The unending academic fracas involving Pondicherry University and its vice-chancellor has taken many turns. After the UGC and the Central Government, the Madras High Court is the latest institution to speak its mind, while refusing to intervene on behalf of the vice-chancellor who has been under a cloud. The sordid drama features all the elements of academic sleaze, namely, from allegations of plagiarism, fake degrees and window-dressing of CV to highhandedness and dereliction of duty. It is the same drama — with minor variations and changes in the cast — that appears to be repeating time and again.
The entire controversy points to the failure of the systemic scrutiny, due diligence and rigour in evaluation of candidates for crucial offices, since the said vice-chancellor had in the past served as vice-chancellor of National Law University, Odisha (NLUO) and of SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, besides holding other prominent positions. This has to be fixed forthwith to prevent recurrence of such unsavoury incidents which dent the credibility of educational degree-granting institutions and impact the future of youth. A fool-proof selection system should be put in place and all stakeholders taken on board. An effective system of verifying academic credentials too may be called for given the prevalence of academic fraud at all levels.
The larger question, however, relates to the granting of autonomy to educational institutions as a prerequisite to promoting academic excellence. On the agenda should be curriculum revision, choice-based credit system, focused innovation and research, periodic appraisal of teachers, transparency and accountability at the helm, and a more rigorous and credible search-cum-selection system for appointment of top officials. It should start with the appointment of the vice-chancellor. The candidate should not only be distinguished and reputed educationist, but also an able administrator and leader. Many commissions and committees have had recommended reforms. The political establishment must muster the courage and will to give up its stranglehold over higher educational institutions in the country in the interests of education and in turn the nation’s development.