Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday admitted that higher education was the Achilles’ heel of his government as he had been helpless in shoring up the sector.
“I have the desire to turn it (higher education) around, but have not been able to do much,” Kumar said.
The higher education scenario in the state is a mess, with nine universities functioning without vice-chancellors and six of them without even pro-vice chancellors since March 18, when the Supreme Court struck down the appointments made by former chancellor Devanand Konwar.
The order had come after a long-drawn-out spat between the chancellor and the state education department, with the chief minister himself claiming that the appointments were not made in consultation with the state government.
Kumar’s disappointment with the higher education sector was evident at the 3rd foundation day function of the Bihar State Educational Infrastructure development corporation (BSEIDC) on July 10.
“The government wants to improve the health of state universities — as it has done in the primary and secondary education sector — but nothing is in the state government’s hand,” he said, in an oblique reference to the supremacy of the chancellor in matters concerning universities, as per the two state acts governing them.
According to Kumar, his government was spending Rs. 3,500 crore annually on universities alone, but “the outcome is unknown”.
“I don’t know exactly what the outcome of all this expenditure is,” he said. “But let me tell you, we are giving funds and will continue to do so. I wanted centres of excellence to be developed and am prepared to allocate adequate funds, but it’s not in my hands.”
The Supreme Court had directed the state government and Raj Bhawan to put into place a transparent mechanism, comprising a search committee, in accordance with University Grants Commission regulations, to finalise the appointments of vice-chancellors.
The court had struck down the state government’s bid to make changes to two statutory acts governing education.