January 03, 2013

Insights on India's University Ombuds Policy

The November 2012 edition of India Education Review digs into the new policy that would require the country's universities to appoint Ombudsmen to handle grievances from students and applicants. The decision by India's Ministry of Human Resource Development has not been approved by Parliament and thus has not yet been implemented. Nonetheless, many academic leaders support the idea and explain their reasons and reservations. 

On the Need for an Ombudsman, Prof. PB Sharma, Vice Chancellor, Delhi Technological University said:

“Institutions and universities especially under the disguise of public-private partnership or under private ownership have been allowed to be set-up by those who could muster financial and political support. This has created the present unhealthy and unfair environment in higher education in the country. We all know very well that once we allow the rot to set in, it creates an environment for mediocrity to flourish. We can have an Ombudsman provided we are able to specify the domains and duties to the Ombudsman for his exercise of controls, even preventive measures to stop the growth of mediocrity and establishment of sub-standard institutions.” 
Dr. MM Salunkhe, Vice Chancellor, Central University of Rajasthan was more skeptical: 
“The topic has not been debated properly and there is need to debate upon it in detail as it is a very wide topic. As far as government run universities are concerned, particularly the central universities we follow a very transparent system at each and every step. Ombudsman is required for private institutions as they flout and twist the norms. The other problem is who will make the rules and define the role of Ombudsman because every university is different and unique in itself and what rule will be good mine will not be good for some other universities. Thus, I am not very much in favour of this post for the universities until the role of Ombudsman is clearly defined.” 
On Who Should Appointed, Vice Chancellor PB Sharma said:
 “The man of iron will with the highest credentials of scholarship, administrative capabilities, a vision and commitment to build quality higher education for his motherland. ... The tenure of an Ombudsman should be of five years to give him a reasonable time frame to implement the reforms or changes as envisaged. Such an Ombudsman be invariably be appointed by a coliseum comprising of a former Chief Justice of India, an Outstanding present or former Vice Chancellor, an outstanding Civil Servant and an outstanding industrialist.” 
 Prof. R. Lalthanluanga, Vice Chancellor, Mizoram University, said:
“As far as ombudsman is concerned, I do not think that there is any need for government run higher educational institutions like central universities etc. which are self regulated through its ordinances/regulations as per the guidelines of UGC (University Grants Commission) or MHRD. It may be required for private institutions as they do not have very clearly defined regulation. UGC may appoint Ombudsman for such institutions for a period of three years.” 
The article concludes that an Ombuds is an important resource for India's universities. (India Education Review.)

Related posts: India's Universities Will Implement Ombuds for Students; UK Office of the Independent Adjudicator Recommends Against Ombuds for Universities.

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