Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has been named as the new chairman of the Universal Grants Commission (UGC). As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Education, the appointment has been made for a period of five years, or until he turns of age sixty five, whichever comes earlier.
Kumar’s appointment comes at a time when the government has been struggling to launch the Higher Education Commission of India, envisaged in the National Education Policy in 2020. His own tenureship was blemished with controversies, ranging from the sedition row of 2016 and lockdown of his office multiple times to then HRD Minister getting stuck for over six hours at the venue of JNU’s convocation in 2019.
In a statement issued after his appointment, Jagadesh Kumar said, “As Chairman of UGC, this is a great opportunity for me to work for the young minds of our country in Higher Educational Institutes. My immediate focus is going to be speedy implementation of the National Education Policy, enabling the research and innovation ecosystem in HEIs and making higher education more inclusive and accessible using technology.”
He also added that he looks forward to working with students, teachers and heads of higher educational institutions across the country and brainstorming policies.
According to MoE, Pune University vice-chancellor Prof Nitin R Karmalkar and director of Inter-University Accelerator Centre (IUAC) Prof. Avinash Chandra Pandey were also shortlisted for the higher education governing body's chairperson post, which fell vacant last December after Prof D P Singh resigned on turning 65.
Kumar is an alumnus of IIT Madras’s electrical engineering department and was serving as professor in IIT-Delhi’s Department of Electrical Engineering when he was chosen as JNU’ VC by then India president Dr. Pranab Mukherjee in 2019.
Kumar’s five-year term as JNU V-C had ended in January last year, but he was asked to stay on till his successor is picked. The process to pick a new JNU V-C is underway.
Additionally, the Higher Education Commission plans to subsume existing regulatory bodies such as the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).