Gujarat Global News Network, Gandhinagar
The Gujarat Assembly passed the controversial Gujarat Public Universities Bill, which makes sweeping changes in the affairs of the public universities including ending student politics by removing the senate and syndicate system while concentrating the powers in the hands of the State government.
The Bill is aimed at unifying the different Acts to smoothen the governance of 11 public universities in the State and properly implement the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP), as per the State government.
While Higher Education Minister Rushikesh Patel called the Bill a “milestone”, the Opposition Congress said it would kill the autonomy of the public universities as the stringent provisions of the bill infringe on the autonomy of the universities and are detrimental to academic freedom and internal functioning of the varsities.
With the passage of the Bill in the State Assembly, 11 Acts governing as many public universities stand repealed and all the universities have been brought under a common law to govern themselves with common guidelines to ensure “smooth governance” of these universities through “better coordination, cooperation and proper utilisation of higher education facilities”.
The Bill was passed through a voice vote amidst opposition from the Congress legislators, who argued that the Bill was meant to end the autonomy of the universities and academic freedom by placing them at the mercy of the State government.
However, the government argued that the Bill was meant to provide for “sound finance control, better-quality higher education and measures to create excellent quality standards in the face of global competition” and equip the varsities to cope with the requirements of the 21st century.
Once the Bill comes into practice, the Governor will serve as the Chancellor of 10 Universities while Shubhangini Raje Gaekwad, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda, shall be the Chancellor of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad University in Vadodara.
The Bill replaces the senates and syndicates with a “board of management”, which will be the principal executive and final decision-making and policy-making authority of a university and responsible for administering all its affairs, which means there would not be any elections or any political activity by the students wings of any political party.
As per the provisions of the Bill, members of a board of management will have a term of two-and-a-half years. The Bill restricts the tenure of a Vice-Chancellor to five years at a university. If found competent, the person may be appointed as V-C at another university for another term of five years.
Moreover, a V-C may be removed from office if he or she has an association with a political party or organisation. It will be up to the government to decide if a party or organisation is “political” in nature, stated in the Bill.
“The Bill will be a milestone. It will fulfil all the requirements of a university for higher education in the 21st century,” Education Minister Rishikesh Patel told the House during the discussions on Saturday.
Congress MLA Arjun Modhvadia slammed the government for bringing the Bill to end the autonomy and academic independence of the universities in the State.
The Congress legislature party leader Amit Chavda said the Bill was an attempt at “sarkarikaran” (governmentisation) of education. He also accused the government of encouraging privatisation, and said the Bill was an attack on the autonomy of public universities. “The Bill will end the academic and financial autonomy of 11 universities,” he claimed.