Starting from next year, academic members of all state universities’ governing bodies must have doctorates, the state government has decreed in an ordinance last month.
Until now, academics, namely college lecturers, principals and university professors, needed just a Masters’ degree and, with a few exceptions, should have also cleared a special government entrance exam.
These governing bodies, such as the senate, management and academic council, take decisions on vital matters concerning a particular university and the colleges that fall under its purview — such as allowing new institutions to open, starting new programmes of study and changing examination patterns, evaluation methods and syllabi.
“The aim is to enhance the quality of our universities and make them globally competitive,” said J.S. Saharia, principal secretary, higher and technical education.
The ordinance applies to all universities under Saharia’s department, which means that it does not apply to agricultural and medical universities.
The ordinance also stipulates that deans of faculty, in addition to having doctorates, must also have published at least three research papers in respected national or international journals and should be guiding Phd students. Powerful figures entrusted with developing an entire field of enquiry such as science and arts, deans of faculty all belong to the senate.
Representatives of college managements, for whom there were no criteria before, must now have 10 years’ experience and be from institutes recognised by the University Grants Commission.
In August, the government had also enhanced the eligibility criteria for vice chancellors of universities and made the selection process more stringent. In order to not shut out capable academics with valuable experience but lacking the paper qualifications, the ordinance includes a clause allowing the governor, the ex-officio chancellor of universities, to nominate people he deems worthy, irrespective of the eligibility criteria.
Educationists feel that enhancing the eligibility criteria will improve the quality of the decisions these bodies take.
“People with research qualifications will be more committed to the cause of education,” said Snehalata Deshmukh, former vice chancellor of Mumbai University.
Will it work in practice?
“It is a paradigm shift that will promote research and academics, and hopefully there will be enough qualified people to fill the posts,” said Richard Heredia, a former principal who has been part of the various governing bodies of the Mumbai University and guides students doing doctorates in business policy and administration.