'Pool' for VC appointment: Consider UGC proposal

When allegations of various irregularities are being raised against the vice-chancellors of quite a few public universities and their loyalty towards party politics is crossing the limits, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has proposed to fill the top three positions of the university, vice-chancellor, pro vice-chancellor and treasurer by forming a pool of eminent educators.

The 14-point recommendation suggested for higher education in the annual UGC report of 2022 addressed the issue of vice-chancellor, pro vice-chancellor and treasurer appointment as well. UGC submits a report containing various data on the universities and the condition of higher studies in the country to the government every year.

However, why the report from 2022 would be submitted a year later isn’t clear. Why the report published with the data and facts from 2022 wouldn’t be submitted within the first three months of 2023? When their recommendations get published the situation has changed quite a lot.   

According to the ordinance of 1973, the vice-chancellors of the four autonomous universities are supposed to be appointed through selection. A list containing the panel of three teachers is sent to the chancellor and he selects one of them from that panel (though the chancellor does the selection, he takes the decision on the executive branch’s advice).

This rule is followed in four universities (Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Chattogram University and Jahangirnagar University). Meanwhile, the government or the executive branch does the selection in the rest of the universities as they wish. Currently there are 169 registered universities in the country with 55 public and 114 private.

Even in the mentioned four universities where there is an obligation to appoint vice-chancellors through the selection process, it is not followed. The executive branch makes the appointment first and justifies it through selection later.

The reality is that the teachers in almost every single public university get into a rat race for the posts of the vice-chancellor and the pro vice-chancellor. In this case the political allegiance gets prioritised after all. Meanwhile, the academic and administrative experience or excellence is not taken into consideration.

In many cases even the University Act has been overlooked to reward this political allegiance. In fact, questions have been raised about the appointment of vice-chancellors from subjects outside of the science stream at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet and at Noakhali University of Science and Technology.

Political consideration in appointing vice-chancellors at the universities has been going on for years. And there has been no exception in any regime after 1991. Whenever a party comes to power, teachers loyal to that particular party are appointed as vice-chancellors indeed.

Since Awami League has been in power for 15 years at a stretch, party affiliation weighs heavier on their part. The vice-chancellors appointed under political consideration in these universities hardly care about the rules and regulations.

Under these circumstances, a fair academic environment cannot be expected in any of these universities. An initiative to appoint vice-chancellors by forming a search committee had been taken during the regime of the military-supported caretaker government, that didn’t succeed either.  

In that case the recommendation University Grants Commission has made about appointing vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors and treasurers from the pool of distinguished teachers, demands to be considered. However, there’s a concern in here as well. Who will comprise the pool? If political influence comes into play while forming the pool, suitable candidates won’t be found in these top posts of the university.

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