Saturday, April 18, 2015

Selecting Higher Ed Leaders

Two stories about recent director-level appointments.

Check out a pretty nice piece in The Telegraph by Basant Kumar Mohanty -- A 10-minute IIT puzzle -- How to pick directors. Mohanty starts with this post from Dheeraj Sanghi's blog, and adds to it with some original reporting on the process used recently for selecting IIT directors at Ropar, Bhubaneswar, and Patna.

[Aside: Buried deep inside, we get this: "Late tonight, it was learnt that Prof. R.V. Raja Kumar of IIT Kharagpur had been appointed director of IIT Bhubaneswar and Prof. Pushpak Bhattacharyya of IIT Bombay that of IIT Patna. Prof. Sarit Kumar Das of IIT Madras will be the director of IIT Ropar."]

* * *

Thanks to R. Ramachandran's Frontline report with a terrific headline (Disappointing a Director), we now have clearer picture of the botched process of selecting the next TIFR director. The way he tells it, almost all the blame is with the Department of Atomic Energy, whose job it was to ensure that all the formal procedures were followed.

You should read Ramachandran's report just for spicy insider stories from the selection process. Let me limit myself here to some of the key points from his report:

  1. The sticking point is about the new norm (that an open advertisement should be the starting point for the search for a new director) which all institutions are expected to follow. The PMO appears to have been (mis)led by a DAE official's adverse comment about the lack of an open advertisement; it turns out that TIFR's own bylaws do not require one.

  2. The search committee followed the same process (i.e., one which did not use an open advertisement) as the previous search committees did.

  3. After the search committee chose Prof. Trivedi, the DAE sat on the file for several months before it was sent to the PMO.

  4. Also, TIFR should also have waited for the final go-ahead from the PMO before asking Prof. Trivedi to take over. Instead, they jumped the gun.

  5. PMO's rejection of Prof. Trivedi's appointment came well after he had taken over, causing much embarrassment all around.

  6. While the PMO could still have accepted the outcome (of the seemingly flawed search process), it is certainly well within its right to say no to the appointment. This, by itself, would not constitute violation of institutional autonomy.

  7. Apparently, the government might mandate that the constitution of the search committee itself be approved by the government (Ramachandran's report is not clear on this point). If this step becomes operational, it would certainly undermine autonomy.


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  2. Neelima said...

    Dear Abi,

    Another interesting post from Sunil Mukhi on the same topic. What is interesting is that it is essentially a response to an editorial in Current Science from 2003! So little has changed! In any case, do have a look.