Shaping the Future of Universities through Visionary Leadership

college university

A university is undeniably a crucial institution that shapes students’ personalities, advances scientific temperament, instills core values, and lays the foundation for the nation’s development, serving as a breeding ground for future academicians, bureaucrats, leaders, and more. However, the reality in many regional universities is disheartening as these institutions have often devolved into centers of mediocracy, especially during the regime of Seemandhra colonial rule. At that time, Vice-Chancellors were typically chosen from the upper castes of Telangana and were not inclined to strengthen universities situated in their own backward region. Furthermore, with the advent of globalization, plenty of private institutions have sprung up like mushrooms, playing a parallel role to existing government institutions. As a result, universities have been drastically undermined, losing their reputation and autonomy.

The deterioration of quality education, pervasive student unrest, and lack of employment opportunities have collectively turned universities in Telangana into hotbeds of protest. These institutions have been subjected to systemic negligence and mismanagement. Declining academic standards and limited job prospects have united students around the cause of a separate Telangana statehood. This movement, driven by a desire for self-governance, resource allocation, and educational reforms, has transformed universities into epicenters of activism. The spirit of the Telangana Statehood movement is deeply embedded in these protests, reflecting a broader struggle for social and economic justice and a demand for an educational system aligned with students’ aspirations.

Universities after Telangana Formation

When Telangana state was formed, the government, albeit with some delay, appointed Vice-Chancellors based on two key criteria: intelligence reports and the principles of social justice. This approach allowed individuals from politically underrepresented communities, who had never before had the opportunity, to become heads of institutions. Recognizing the prevalent concerns in universities, KCR, as Chief Minister, was compelled to raise the issue of corruption in university recruitments in the state assembly in the very first year of the TRS government. As an alternative, his government proposed recruitment through a written examination to ensure transparency. However, despite seeking approval from the High Court, his vision was stalled because the matter was referred to the President of India by the Governor regarding the sanctity and legality of the bill, as it contradicted the regulations laid out by the UGC. This proposal, though intended to maintain transparency, attracted considerable criticism, as some believed it was a tactic to delay the recruitment process.

However, the tenure of the first-term Vice-Chancellors went smoothly without major complaints. Those who assumed office for a second term invariably faced numerous crises, largely due to anti-incumbency sentiments against the government. Despite implementing numerous reforms, some student groups successfully voiced their dissatisfaction, significantly contributing to the change of the government. Currently, over 130 candidates have applied for VC positions, with heightened expectations regarding community representation, social justice, talent, contribution, experience, and particularly their affiliations with the Congress Party. This is why, the selection process has garnered widespread attention unlike the past, with various speculations circulating.

Current Situation in Universities:

Instead of being driven by a passion for knowledge and societal improvement, universities, now-a-days, are overly being influenced by opportunistic elements and power mongering rather than a focus on academics. These unwarranted elements prioritize favoritism, nepotism, and corruption, often employing unethical and unscrupulous means to achieve their ends. Such practices not only compromise the integrity of the academic environment but also erode the trust and respect that institutions of higher learning should command.  

On the other hand, many students, particularly those from rural areas, Telugu-medium schools, and marginalized backgrounds, are prone to numerous disadvantages when it comes to gaining proficiency in English, acquiring advanced technological skills, and securing employment opportunities. The lack of adequate support, mentorship, and resources leaves them ill-prepared to compete in a challenging job market, exacerbating their struggles and perpetuating cycles of poverty and underemployment. Age-old courses and conventional teaching-learning methodologies, combined with a lack of motivation and engagement from professors, fail to inspire students to upgrade their skills and talents. 

In fact, many students, faculty, and administrative staff lack an understanding of the transformative power of education and its potential to elevate ordinary individuals to world-class intellectuals and to advance society. They often see education merely as a means to secure employment or improve livelihoods, rather than as a catalyst for intellectual and social change.

What can a True Professor do?

A dedicated and well-trained professor has the power to profoundly influence numerous minds with his unique approach, rationale, and logic, and can leave an indelible mark on academia and administration as well. For instance, Prof. D.C. Reddy, who served as the VC of OU during late 1990s, exemplifies such impact. After him, only one VC across Telangana mobilized and allocated around Rs. 500 crores to the pension fund to ensure the sustainable payment for retired teachers. In fact, these sorts of interventions are greatly needed to sustain and run universities that lack sufficient government funding. Regrettably, highly cited and deeply integrative professors are often given lower priority for positions. Consequently, honest and knowledgeable professors are frequently overlooked, and their contributions are seriously neglected, leading to what can be described as “intellectual poverty.”

While some professors sincerely engage in ideological politics on campus to advance societal progress, others do so to further their own vested interests. These dubious individuals are willing to go to great lengths to maintain their influence over the university, often disregarding its integrity and reputation in the process. Alarmingly, they manipulate faculty factions and student groups to support their agenda by offering incentives such as cash or career opportunities. This phenomenon has become increasingly common over the years. Unless government breaks these chains, a new era in universities will not begin.

Moreover, the reconstruction of the education system in Telangana State remains an unfinished project for various reasons. If the current government overlooks universities, it could lead to the complete collapse of higher education in public institutions. To revitalize regional universities and unleash their full potential, it is essential to appoint visionary leaders who understand the local context and are committed to advancing academic excellence. This involves initiating new courses aligned with market needs, transparently recruiting talented faculty, conducting fair admissions and examinations, implementing strict and continuous monitoring, promoting high-quality research, and establishing new collaborations with industry and global academia. More importantly, negotiating with funding agencies is of paramount importance. These objectives can be achieved when Vice-Chancellors and their teams possess a clear vision, operate the system without bias or corruption, and uphold the highest standards of integrity.

If university administrations succumb to pressure from opportunistic forces, the institution’s collapse begins, resembling an ouroboros—a snake eating its own tail. This self-destructive process can only be broken by formidable, principled and visionary leadership bestowed to the true mission of education and social development. In this way, the universities can rise above mediocracy and contribute truly for the Reconstruction of Telangana State.

Dr. Ram Shepherd Bheenaveni Vice-Principal, Arts College, Osmania University

(Views are Personal)


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