New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) Visionary vice chancellors may be appointed by chance but then socio-political factors govern their selection in most cases, says Arun Nigavekar, former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Most of the academicians, being oblivious of ground realities at university administrative level and in affiliating colleges, are unprepared for shouldering the responsibilities as vice-chancellors (VCs), says Nigavekar, a Raja Ramanna Fellow in Science and Technology Park at University of Pune.
"In a way, we have predominantly 'losing universities' -- universities that are performing duties of research and education as a ritual with no accountability," Nigavekar, a solid state physicist, told IANS from Pune.
Therefore, the biggest challenge before educationists is to create "winning universities" -- training graduates to act as driving force in a knowledge-linked economy, said Nigavekar, dubbed as "the father of quality education in India" by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
"The success of a 'winning university' is directly linked to quality of leadership at the highest echelons. Today, we do not have competitive leadership. It is true for vice-chancellors. It is equally true in case of academic deans and heads of departments," Nigavekar said.
He made the observations ahead of participating in an education summit in New Delhi Feb 14-15 by Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI), an apex body of over 500 higher education institutes.
The higher education system in India has rapidly grown to more than 600 universities and 35,000 colleges and choosing the right leadership for creating winning universities becomes critical as enrolments will rise to 3.6 crore by 2016-17 from the current 2.59 crore.
The country is still short of about 50,000 capable academic leaders to manage institutions of higher learning.
By 2020, it will require 50,000 additional leaders capable of leading these institutions, said Harivansh Chaturvedi, co-president, EPSI and director, Birla Institute of Management Technology.
The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Higher Education Institutions Bill, 2011, though not in the formal agenda, will also come up for deliberations at the summit.
If the bill becomes a law, then vice-chancellors, deans, directors and principals will be liable to face imprisonment in case of lapses in admission, appointment and evaluation.
More than 200 academic leaders from business, engineering, medical and legal education streams, besides humanities, social services, liberal arts and business will attend the summit which will be inaugurated by Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resource development, said an EPSI statement.
K.B. Powar, professor and chancellor, D.Y. Patil University in Pune, seemed to endorse Nigavekar's line: "It is unfortunate that we get the second best talent at entry level and that too because of the love for teaching and research."
"We need to first identify the transformational leaders and then train them. The potential leaders must demonstrate essential traits -- academic excellence, all-round interest in sports, culture, social skills, including good communication ability and emotional stability," he said.