KOLKATA, 19 JUNE: The state government&’s claim of staying away from the selection process of Vice-chancellors, falls flat after it proposed officials of the higher education council as the government’s nominees in V-C search committees.
Prof Suagata Marjit’s name has been proposed as the government’s nominee on the search committee for the next V-C of Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu). He is the chairman of the West Bengal State Council of Higher Education (WBSCHE). Similarly, the vice-chairman of WBSCHE, Prof Avijit Chakraborty, is the state government&’s nominee on the V-C search committee of West Bengal University of Technology (WBUT).
The higher education council helps the higher education department with state-level planning and co-ordination. According to its act, the minister in charge of higher education is the ex-officio chairman of the council.
Questions regarding the state government’s influence over the V-C selection process were raised when the varsity acts were amended to replace UGC nominees with the state government’s nominees on the search committee. But so far, other V-Cs of state universities have been selected as the government’s nominees.
Hence, proposing the name of Prof Marjit as the government’s nominee to the V-C search committee of Besu, and of Prof Chakraborty to the V-C search committee of WBUT, has ripped off all pretensions, according to a section of academics.
The case of Besu, in particular, has become more controversial, since there was a conflict the last time between the higher education department and the Chancellor regarding the V-C’s selection.
Turning down the proposal of selecting an interim V-C for this premier engineering and technology institution, the Chancellor asked the state government to grant an extension to Prof Ajay Ray, the present incumbent, for six months. Since the extended term would come to an end in August, the university authorities have recently written to the Chancellor as well as to the higher education department. It has been learnt that the Chancellor has asked the department to give Prof Ray another extension, if it is permissible in Besu&’s act.
"Otherwise, a search committee should be formed immediately to select a full-term V-C. This is what the Chancellor wants," said a source. But as Prof Ray has already enjoyed an extension, he cannot be given another one and this forced the department to prepare the search committee in which Prof Marjit will be the nominee of the state government. Apart from him, there will be Prof M Anandakrishnan as the Chancellor’s nominee, and Prof Srikumar Banerjee, the nominee of the university court.
While the issue of the state government’s influence over the selection of Besu V-C is being debated, some academics are supporting this move.
"In many other states, the higher education council plays a vital role in the selection of V-Cs of universities," an academic said.