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'Leave higher education institutes alone'

delhi Updated: Apr 25, 2008 02:44 IST
HT Correspondent

The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) does not want governmental interference in the appointment of heads and faculty members in Central institutions of higher education.

Sam Pitroda, the panel chairperson, has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to institute an independent mechanism for appointments in IITs, IIMs, Central universities and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to prevent interference by ministries controlling these institutions. Pitroda’s suggestion comes at a time when the degree of autonomy for educational institutions is being discussed following the 150 per cent hike in fees by the IIMs.

“The appointments must be made by a search committee that has an independent chair, capable of exercising the highest quality of judgment. The direct involvement of administrative ministries can result in unfortunate situations,” Pitroda wrote in a letter to the PM last week. He has also detailed the contours of selection to enable institutions to have the best academic talent at the helm.

Appointments of vice-chancellors and heads of institutes are mostly influenced by political considerations. HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s old friend Punjab Singh was appointed as vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University but he did not get an extension after a section of the faculty complained against him to the PM.

In the states, there are numerous instances of V-Cs being appointed and sacked at the whims of political leaders. Pitroda said such de-linking is essential to allow rapid growth of institutions such as the IITs, IIMs, Central universities and AIIMS as well as new institutions to be opened in the next five years. The government has announced the opening of 30 new universities, seven IITs and eight IIMs in the near future.

“It is imperative to separate governance mechanisms from the day-to-day operations of institutions in order to protect

functional autonomy in its fullest sense,” the letter said.

The NKC has also said that an appointment should take place much before the term of the incumbent expires. In view of fixed tenures, there is no reason why that this cannot be done in all institutions, Pitroda said.