Governance of higher (universities & colleges) education

Prof N Irabanta Singh *

Anthropology Department  at  Manipur University (MU), Canchipur
Anthropology Department at Manipur University (MU), Canchipur :: Pix -Phurailatpam Banti


Higher education has to be equaled with University education and the training programmes provided by other Post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges in the modern world are vital parts of organized life and involved a large amount of public expenditure. Every nation that seeks to maintain and develop the social, economic and intellectual activities must not only use a very substantial proportion of its resources in the promotion of education but also ensure that its schools and colleges are well administered as truly national institutions genuinely serving the educational needs of society, and maintaining high standards of integrity and public morality and constantly responding to the changing needs of the modern world.

University system in India

According to available literature, in India the University system was introduced from England and was, in a certain sense "imposed" on the country. In the circumstances of the early 19th Century in India, nothing else was feasible. There was no "national" system that could be continued or revised easily. The new secular university was like a plant brought from outside. So the governance arrangements and the general organization of the working life of a university came readymade; and during 90 years of British rule in India since the founding of the first university, the university traditions became established. Indian educators themselves did not play a significant role in transplanting the university idea from Europe into the country. We have, therefore, a situation in India in which we can only think around a stereo-typed system and cannot now attempt a wholesale reconstructing of higher educational institutions. We can only think of improvements and modifications in the existing systems.

Machinery of Higher Education Governance

Higher Education Governance includes management and direction of the physical Plant (grounds, buildings, equipments, library, laboratories, etc), oversight and regulation of the work and activity of the teachers, assisting staff and other workers, the securing of adequate finances and careful utilization of such finances; ensuring that policies of appointment of staff, selection and admission of students and the organization of their work and play, are carried out efficiently; fairly and equitably; and also public relations which means relationship with the state authorities and with the general public. The governance of an Indian University is laid down in a Central or State Act of legislators. The law establishing each University provides the machinery of governance. The Act is supplemented by Statues and Ordinances which the University itself may make but which also require the direct or indirect approval of the government.

Governance of an University

Governance of University in India include the following: a Chancellor or a Visitor who is the nominal head of the University; a Vice-chancellor who is the administrative head of the University and Chief Presiding officer with varying but limited executive powers; a number of statutory authorities consisting of varying number and classes of people; and a Registrar who is the head of the office, with a number of deputies, assistants and clerical staff to assist him.

Each 'authority' has its own function and the authorities together perform the functions of law-making for the University, supervision and day to day administration. In most universities, a body called the Senate or the court is the large general purposes of governing body. The Senate may contain more than 100 persons, assembled in accordance with various representative principles. Apart from a few ex-officio persons, there may be representatives of teachers, registered graduates, and the legislative body responsible for the establishment of the University, and some other categories.

The executive functions of the University are usually vested in Syndicate or executive council which is a committee of 15 to 30 people. A number of University Professor as Deans, Schools of Studies, or Heads of Departments, Principals of affiliated colleges (Government and Government aided), Secretary/Commissioner (Education) of concerned State and Secretary to the Governor who acts as Reactor (Central University) or Chancellor for the State University constitute the executive council or the syndicate.

Function of Syndicate/Executive Council

The day to day administration of the university should be in the hands of Syndicate/Executive Council of 15 to 20 members presided over by the Vice-chancellor, This could largely be an internal body consisting mainly of Academic persons. There could be Deans, School of studies, 2 Head of the Departments, 2/3 Teachers representatives of the Principal of the University Colleges, 3 Principals of the constituted or recognized colleges, In addition, the Finance Secretary, Education Secretary/Commissioner and the Chancellor/Chief Rector may nominate 1 or 2 person along with his Secretary as his representative.

The Syndicate /Executive Council shall normally meets twice/thrice in a year during its term and consider business brought before it by the Vice-chancellor. The business shall normally consist of administrative matters pertaining to the property of the university, financial transactions, appointments, postings, sanction of expenditure provided for the budget and any other business that would come within the range of day to day administration of the university.

Faculties, Board of studies, Teaching Departments, Finance Committee, etc. may be set up by the Syndicate/ Executive Council in accordance with the usual practices.

In addition to the Senate and Syndicate or Court and Executive Council, there is usually an Academic Council which also tends to a large body which is almost wholly made up of teachers and other academic persons.

Function of the Academic Council

All academic matters such as determination of courses of studies, identifying and making proposal for new subjects of study or research and making rules and regulating with regard to the conduct of teaching, research and examination in the university shall be the function of the Academic Council. Decisions taken by the Academic Council within area of its own concern shall be final. They shall be reported to the Syndicate /Executive Council for information and implementation but the Syndicate/Executive Council should not have overruling power in academic matters.

The Academic Council shall consist of the Vice-chancellor, the University Librarian, Deans of Faculties, Heads of Departments, All Professors of the P.G. Departments, a fixed number of Principals of the Constituent colleges, the Dean of students or Proctor and 4/5 person nominated by the Chancellor/ visitor on the recommendation of the Vice-chancellor as distinguished representatives of professions for which the University provides training, 3/4 members of the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of the Speaker.

Registrar of the University

The Registrar of the University is usually the head of the University office and is a term post who has responsibility for maintaining the records of the University and carrying out the instructions of the Syndicate or Executive Council and the Vice Chancellor in day to day administration of the University.

