The governing board of Nalanda University was reconstituted with a number of fresh faces, resulting in its chancellor, George Yeo, resigning on Friday saying the varsity’s autonomy was being affected.
The board was reconstituted by President Pranab Mukherjee as its visitor on November 21, which severed Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s nearly a decade-long association with the institution after the government reconstituted the governing body of the prestigious institution.
“President Pranab Mukherjee, in his capacity as visitor of NU, is pleased to approve the constitution of the governing board with immediate effect in accordance with Clause 7 of the NU Act,” said the order from the ministry of external affairs.
Professor Arvind Sharma, faculty of religious studies, McGill University (Canada); Prof Lokesh Chandra, president, Indian Council for Cultural Relations; and Dr Arvind Panagariya, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, are the new faces in the reconstituted governing board.
The move coincides with end of vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal’s tenure on November 24, and the process to find her successor is already on.
In addition to founding chancellor Sen, Harvard professor and Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose and UK-based economist and Labour politician Lord Meghnad Desai are out of the Nalanda University governing board.
The governing board has a chancellor, a vice-chancellor, representatives of five member countries —India, China, Australia, Laos and Thailand — secretary (east), ministry of external affairs, two representatives from the government of Bihar and one representative from the ministry of human resources and development.
The only member of the mentor group to have retained his position in the new governing board, as a government of India representative, is former Rajya Sabha MP NK Singh. Other countries will name their representatives later.
“The mentor group was to continue for a year and the government was to reconstitute the governing board to take over after that,” said Singh.
However, the mentor group, which included Sen, continued for six years as the Centre could not reconstitute the governing board.
Sen was with the NU since its inception and had resigned last year after being reportedly upset over the “delay in extension of his tenure and political interference” despite the board’s recommendation for his second term.
NU’s outgoing V-C Sabharwal said the decision to reconstitute the governing board had taken everyone by surprise.
“It has come mid-way through the process of appointment of a new V-C, bypassing the chancellor. It was the NU governing board, which was hitherto insisting on fresh constitution of the board. However, it was not done then on the plea that amendments to the NU Act would first need to be carried out. Now, the board has been suddenly reconstituted,” she said.
Singh said though the board had recommended another year’s extension for Sabharwal, it was not found legally tenable following consultation with the attorney general.
Sabharwal had got a year’s extension after completion of the stipulated five-year tenure in 2015.
As per the Nalanda University Act, the senior-most dean of NU will take V-C’s charge till a new incumbent is appointed.
The NU search committee had invited applications for the V-C’s post in October and the last date for applying is November 30. The visitor makes the appointment from the panel of names recommended by the governing board.