Governance reforms in central universities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: Paper 2- Reforms in the Governing Council of the Central Universities

Central Universities need reforms in their Governing Councils to make them realise their potential.

Central Universities in the need of reforms

  • There are 55 central universities.
  • These are endowed with prime land, extensive funding from the central government and there is a long line of students waiting to get in.
  • However, they are in turmoil. In recent years, six vice-chancellors (VCs) of central universities have been sacked.
  • Some of these institutions have seen their glory days, yet increasingly, the energy is going out of the system.
  • However, not a single new private university has so far been able to create a true broad-based Vishwa Vidyalaya with the full range of humanities, social and natural sciences, and professional disciplines.
  • Therefore, to save academia in India, central universities must be saved.

Organizational structure

  • Each of the 55 central universities is governed by a separate Act. but the broad structure is as follows.
  • The Visitor of the university is the President of India.
  • On his behalf, the Ministry of Education recommends an eminent citizen as the chancellor, whose role is mostly ceremonial.
  • The Ministry also constitutes a search committee for the post of VC, which comes up with a list of 3 candidates.
  • From this list, the government picks a VC.
  • Separately, and through a different process, the governing council (GC) is chosen.
  • The governing council (GC) of the university usually have nominees from various stakeholders, including the government, faculty, students, and citizens.
  • The university’s work is carried out by the executive council chaired by the VC, who also appoints the registrar.
  • A separate finance committee is constituted, headed by a chief finance officer, who is often a civil servant on secondment to the university.
  • This arrangement is designed to maintain financial checks and balances.

Issues with the governance

  • The GC has no say in the selection of the VC.
  • The GC typically meets only once a year and its size is usually very large.[Delhi University has 475 members]
  • In theory, the VC presents and gets approval for the annual plan of the university from the GC.
  • In practice, after much grandstanding on both sides, the plan is rubberstamped.
  • After that, throughout the year, there is the minimal direction or monitoring from the GC, which may or may not meet again.
  • There are typically no quarterly updates, and there is little oversight.
  • Under the circumstances, the high number of failures should not come as a surprise, since effectively, there is minimal governance.

Comparing with provisions in IIM Bill

  • The new IIM Bill very sensibly limits the GC to at most 19 members.
  • They are expected to be eminent citizens, with broad social representation and an emphasis on alumni.
  • This GC chooses the director, provides overall strategic direction, raises resources, and continuously monitors his or her performance.
  • Within the guidelines provided by the GC, the director has full autonomy but also full accountability.

Way forward

  • The governing councils of all central universities, IITs, and all other central institutions, need to be restructured by an Act of Parliament.
  • The most eminent alumni of these institutions must be brought on their boards.
  • The dynamism and exposure that these alumni bring to the table will promptly lead to world-class innovations.


To allow central universities, the IITs and other public institutions to truly blossom, we need to reform their Governance. There is no time to waste.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch