Gujarat assembly passes Bill unifying 11 university acts

Gujarat assembly passes Bill unifying 11 university acts


Gujarat Public Universities Bill seeks to unify different Acts to smoothen the governance of 11 universities in the state and properly implement the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP).

The Gujarat assembly on Saturday passed the Gujarat Public Universities Bill which seeks to unify different Acts to smoothen the governance of 11 universities in the state and properly implement the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP).

While Education Minister Rushikesh Patel called the Bill a "milestone," the opposition Congress said it infringes on the autonomy of the universities and is detrimental to academic freedom.

With this Bill, 11 Acts governing as many universities stand repealed.

The Bill, passed by a voice vote, provides common guidelines to ensure "smooth governance" of these universities through "better coordination, cooperation and proper utilisation of higher education facilities." It also seeks to ensure "sound finance control, better-quality higher education and measures to create excellent quality standards in the face of global competition.” With the exception of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU), the Gujarat Governor will serve as chancellor of ten universities. Shubhangini Raje Gaekwad, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Baroda, shall be the chancellor of MSU, the Bill said.

"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 University Acts," the Bill said.

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.

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 vice chancellor at another university for another term of five years.

A vice chancellor may be removed from the 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, the Bill states.

"The Bill will be a milestone. It will fulfil all the requirements of a university for higher education in the 21st century," Education Minister Patel told the House.

It will improve the management of universities and remove discrepancies in the implementation of the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC), he said.

Congress legislature party leader Amit Chavda, on the other hand, said the Bill was an attempt at "sarkarikaran" 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," Chavda claimed.

All these universities have contributed to different fields and different regions, and the Bill will take away their autonomy to introduce different courses, he said.

The leader of a senate and syndicate bodies addresses the issues faced by students. Now, only those close to the government will be appointed to the administrative bodies, the Congress leader said.

Several provisions of the Bill are problematic and will encourage corruption in the transfer of staff and sale of immovable properties of the universities, he further claimed.

While a board of management will be the final decision- and policy-making body, a university will also have an executive council as its functional authority and an academic council as the premier academic authority, the Bill said.

The government will have the power to specify eligibility conditions for being nominated as a member of any of these authorities.

All these universities will be required to enact model statutes, to be provided by the state government, and any changes to them will be subject to the government's approval. The government will also be empowered to prescribe uniform statutes for all the universities.

Further, the Bill debars a university from disqualifying a teacher or non-teaching employee on the ground of becoming a member of the legislative assembly or Parliament. The period of membership of Assembly or Parliament will be treated as leave without pay.