Prof S Parasuraman has said he will not seek a third term as director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and that the institute’s next chief should be someone with more courage and energy, given the challenges at hand.
Against the backdrop of reports a couple of months ago that he had quit, Parasuraman said there was nothing at stake for him personally.
“While a director is just an instrument who executes to make things happen, it is very important that she or he is able to perform the duties to the maximum capacity. Working for 18 to 20 hours, seven days a week for 11 years tends to be tiring. This is an amazingly dynamic and challenging place. It has growing and changing needs and is in continuous dialogue with the government and others. Eventually, the institute will need someone with a little more courage, energy and better health,” Parasuraman told The Indian Express in an interview on Monday.
TISS, one of the top deemed universities in India, has had to struggle this year to meet its expenditure needs, including payments to staff, with a cut in funding from the government. That is a fallout of a review being undertaken by the University Grants Commission and the government on funding deemed universities.
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Parasuraman had earlier this year sought continuance of public funding for the institute.
On Monday, he said it was the responsibility of the government to support public institutions with adequate funds so that it is possible to offer quality education in social science. “The nature of this education is essentially different from, say, subjects like management or technology. So in this area, government support is essential and inevitable. We will continue to work with the government to see that our maintenance grant is increased and not decreased,” he said.
Parasuraman taught at TISS for 14 years from 1981. He took over as chief of the institute in 2004. The director of TISS has a five-year term, which can be renewed by the governing board of the institute at the end of the term. “I do not wish to be at the institute for a third term, so the search committee has to select a new director. I will be here till relieved by the government and the governing board,” Parasuraman said.
According to him, a process of leadership transition is being planned. “Everyone has to leave, including me; it is a natural process. However, with an enlightened governing board, faculty and talented students, the institute will thrive,” the director said.
Parasuraman said a review committee would submit its report by the end of this month. “This review process began in 2013-end. One of the purposes of the report is to inform the governing board-appointed committee to select an appropriate candidate for the new director. The other purpose was to review the work done since the institutional restructuring process began a decade ago and see how improvements can be made in institute’s functioning. The report was delayed because the committee members were very busy. We are hoping the report gives us direction for improvement. It will be displayed on our website,” he said.
Asked whether he had completed the agenda he had drawn up for the institute, Parasuraman said he never had an agenda.
“From 1981 to 1995, I was a teacher at TISS. After this I left for 10 years, working in different parts of the world. I wished to return eventually and I did. Working with my faculty, my governing board, we have done what we believed was important. Universities are not run by individuals; they merely provide leadership and motivation. It is through the collective effort of the faculty, staff and board that the changes and improvements have been possible. Now it is up to the institute to see which path it takes. I am hopeful. That is a process, which will happen,” said Parasuraman.