While the Annamalai University secured an 800+ rank among around the 1,000 universities, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University was at 1,000+. The legendary Madras University and Anna University were missing from the long list.
The arrest of Vice Chancellors of two state-run universities over financial irregularities and the alleged sale of the top positions to the highest bidders, who in turn appointed incompetent professors after accepting huge bribes, underscored the claims.
Earlier this month, Dr A Ganapathi, Vice Chancellor of the Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, was arrested by the Directorate of Vigilance after he was allegedly caught accepting Rs 30 lakh rupees from an Assistant Professor to regularise his job.
In November 2016, R Radhakrishnan, Vice Chancellor of the Anna University of Technology, was convicted in a scam involving purchase of furniture for the university.
Prof Mohammed A Kalam, former chairperson, School of Social Sciences, Madras University, said, "The universities all over the world are known for their publications. Now that is not happening here. Pick any good journals in science, arts or humanities, we aren't there. We aren't publishing anything, which is very unfortunate. If you hire people after taking bribes, this is what will happen."
The rot, academicians say, begins at the top.
Over the years, successive governments used universities as a cash cow. Even the Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, turned a blind eye, they claim. Experts allege the vice chancellors who bribed for their posts recovered their money by indulging in corruption for appointments, purchase and construction contracts among other avenues.
M Anandakrishnan, former Chairman of IIT Kanpur and former Vice Chancellor of Anna University, said, "I have authenticated information that one Vice Chancellor had paid Rs 50 crore rupees to a minister for his appointment at a technical university. There were about 500 engineering colleges and he collected 10 lakhs from each college for approvals etc. He pocketed Rs 30 lakh for the appointment of assistant professors and Rs 50 lakhs for professors. Even professors started collecting money from PhD scholars. It's a vicious circle."
The ruling AIADMK denies these corruption charges. Responding to bribery allegations involving vice chancellors' appointments, Senior Minister D Jayakumar said, "That's a false allegation. Corruption in any form has to be curbed. That is our stand."
Recently, Governor in charge, Vidyasagar Rao rejected names recommended by a the search panel comprising the government's nominee for the appointment of vice chancellor to the Anna University. The panel comprised a nominee each appointed by the government, university and the Governor.
He constituted a new panel under Justice RM Lodha, former Chief Justice of India, for the job. Now academicians hope the new governor Banwarilal Purohit, too, who's the Chancellor of all state universities will continue the clean-up act to save higher education from further rot.