VC talent search: No more political puppets

To find the correct match for the VC job, one who will be committed to the development of the institution, the search committee should come up with specific qualifications and skills required for it

Vice chancellors and many other high level positions in Nepal’s universities are either vacant or getting vacant in the near future. Historically, candidates for these positions have typically been selected based upon their political leaning rather than their education, background and experience in educational administration. This needs to change in order to make way for talented candidates who are more experienced, capable and driven to bring about the much-needed changes in Nepal’s universities, instead of the political appointees who primarily serve as puppets for their political parties.

Nepal’s universities are run under the European education system. In this system, the chancellor is typically a ceremonial head of the university, who presides in meetings of the governing body of the university. The vice-chancellor is its executive management chief.

The system typically has an academic senate, also known as the faculty senate, which is a governing body made up of members of the faculty of various units within the university and members appointed by the government.

The vice-chancellor is its ‘Chief Executive Officer’ and typically reports directly to the senate and is responsible for implementing the policies adopted by it. The VC is responsible for the day to day maintenance and long-term growth, including academic, administration, financial management and personnel administration. They are also responsible for identifying and tapping financial and human resources, managing real estate and campus properties, and creating the vision for future planning and development. As such VCs are directly responsible for the success of the universities’ graduates. The job of a VC is not for everybody. This position requires intellectual and emotional stamina, willingness and an ability to face tremendous pressures from different stakeholders, and make decisions that may be unpopular among certain constituents.

The VC will have an unparalleled opportunity to take the university to the highest level with the support of outstanding faculty, students, staff and external constituencies. The VC will have an opportunity to boost many nationally and internationally recognised programmes across undergraduate, graduate, PhD and other professional disciplines. Therefore, the candidate must have a proven track record of teaching and research excellence, as well as experience working with diverse student bodies, and shared governance.

The process for recruiting VCs in Nepali universities involves the university’s senate, which forms a search committee to come up with a list of three to five candidates. These candidates are then presented to the university’s chancellor, who is the sitting Prime Minister of the country. This process has typically led to recruiting political appointees.

In order to find the correct match for the job, one who will be committed to the development of the institution, the search committee should come up with a list of specific qualifications and skills required for the job. For the search process to be fair and apolitical, the search committee should publicly list the requirements and guidelines of their appointment process and make the selection criteria transparent.

Responsibilities of a VC include articulating the university’s vision, mission and values with internal and external stakeholders; enhancing the institution’s academic mission and overall operations; approving and overseeing the institutional budget and securing external funding support where needed; and working with the senate, elected officials, alumni, donors and the broader community to advance the mission of the university.

It is desired that the VC have the administrative experience to lead a complex academic institution, a commitment to the development of faculty, staff and students, and a proven track record of inspiring people and organisations through demonstrated leadership, a commitment to the institution’s academic quality and to the role of scholarship, research, and creative works in the mission of the university, and a commitment to academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance and an understanding of their importance to sustaining the quality of the university.

The VC should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to interact effectively with the various constituencies of the university, alumni, foundations and the community at large. Other skills should include ability to hire and build an effective administrative team; ability to attract high-quality faculty, students and staff by stimulating creativity, research, teaching and learning; and ability to raise funds from private, state, and national and international sources and to articulate to external audiences the value of supporting the university.

In pursuing its mission of teaching and research, a university seeks to advance scholarly endeavour through teaching based upon modern technologies and leading-edge research to produce undergraduates, graduates and professionals in different skill areas. Since the VC is the position of a Chief Executive Administrator of an educational institute conferring the highest degree, the VC should have an earned doctorate or a terminal degree in his or her field of study along with the appropriate teaching and administrative experience.

Joshee holds keen interest in education administration and management