ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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From 50 Years Ago: Untrained Academic Leadership

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Vol IV, No 17 April 26, 1969

Universities

Untrained Academic Leadership

Philip G Altbach

It can be argued that a college or university is only as good as its leadership. Certainly qualified staff is as necessary an ingredient for academic excellence as adequate facilities like libraries and laboratories … One of the problems of higher education is the fact that academic leadership is essentially untrained. Principals and vice-chancellors do not, for the most part, have any administrative training. In many cases, chief academic officers are not even educationists and occasionally have had little experience in academic institutions. Colleges and universities are qualitatively different from other kinds of institutions. The traditions of academic life, the importance of human relations, and the peculiar nature of intellectual enterprise differentiates universities from Government offices, law courts, or other kinds of institutions. It is surprising that higher educational institutions have gotten along as well as they have with basically “amateur” leadership.

One of the key aspects of the crisis of the universities has been the inability of higher education to remain aloof from politics. The fact that academic leadership is often in the hands of politicians or ex-politicians, and that a vice-chancellorship or even a principalship of a college is often seen more in political than in professional terms is a real problem. There are, of course, many reasons why universities have been in the centre of political controversy in India, but if key university officials consider political aspects more crucial than academic considerations, improvement will be difficult indeed. There are very few people in India to speak for the academic and educational aspects of higher education.

It is necessary to ensure that university and college officials be well trained for the tasks that they perform, and that they have adequate experience on many levels of the academic enterprise. They must have a basic understanding of the nature of scholarship and of education, and a respect for the university.

Updated On : 26th Apr, 2019

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