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HomeAhmedabad‘Public’ replaces ‘common’ in new Bill, sweeping changes for 11 universities 

‘Public’ replaces ‘common’ in new Bill, sweeping changes for 11 universities 

As a three-day Monsoon Session commences on Wednesday, the state government is set to table the Gujarat Public Universities Bill, 2023. The proposed legislation is set to bring sweeping changes in 11 universities in the state. Of the 11 varsities, 10 will have the Governor of the state as their chancellor once the Bill is cleared.

Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Vadodara, however, will be an exception in this regard whose Chancellor will continue to be from the royal family.

The new legislation also introduces a clause to remove the vice-chancellor of a varsity in case of association with a political party or if they are found to be “working against the government or interest of education”. The new Bill also limits the V-C’s term in a university to five years or till the V-C is 65 years old.

The Bill is set to be tabled after the contentious term ‘Common’ was removed from the title, and three more government-run universities were added to the initial list of eight.

The legislation was earlier titled ‘The Gujarat Common Universities Bill, 2023’. Officials pleading anonymity revealed the government replaced the term ‘Common’ after the usage was debated over the years. During the representations from various stakeholders, the term “Public” was suggested, and eventually it was taken up in the new title for the proposed legislation, said people aware of the matter.

Gujarat has been witnessing statewide protests by teaching and non-teaching staff of state universities against the proposed law. Critics have described it as a “complete annihilation of autonomy of the universities, accessible education, and the right to dissent”.

As per the state government, however, the proposed Bill aims to implement the recommendations of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. “Smooth governance of universities, better coordination, cooperation and proper utilisation of higher education facilities of universities, sound finance control, better quality higher education and measures to create excellent quality standards in the face of global competition,” have been counted among the objectives of ‘The Gujarat Public Universities Bill, 2023’.

“There is a need to remove and rectify the errors, deficiencies, obstacles, loopholes, and limitations that have been identified by experience in various sections of the University Acts. The intention and objectives have been taken to prepare highly responsible citizens through higher education in the state and to make them aware of the democratic system,” it has been further highlighted in the proposed legislation.

The Bill aims to bring into implementation common guidelines relating to the 11 universities — Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, Sardar Patel University in Anand, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University in Surat, Saurashtra University in Rajkot, Maharaja Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavnagar University in Bhavnagar, Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University in Patan, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University in Ahmedabad, Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University in Bhuj, Bhakta Kavi Narsinh Mehta University in Junagadh and Shro Govind Guru University in Godhra.

The three new universities, that have been added recently, are Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University, Bhakta Kavi Narsinh Mehta University, Junagadh, and Shri Govind Guru University.

Among the major changes incorporated is the inclusion of the Governor of the state as the Chancellor of the Universities. Earlier, the state government was the Chancellor. “The Government of Gujarat and the Chancellor as per Gujarat Act No.13 of 2015 and the Government of Gujarat” – as per the earlier norm. However, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda remains an exception where the royal family ‘Her Highness Shrimati Shubhangini Raje Gaekwad shall be the Chancellor of the University’, the Act specifies.

Sources reveal the change was incorporated from the Central Universities Act where the “Chancellor, by virtue of his or her office, is the head of the University and shall, if present, preside at the convocations”.

Another noticeable change has been pertaining to the terms of the Vice-Chancellor and members of the Board of Management. The proposed legislation has an addition on “working against the government” under the provisions of removal of the Vice-Chancellor. The earlier draft did not have the details, as per sources.

“The Vice-Chancellor may be removed from his office if he or she ‘is a member of or is otherwise associated with any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics or is taking part in or subscribing in aid of any political movement or activity or working against the government or interest of education,” states the proposed Bill, as seen by The Indian Express.

Also, “whether any party is a political party or whether any organisation takes part in politics, or whether any moment or activity falls within the scope of this clause, the decision of the state government shall be final”, it underlines.

The term of members of the Board of Management has been specified as two-and-a-half years, which was not the case earlier.

The proposed legislation will replace the senate and syndicate with the Board of Management, which will be the principal executive and final decision-making and policy-making authority of the university and responsible for administering all the affairs.

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“The Board of Management is the supreme authority and main decision-making power body. The Board of Management may issue directions, and instructions and may change the decisions of Academic and Executive councils,” the Bill stresses.

For the new state universities in the future, “the state government may from time to time by notification in the official gadget constitute any new University under this act by such name,” it further says.

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While the Executive Council is the functional authority and subordinate to the Board of Management, the Academic Council is the principal academic authority of the university and is responsible for regulating and maintaining the standards of teaching research and evaluation in the university at present.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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