Interview with Panjab University V-C: ‘Vice-chancellor should be given free hand’
Panjab University vice-chancellor (V-C) Raj Kumar, who has been at the helm of varsity leadership since July 23, 2018, was given a tenure extension for a period of three years from July 23 by the vice-president of India and chancellor, M Venkaiah Naidu. The move comes at a time when the varsity is functioning without its governing bodies. HT reporter Dar Ovais talks to Kumar about the challenges and priorities for his next term as V-C.
What is your assessment of your tenure as V-C?
I am satisfied with the work initiated during my first term, and I will take it all to completion in the next three years.
Anything you feel could have been done better? Do you have any regrets?
I do not have any regrets with my first term, but the loss we have faced due to the pandemic since last year is a concern. This period has not been fruitful or to our expectations. On the other hand, our research became more pandemic-oriented.
Do you feel you could have done better for the university if the senate and syndicate had better coordination with you?
We know the governing structure of PU is entirely different and things are achieved with a joint effort. The members of the governing body should coordinate with the V-C to work for the betterment of the varsity. They should give a free hand to the V-C, there should be academic and innovative autonomy.
What will be your priorities in the second term as V-C?
Student welfare will be at the centre of our focus. I want to contribute by providing better facilities to them. We will promote research by renovating labs and bringing high-end equipment. We will fast-track the startup activities and our effort will be to increase industry-academia linkage.
PU has been functioning without a governing body for more than seven months now. How do you plan to put the governing body in place?
The matter is currently in the high court, but we are ready to conduct the polls when the situation allows. Both the bodies will be constituted.
The varsity has been performing low in various rankings including NIRF and THE for some years now. What plans do you have to regain its glory?
Being a premiere university, we can be ranked well if the data is collected properly and we are focusing on this. We have done well on various parameters, but our student-teacher ratio has not improved over the years because we have not been able to recruit faculty.
PU could not implement NAAC recommendations of 2015. Why has the varsity failed to take corrective steps?
We have already started working on the recommendations of NAAC and soon you will find a very tangible outcome. We are concerned about the next visit by NAAC.
The varsity continues to reel under faculty crunch, and was not able to recruit teachers during your first term. What is your plan on this?
I cannot do it on my own and I need the approval of the governing body for faculty recruitment. We also need a green signal from the government. I will put this thing before the governing body and hopefully they will take steps for the development and growth of the varsity.
What in your view should be the governance structure of PU?
I don’t want to comment on this at this juncture because the high-level committee is working on it. Let’s see what comes out of that.
What are the major challenges for you in the next three years?
According to me, the appointment of faculty will be a challenge, and the governing body needs to take serious note of it. I can work on improving rankings and other things, but I cannot do faculty recruitment on my own.