State-funded universities in Tamil Nadu, which should be citadels of learning, have of late become cradles of corruption. Over the past decade, whenever a new vice-chancellor has been appointed to a State university, or when recruitment of faculty positions and posts like registrar and Controller of Examination were filled, there have been murmurs in academic circles that the person ‘bought the post’ for a price. There have also been allegations that political influence, community and favoritism played a role in appointment of these key posts.
There have been allegations that those appointed as vice-chancellors after paying a hefty sum, in turn become more corrupt, as they look to recover the amount they had spent to get the post in the first place, and plenty more than that. Their first choice is faculty appointments, which reportedly fetch them around `25-50 lakh for each post, depending upon the demand. Apart from this, excess appointments
of non-teaching staff, purchases, renovation of offices and construction of buildings are seen as sources of income generation. Some of the vice-chancellors had allegedly looted money by producing fake food bills for functions held in the university, besides getting commissions from contractors. Allegations of old answer sheets were being sold illegally had also surfaced in the past. These instances happen only when corrupt persons occupy the top post in the university.
Devil is in the detail
The recent arrest of A Ganapathy, vice-chancellor of Bharathiar University after he was caught red handed by Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption officials for accepting bribe of `1 lakh in cash and `29 lakh cheque from an assistant professor of Chemistry department in the university, has only exposed the deep-rooted corruption in the system. In fact, the arrest itself was a follow-up of efforts by the State Higher Education Department to weed out corruption in the university system, by ordering for a DVAC probe against irregularities levelled against three past vice-chancellors of the university in Coimbatore.
To ensure that only eligible persons are named vice-chancellors of State universities, the Higher Education Department had also amended the university act, fixing qualifications for VC aspirants, as well as VC search committee members. “VC aspirants’ applications should be carefully scrutinised to ensure they haven’t exaggerated their qualifications. The application of all candidates who apply for VC post should be uploaded on the website of the respective universities so that others can also verify the information provided by them,” said M Anandhakrishnan, former vice-chancellor of Anna University. “Vice-chancellors who pay money to get the post will want to recover the money. Earlier, they assumed that the politician who helped them get the job would also protect them from being caught by DVAC. Now, there will be a fear that they will not be able to get protection and need to stop paying and getting bribes.”
Anandhakrishnan, who is also former chairman, Board of Governors, IIT Kanpur, suggested that each candidate should be asked to give three references and the search committee should write to those referenced and seek their opinion. This is normally done in foreign universities and other States, but has not been followed in Tamil Nadu, he added.
Govt should be more careful
E Balagurusamy, former vice-chancellor of Anna University and former member of Union Public Service Commission, urged the government to form a high-level committee headed by a retired High Court Judge and conduct an enquiry into all appointments in the last ten years in all State universities. “The committee should also probe all purchases and tender processes over the last decade. The committee should submit its report to the Governor and all those who are found guilty should be booked and all property and money collected should be taken back,” he said. He also felt that the government’s recent amendment has diluted the qualification for VC and VC search committee members. “Nobody from self-financing colleges should be allowed to become a search committee member. It will result in conflict of interest,” he opined.
He also suggested that the criteria based on which 10 final candidates are short-listed for interview should be declared openly and submitted to the Chancellor, along with supporting reasons. A DVAC clearance should also be obtained on these candidates and the person who is appointed as VC should take oath of office and declare his assets openly. He also lamented that corruption in faculty appointment started around 2006, and has now been institutionalised.
Talking about Tamil Nadu Universities Law amendments, S Sivasubramaniam, former vice-chancellor of Bharathiar University, said it has brought transparency to VC selection process. “There are possibilities of caste, religion, association or a powerful group influencing the selection of senate and syndicate nominees in the VCs search committwee. So, the Governor or government nominee, who will be the convenor, has more responsibility in ensuring only good persons with honesty and integrity are recommended for the post of VC,” he said.
“The selection committee has to first check whether VC aspirants possess required qualification as prescribed in the Government order. Then the committee has to check whether any cases are pending against them, and get inputs from faculty and academicians about the applicants. Above all, the committee should ask the aspirants what is their vision and plan for development of the university. Based on these, the selection should be done,” he added.
Person with integrity
The selected person should be a good academician in their chosen field, men of honesty and integrity, should know university administration, and should also have good communication skills, he opined. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, in a recent Central Advisory Board of Education meeting, had said that four States have introduced transparent VC selection process and Tamil Nadu is one of them, he pointed out.However, K Pandiyan, former president of Association of University Teachers (AUT), put the blame on politicians and bureaucrats for the present status of higher education.
“The entire system of university administration has degenerated and universities have become an extended arm of the Higher Education Department,” he said. “When there were 3,500 excess faculty appointments and 7,000 excess non-teaching staff appointments at Annamalai University and crores of government money paid to the university, what was the department doing,” he asked. He felt there should be common recruitment commissions, one for university recruitments and another for aided college recruitments.
➊ A Ph.D. Degree in any discipline (in Engineering or Technology or Science in the case of Anna University)
➋Not less than twenty years of experience in teaching and research in universities or post graduate colleges or publicly funded research institutions or in all taken together; or not less than ten years of experience as Professor in a University system
➌ Not less than six years of administrative experience in universities or post graduate colleges or publicly funded research institutions in positions such as Dean, Head of the Department or any other such administrative positions of equal or higher degree of responsibility or in all taken together
➍Must have published not less than five research papers in University Grants Commission listed journals after acquiring Ph.D or authored not less than two books (non edited books) if adequate number of such University Grants Commission listed journals are not available
➎Must have presented not less than two papers in international level academic or research events and possess experience of having conducted not less than one such academic or research event.
VC selection committee members
A nominee of the Chancellor, who shall be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or any High Court or an eminent educationist, a nominee of the Senate and a nominee of the Syndicate, who shall be an eminent educationist.
‘Eminent educationist’ means a person, (i) who is or has been a Vice-Chancellor of any University established by the State Government or Central Government; or (ii) who is a distinguished academician, with a minimum of ten years of experience as Professor in a State or Central University or in both taken together; or (iii) who is or has been a Director or Head of any institute of national importance: Provided that the person so nominated shall not be a member of any of the authorities of the University or shall not be connected with the University or any college or any recognized institution of the University