure of his predecessor, RC Sobti, and efficiently managing all of them smoothly has been no mean feat.
Those close to him say he is rarely seen losing his cool and is focussed on devoting more time to academics. They add he prefers not to interfere much in administrative issues and favours administrative decentralisation.
However, according to some PU officials, this stance resulted in Grover losing grip on varsity administration. They cite mishandling last year’s student council elections and failing to prevent violence over the tuition fee hike in which police attacked students with batons on the campus in February . “But what makes him stand out from his predecessors regardless has been his quality of always being willing to listen to all. Yet, he never got influenced by another person’s opinion and remained as objective as possible,” a senior PU official said.
In these two years the university has not bagged any big ticket infrastructure project but is still struggling to complete existing ones due to lack of funds.
Faced with a Rs 200 crore budget deficit that has risen by Rs 60 crore during his tenure, many feel Grover could have bargained harder with the central government for grants, especially after being adjudged No. 1 in India in the 2013 Times Higher Education Rankings. Also, many academics are averse to linking this accomplishment to Grover’s tenure, saying his “contribution” was only limited to PU having participated in the rankings and nothing more. Despite the acute shortage of faculty members facing the varsity, the process to recruit nearly 100 teachers is still under way and norms for hiring associate professors and professors are yet to be finalised. “However, Grover can’t be blamed entirely for the delay in sorting out such issues.
There are other administrative reasons like the HRD ministry’s frequent changes in regulations,” another PU official said. When Grover was appointed vice chancellor in 2012 he spelt out research activities on the campus as his foremost priority. Five centre sfor advanced studies have been set up in various departments and research projects worth Rs 200 crore are awaiting sanctions from the central government. He allowed colleges to set up research centres at the university’s affiliated-colleges besides taking measures like increasing remunerations of teachers for participation in research projects.