Proposed amendments to RGUHS Act raise questions on varsity’s autonomy

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Bangalore, October 11:  In what appears to be an attempt to infringe on the autonomy of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), the State government is all set to amend the RGUHS Act, 1994, through an Ordinance.

The Ordinance, approved by the Cabinet last month, is awaiting Governor H.R. Bhardwaj’s nod. If approved, the amendments will enable the government to have its principal secretaries for Medical Education, Higher Education, and Health and Family Welfare, in addition to five other nominees, in the university’s Syndicate.

Increased strength

This will, in effect, increase the strength of the 16-member Syndicate to 24, out of which 11 will be government nominees. According to the Ordinance, a copy of which is with The Hindu, this will be done by amending Sections 21 and 24 of the RGUHS Act.

RGUHS Vice-Chancellor K.S. Sriprakash said: “I have apprised the authorities concerned, including the Governor, who is the Chancellor of the university.”

The former Vice-Chancellor of the university and chairperson of the RGUHS Act, 1994, Review Commission S. Chandrashekar Shetty said it was unfortunate that the government had not bothered to implement the commission’s report submitted in 2007. “The Syndicate headed by the Vice-Chancellor already has enough government representation, with directors of the Health, Medical Education and AYUSH departments as members. Packing it with more bureaucrats will be an obstruction altering its academic nature, besides putting the autonomy of the university in peril,” he said.

Dr. Shetty, who is also vice-president of the Forum of Former Vice-Chancellors of Karnataka State Universities, said the proposed amendments were contrary to the commission’s report that had recommended nomination of eminent administrators, educationists, scientists and health science experts to the Syndicate.

“It is high time the government stopped treating universities as its departments. If the government has some issues with the university, it can always appoint a commission to study these issues and recommend action,” he said.

He asserted that none of the secretaries (Health and Higher Education) who are presently members of the Senate had attended any meeting of this policymaking body since the university’s inception.

Minister’s defence

Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil said the need to amend the Act was felt because the government had noted that there were several discrepancies in the functioning of the university.

“All other universities have adequate government representation in the Syndicate except RGUHS,” he said.

Alleging misappropriation of funds in the university, the Minister said: “It has come to our notice that the university has not been maintaining the time frame with regard to granting its consent of affiliation to colleges and the process of admission.”

I agree these amendments are not a solution to the wrongdoings in the university. But they will at least ensure government scrutiny. ,” he added.

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