Finance officer of the University

The Finance officer of the university is also a term post. The Finance officer is the overall incharge of the financial management of the University.

Controller of Examinations of the University

The Controller of Examinations is also a term post. The function of the Controller of Examinations is to notify examinations, getting question papers set and having them printed, ensuring that Examinations are punctually and properly conducted in the many centres which may be spread over a wide area under the University, then collecting and despatching the answer books to the examiners and finally receiving back the examined answer scripts, tabulating the results and publishing them after getting approval from the Chairman, Examination Standing Committee (UG/PG) or Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Director, College Development Council

The Director, College Development Council is also a term post. The function of the Director, College Development Council is granting affiliation to the Colleges affiliated to the University.

Director cum Professor, Academic Staff College

The Director cum Professor, Academic Staff College is responsible for conducting refresher courses, etc being coordinated by a P.G. Department faculty member. The Participants of the refresher courses are University and college teachers. The courses are funded by University Grants Commission, New Delhi.

Since the Acts, Statutes and Ordinances lay down in detail how the University is to be administered, its examinations be conducted, and other aspects of the University's life taken care of, the University itself has relatively little freedom to change its administrative pattern. Even academic freedom tends to be restricted by the elaborate legal structure of a University. Recent trends in India towards increased government control over the Universities have now created in the minds of many people real anxiety both about the autonomy of the University and its academic freedom. Every action of the University can be questioned in a court of law and sometimes even a genuinely desirable experiment can be struck down on the ground that it is unconstitutional. The dependence on government grants (whether from the State or from the Centre) also tends to limit the freedom of the University to experiment and innovate

Trade unionism among the members of the academic and administrative staff also has become a hindrance to change, experimentation and growth and the collective behaviour of the students has not enlarged the freedom of the University.

The higher educational system of India also involves a very large number of privately established colleges, forming parts of the various Universities. The administration of private colleges today usually takes the following forms - the founders of a College (a local body or religious society) form a managing body/committee and make that body responsible for appointing the Principal and looking after the finances of the college.

In some places, the Universities lay down that the college should have Governing bodies brought into being in accordance with a formula supplied by the University. On these governing bodies, there is representation of teachers of the University and the college itself, and also the management. The Chairman of the governing body is appointed by the founding organization, the governing body itself. The teaching staff is selected and appointed and supervised by the governing body.

Student Committee

There shall be a student representative council which may consist of councilors from the P.G. Departments and some teachers as advisors. It shall have its own President, Vice-President, General Secretary and other secretaries. It will organize such matters as debates, sports and athletics, etc. and will have the power to allocate funds for those purposes. It shall represent student opinion directly to the Vice-Chancellor and formally to the Academic Council.

Dean, Student welfare or Proctor

A member of the teaching staff may be designated as Dean, Students welfare or proctor. It is also a term post. It shall be his duty to keep in touch with the students and the student's council and to take care of the day to day needs of students. He shall be assisted by a student Affairs committee which shall consist of something like five students nominated by the student representative council. The Dean of Students will member of Academic council and shall report to the Academic council all matters connected with student welfare.

Director of sports

The Director/Assistant Director of sports is a regular officer of the university. It shall be his duty to conduct sports and allied items of the P.G. Departments and affiliated colleges under the university such as arranging university sports week, selecting student to Inter-university-sport participation (Zonewise/National).

Cultural In-charge

A member of the faculty shall be designated as Cultural in-charge. He shall be in-charge for arranging inter colleges and inter university cultural meet.

NSS Co-ordinator

A member of the faculty shall be designated as Co-ordinator, NSS program. He shall be in charge for conducting NSS program carried out by the affiliated colleges and the university.


The problems connected with the governance of Universities and Colleges have been discussed at great length in recent years by many committees and individuals. It is in connection with these tasks, the idea of the autonomous college has been mooted in the recent past by the University Grant Commission, New Delhi. Autonomy means the right to manage the affairs of the college as members of the college themselves consider good without being excessively tied down by structures provided by the University or the government.

Such autonomy will mean tremendously increased new structure for the governance of the College. But the pattern and tradition of the University governance, shall continue more or less along the lines started in 1857, except in the case of Agricultural Universities. The experience we now have in the Governance of Agricultural Universities, the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management (both deemed Universities) should enable us to reorganize the governance of other Universities and Colleges.


Thus, Governance of higher education in India includes management and direction of the Physical plant (grounds, buildings, equipments, Library, laboratories, etc. oversight and regulations of the works and activity of the teachers, assisting staff and other workers; the securing of adequate finances and careful utilization of such finances ensuring that policies of appointments of staff selection and admission of students and the organization of their work and play are carried out efficiently, fairly and equitably; and also public relations, which means relationship with the state authorities and with the general public. The governance of an Indian University are laid in Central or State Act of legislature. The law establishing each university provides the machinery of governance. The Act is supplemented by Statues and Ordinances which the university itself may make but which also require the direct or indirect approval of the Government.

* Prof N Irabanta Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Former Professor (Higher Academic Grade) Life Sciences and Former Dean, School of Life Sciences Manipur University, Canchipur and can be connected to irabanta(dot)singh(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on April 11, 2015.

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