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A Self-Destructive Idea

VC’s proposal of having Chief Minister as pro-chancellor will harm GU

The proposal made by Vice Chancellor Varun Sahni to appoint Chief Minister as ‘pro-chancellor’ of Goa University has been severely criticized by educationists and academicians who have said that the idea was odd and impractical. Actually many were bemused when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant informed the state Assembly in its last session that the Goa University Act would be amended to provide for appointment of chief minister as ‘pro-chancellor.’ The idea was all the more bewildering as it was not a suo motu announcement of the government, but originating from Vice Chancellor Varun Sahni. The proposal was first sent to former chief minister the late Manohar Parrikar but he turned it down on the grounds that he did not want to create another power centre in the university. The Vice Chancellor’s persistence with the idea is intriguing. Usually the head of an autonomous institution laments erosion of autonomy and presses for more autonomy. But here is a Vice Chancellor inviting the government to clip more of his wings! It must have been disappointing to the VC to find that the government was not moving as fast as he would have liked them to. Though Chief Minister Sawant announced the proposal in the Assembly weeks ago, his office had not made the next move and not sent any communication to the department of higher education for drafting an amendment to the Goa University statutes for CM’s appointment as ‘pro-chancellor.’

No Indian university has an office called ‘pro-chancellor.’ According to the statutes, the chief executive of a university is the vice chancellor. If such a post is created and the Chief Minister appointed to the post, he would be subservient to the chief executive of the Goa University; so Sahni can say no to any proposal from Sawant. The head of the university is the chancellor. Though chancellor is a titular head, whose function is largely ceremonial, the vice chancellor is expected to work in close consultation with the chancellor. The post of pro-chancellor exists in some universities in Commonwealth countries. The pro-chancellor acts as a deputy to chancellor and is chairperson of the university council. However, the superior powers even in Commonwealth universities which have a pro-chancellor are vested in the vice chancellor. If the state government decides to appoint Chief Minister ex-officio as pro-chancellor on the pattern of Commonwealth universities he would be no more than a deputy to chancellor. The superior powers would still be vested with the vice chancellor – unless of course the government decides to vest pro-chancellor with powers that can override the powers of the vice chancellor. But if the government does that the whole university administration will become a mockery, as Chief Minister will become the de jure vice chancellor. Vice chancellor Sahni might have to work as his deputy, rather than the chief executive. 

Goa University receives most of its funding from the state government by virtue of being a state university, but it is an autonomous body. However, though it is autonomous it is not that the government does not have any presence in the university. The government has four representatives on the board of the Goa University. The Governor, who is ex-officio chancellor, has one representative on the executive council of the Goa University, which is the highest decision making body of the university. Where is the need for the chief executive of the state government to represent the government on the university bodies? Politicians have been the cause of ruin of many institutions, such as co-operatives; the Goa University should not invite its politicization by appointing chief minister as pro-chancellor who will presumably be superior to vice chancellor as he cannot be inferior to him! We hope Chief Minister Pramod Sawant would give VC Sahni’s proposal second and deeper thoughts and finally reject it as it would be counterproductive. The best thing for VC Sahni to do is to announce the withdrawal of his self-destructive proposal. Goa University is going down in academic ranking and standards. If Sahni wants to make us believe that he has exhausted all his knowledge and expertise to improve its ranking and standards and only Chief Minister as pro-chancellor can do it, little can be more ludicrous.

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