Gujarat governor O P Kohli Friday cleared the Gujarat State Higher Education Council Bill 2016, which was introduced last year, without striking off or contending with any of its provisions. The Bill was introduced by the then state minister for higher and technical education Vasuben Trivedi in the Anandiben Patel government and was passed in the Gujarat Assembly in the absence of opposition members, who were suspended by the Speaker on the last working day of the assembly during the budget session in March last year.
The Bill will bring all universities of the state under the ambit of a Higher Education Council, chaired by the chief minister and seeks to curtail the authority of the vice-chancellors and gives sweeping powers to the Gujarat government. Apart from the CM who will be the president of the Council, the other members include the state education minister as the vice-president, minister of state for education as the co-vice-president and five vice-chancellors of state universities.
The Democratic Students Organisation (DSO) was the first to oppose the passage of the Bill, and sent a memorandum to education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Saturday, alleging it is against the autonomy of academic institutions.
Last year, soon after the passage of the Bill, the teaching and non-teaching staff of Gujarat University (GU) and other universities in the state had demanded the rollback of the Bill, alleging it was an attempt by the BJP government to “snatch” the autonomy of universities. The discussion was also attended by former vice-chancellor of Gujarat University and advisor to the government on higher education A U Patel, who was the chairperson of the committee tasked with drafting of the Bill.
According to the Bill, one of its objectives is to “carry out effective monitoring of the academic/administrative/financial performance of universities and affiliated colleges and to recommend remedial measures for better performance.” The state government’s directives will also override existing laws governing universities. The Bill also empowers the Council “to suggest criteria, rules regarding various promotions for college teachers, principals, university teachers in accordance with regulations and guidelines of the UGC or the state government policy.”