Governor’s Role in the Universities
- 09 Nov 2022
- 10 min read
Why in News?
Recently, the Kerala High Court restrained the Governor of the state in his capacity as Chancellor of universities, from passing final orders on the show cause notices he issued to Vice-Chancellors of eight universities.
- The Governor had issued the notices to the Vice-Chancellors citing violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) norms in their appointment.
What are the Governor’s Powers related Universities?
- State Universities:
- In most cases, the Governor of the state is the ex-officio chancellor of the universities in that state.
- While as Governor he functions with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, as Chancellor he acts independently of the Council of Ministers and takes his own decisions on all University matters.
- Central Universities:
- Under the Central Universities Act, 2009, and other statutes, the President of India shall be the Visitor of a central university.
- With their role limited to presiding over convocations, Chancellors in central universities are titular heads, who are appointed by the President in his capacity as Visitor.
- The Vice Chancellor too are appointed by the Visitor from panels of names picked by search and selection committees formed by the Union government.
- The Act adds that the President, as Visitor, shall have the right to authorise inspections of academic and non-academic aspects of the universities and also to institute inquiries.
What is the Original Intent of Making Governors hold the Office of Chancellor?
- The original intent of making Governors hold the office of Chancellor and vesting some statutory powers on them was to insulate universities from political influence.
- Recommendations of Commission:
- Sarkaria Commission:
- Justice R.S. Sarkaria Commission noted the use of discretion by some Governors in some university appointments had come in for criticism.
- It acknowledged the distinction between the Governor’s constitutional role and the statutory role performed as a Chancellor, and also underlined that the Chancellor is not obliged to seek the government’s advice.
- M.M. Punchhi Commission:
- Noting that the Governor should not be “burdened with positions and powers, which may expose the office to controversies or public criticism, it advised against conferring statutory powers on the Governor.
- Sarkaria Commission:
What is the UGC’s role in this?
- Education comes under the Concurrent List, but entry 66 of the Union List — “coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions” gives the Centre substantial authority over higher education.
- The University Grants Commission plays that standard-setting role, even in the case of appointments in universities and colleges.
- According to the UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2018, the “Visitor/Chancellor” — mostly the Governor in states — shall appoint the VC out of the panel of names recommended by search-cum-selection committees.
- Higher educational institutions, particularly those that get UGC funds, are mandated to follow its regulations.
- These are usually followed without friction in the case of central universities but are sometimes resisted by the states in the case of state universities.
- The time may have come for all States to reconsider having the Governor as the Chancellor.
- However, they should also find alternative means of protecting university autonomy so that ruling parties do not exercise undue influence on the functioning of universities.