It has been 20 years since Kathmandu University (KU) is in existence. The founder members led the university to a quality position to a certain extent, and then some crunches in quality began to appear. Not worse though, the earlier spirit of Kathmandu University has now been slowly declining. Leaders can claim many things, but they cannot hide the natural human weaknesses. Some leaders may have extraordinary wisdom, but that also will saturate when time passes by. Unfortunately, this fact has not been realized yet by the top level authorities in KU. A well-known personality Dr. Suresh Raj Sharma has just been appointed VC of KU for his sixth term, which means he has already led the university for the past 20 years.
The reason why the same person has been appointed as VC may be many. One, the government thinks KU is a kind of university which is unique in the world, and it is not possible to run it except by him. Two, Dr. Sharma is well respected by the Prime Minister so he does not want to hurt him. Three, Dr. Sharma claims himself to be the only competent person who can lead KU, and does not trust others and relays the same to the Prime Minister and Education Minister. Four, the founder group wants KU under their control. Five, neither the founders nor the government realize that KU is not a private university. Whatever the reason, KU has been established by the parliament with a separate Act. The Act of KU is not different from other university Acts in the context of running it. Not only that of the Vice Chancellor, but the appointment of the Deans also followed the same tradition. Once a person becomes a Dean that person seems to continue as Dean until he/she refuses the term to be extended, the possibility of which is very slim. There is no objection in doing that but the characteristics of a non-government public university like KU is such that it cannot simply do that.
This tendency is a character purely of a private institution. So it is confusing whether KU is a private institution, and the Act says ‘No’. The position of Registrar, Controller of examinations, directors, department heads, coordinators all follow the same suit. For example, had Dr. Sitaram Adhikari not resigned from his position, Dr. Bhadraman Tuladhar would never have been appointed as the Registrar of KU.
Now, let us analyze the pros and cons of this trend at KU. The only hypothetical advantage would be that the university runs with the same vision without deteriorating its original goal. The disadvantages are many. One, a person who has already led the university for the past twenty years may have his vision saturated, so there is a high possibility that the university will stay in status quo. Two, the senior professors of the university will be forced to kill their career aspirations of leadership positions within the institution where they have contributed fall their life. Three, the change process of the university, which is the need of the hour, will become halted. Four, the expectation of the public will be grey when they see the same person in the position of authority forever. Five, the group surrounding the authorities try to control the total scenario which will, in turn, backfire on the total system. Six, the system will move towards authoritarian from authoritative leadership, let alone the democratic leadership. Seven, young and potential aspirants would not give priority in KU. These will be very much counter-productive to the growth of the university. And there may be many such disadvantages to discuss about.To protect the university from such detriments, it is now high time for the authorities to trust some professionals, from within the university, to ensure future leadership.
A transition of the leadership shifting from the current status to ‘a young and spirited group’ is a must before the authorities (the VC and the Registrar) finish their legal term. A consensus can be built among KU professionals in time so that the chances of politicization in the appointment of top level authorities, in future, will be counterfeited.
Grooming competent professionals, for the position of Deans and directors and similar positions, is equally necessary to motivate the working academia towards their career aspirations. A policy of “not extending the term more than two times” should be strictly followed whether it is a VC or a Department head. This would open avenues to others to develop leadership qualities and capabilities ultimately making the university strong.
A university is a place of academic exercise where it is essential that everyone is competent enough to lead it in whatever positions they hold. That is the reason why each of them should be given equal opportunity to grow. Unless and until the authorities realize that the university is a public place where they should work towards satisfying the stakeholders, the tussle between the public and the university will increase as one can sense from the frequent ‘strikes and bandhs’ of KU last year. Let us hope the authorities would realize this hard fact and take every move cautiously so that the frustration of the academia inside would be minimized, if not completely removed.
Dr. Wagley is ian educationist
(Source: The Himalayantimes Published in Jan 15, 2012)