Conflict over Universities Puts Higher Education in Limbo in West Bengal

West Bengal
West Bengal

The feud between the West Bengal government and Governor C.V. Ananda Bose over the appointment of Vice Chancellors has thrown the state’s education system into turmoil. The ongoing conflict, which reached a flashpoint on Teachers’ Day, saw Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatening the interim Vice Chancellors with an “economic blockade” if they followed the directives of the Governor. The discord reflects a longstanding struggle between the state government and the Governor, impacting the appointment of Vice Chancellors in the state’s 31 universities for over five months.

The root of the dispute lies in the appointment process and the role of the Chancellor, who is the Governor, in selecting Vice Chancellors. Following a Supreme Court order in 2022, which mandated the inclusion of a University Grants Commission (UGC) nominee in the search/selection committees, Vice Chancellors of state-run universities resigned in March. However, Governor Ananda Bose accepted only two names from the government’s list and unilaterally appointed 11 interim Vice Chancellors, leading to further tensions.

The conflict highlights the vulnerability of higher education in West Bengal as both the state government and the Governor attempt to assert control. The acrimonious situation poses a significant threat to the stability of the education system, leaving universities without permanent leadership. The discord over the appointment process and the failure to establish search/selection committees further complicate the resolution of the crisis. The standoff is emblematic of the larger struggle for control over higher education institutions and raises concerns about the future of academic governance in the state.

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