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India's Most Prestigious University Has a Governance Crisis

A governance crisis at the University of Delhi that came to a head with the suspension of the Vice Chancellor highlights much broader problems in education Indian superiors that could hamper the competitiveness of the sector, experts said.

Yogesh Tyagi, vice-chancellor of India's most prestigious institution since 2016, was suspended by the country's government after he and the university's executive council reportedly attempted to nominate rival candidates for the registrar position at the same time.

Tyagi's decisions were declared null and void, as he had been on medical leave since July. The leadership duties were handed over to Pooran Chand Joshi, the vice chancellor who had been covering Tyagi for the past few months.

The Ministry of Education published a litany of complaints against Tyagi on October 28. He claimed that "many statutory and key positions" had become vacant, including those of registrar, treasurer, exam controller, librarian, dean of universities and others. It also alleged that cases related to “surveillance,” which often means corruption, and sexual harassment had been pending for two years

.

The Times of India reported other charges related to unpaid staff, suspected misuse of funds by teachers, and problems with online exams.

Neither Tyagi nor the university responded to requests for comment from Times Higher Education . But the academics said the problems went beyond Delhi and predated Tyagi, who is known as an excellent scholar and teacher, if not the most efficient administrator.

Rajni Palriwala, a Delhi sociology professor who retired last month and has worked with numerous vice chancellors, said Times Higher Education that the many job openings in teaching accumulated before the most recent leadership. "The vacancies have seriously hampered the operation of the university, in faculties and schools, especially with overloaded professors," he said.

Allegations of corruption and harassment also existed under previous university leaders.

Palriwala said that action in day-to-day affairs has been slower in recent years, but a combination of mismanagement, deliberate politics and politics had caused traffic jams.

"All the problems are compounded by a political regime that tries to control education, leaving aside academic foundations and the idea of ​​education as a public good," he said. "These institutions are made to function like elephants that cannot move except in the direction they want."

Palash Deb, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta, said Times Higher Education that "mismanagement at the top is a common problem in central and state universities in India".

He added that a solution would be to review the process for the selection of vice-rectors "to reduce political interference."

"Good governance is essential for Indian universities to be globally competitive," Deb said. “The selection, reward and promotion of teachers are often based on considerations other than merit, demoralizing the most talented teachers and providing them little incentive to excel. Therefore, weak governance has crucial implications for the competitiveness of Indian universities. ”

Pushkar, director of the Goa International Center, said that "the presence of deep-rooted and vocal political factions easily leads to management problems of all kinds, and what is happening today is neither unusual nor surprising."

He considered that “the university is going through a transition phase during which there is also a clash between the old and the new rules. I think this adds to the difficulties in addressing management and other related issues. ”

Although COVID-19 was also causing a great challenge to higher education, "it is the politicization of public universities and their limited autonomy from the government that is the biggest obstacle to their global competitiveness."

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