Appointment of VCs and institution building

It should be a binding upon incumbent VCs to serve their institutions for full term to execute their plans and demonstrate professional commitment
Appointment of VCs and institution building
"Many eligible professors from different universities and other technical and research institutions from within and outside J&K are expected to apply for these posts on the basis of their eligibility and other set conditions."Special arrangement

The posts of Vice Chancellors of Jammu University and Kashmir University have been put to advertisement last month after the three-year term of the incumbent VCs ended.

The posts were advertised after the Chancellor's Office constituted two separate search committees to draw a panel of names for the appointment of new VCs.

According to the advertisement notifications, issued by Registrars of two Universities, the post of VC requires applicants to have exceptional leadership abilities, highest level of integrity and a great professional commitment. The VCs so appointed shall be the Principal Executive and Academic Officer of their respective Universities.

The Kashmir University notification reads that any person possessing high level of academic credentials, administrative competence, integrity, morals and institutional commitment will be eligible for the post of the VC, and the candidate should be a distinguished academician with a minimum of 10 years of experience as Professor in a University or 10 years of experience in a reputed research or academic administrative organisation.

Many eligible professors from different universities and other technical and research institutions from within and outside J&K are expected to apply for these posts on the basis of their eligibility and other set conditions. In the process, most of the applicants are also expected to be the incumbent VCs who have recently or very recently, joined to lead their institutions.

These incumbent VCs happen to be under ethical oath to serve their institutions with utmost commitment and dedication when they are appointed because a VC is not only about occupying the chair, but also about running the affairs of the highest seats of the learning with great devotion and dedication.

But, when these incumbent VCs, after spending a very short span of time in their institutions, apply for the post of VC at new institutions at a time when they happen to be serving their present institutions in the middle or at start of their term, it raises moral and ethical questions on both their commitment as well as the oath that they happen to be under.

No doubt there is no legal binding upon any incumbent VC to apply for any post elsewhere, but the debate here is beyond the issue of legality. It is about ethics and commitment that a VC is expected to demonstrate.

Moreover, when a sitting VC moves to another institution in the middle of his or her term, it hits the functioning and planning of these institutions very badly. We have seen in the recent past how long it took the government to appoint the Vice Chancellor of a University in Kashmir.

Recently, the Chancellor of the J&K Universities approved the appointment of new VC for SKUAST-K which was without a permanent VC for more than a year. And it is obvious that any distinguished professor or academician given interim charge of a VC is not able to do justice with the chair for obvious reasons.

Such interim or in-charge arrangements mar the overall functioning of the University in question. Major policy decisions and other works hit a roadblock due to such interim arrangements.

SKUAST was not the only university. The same process was followed for the Central University of Kashmir (CUK) as well. The five-year tenure of the former VC CUK ended last year after which he was given an extension of one year to continue in the University.

In mid-October 2021 the former VC demitted his office and again a professor was made in-charge VC of the University while the Ministry of Education is yet to appoint a permanent VC for the University despite the Search Committee already submitting a panel of names for its consideration. It is obvious the in-charge VC of a university will not work with commitment and powers as that of a permanent VC.

It has been observed that interim arrangements have not proved fruitful for the overall functioning of the University. An in-charge VC remains guarded and cautious in taking major policy decisions with regard to the research and academics and his main focus remains to continue on the chair till the permanent VC joins the office.

The crux is that when the incumbent VCs apply for the post of VC in other universities, it causes temporary vacancies again which hits policy planning and leads to uncertainty that prevails in institutions for a long time.

This shifting also causes other problems, including taxing the functioning of the Chancellor's office, which has to restart the whole process again which takes a lot of time to complete. Eventually, it is the institution that suffers in this whole exhaustive process.

The Government also needs to streamline the system by taking the right decisions at the right time. Let us talk about the appointment of new VCs for KU and JU. The term of both incumbent VCs ended in July-August of 2021 after their tenure was reduced from five years to three years following the amendments in University Act.

So, the search committee should have been constituted at least two to three months prior to the expiry date of their tenure so that the selection of new VC was complete in all respects well in time. But the search committee was constituted almost four months after the tenure of both the VCs ended. It seemed that the government was clueless about applying the new amendments on the tenure of the incumbent VCs of the two Universities.

Amid all this delay, if the incumbents of the other Universities apply for the VC post of KU and JU, it will further mess up the functioning of the institutions that they head at present.

The Universities should not be treated as merely institutions which are all about VCs but as ones having a major role in bringing reforms in academics and research at the higher level. These institutions should not be allowed to fall prey to any politics surrounding appointment of VCs.

The J&K government should bring in some kind of legislative framework, while institutions should also plan statutory modifications, to make it binding upon incumbent VCs to serve their institutions full term and enable full execution of their plans and programmes.

These frameworks can include, among other things, that no incumbent VC shall apply for another position of VC till the time his term concludes. Once his term concludes, he can apply at any other place of his choice. It will save existing institutions from malfunctioning, uncertainty, chaos and academic politics.

It will also save finances and human resources utilisation at the Chancellor's office which has to redo things as a consequence.

It will also allow upholding of commitment and integrity of VCs which are prerequisites for their eligibility. These objectives must not be allowed to be compromised in any manner whatsoever.

Greater Kashmir