Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigns, says he wasn't notified about leadership change

Nalanda University is located in the Buddhist pilgrim town of Rajgir in Nalanda district.

Updated: Nov 25, 2016, 15:19 PM IST
Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigns, says he wasn't notified about leadership change

Patna: Nalanda University Chancellor George Yeo on Friday quit, saying that changes were made in the varsity's leadership without taking him into confidence.

He said that when he was invited to take charge, he was “repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now”.

In a statement to the members of the earlier Board of the university, Yeo wrote: "When I was appointed Chancellor in July 2015, I was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended Act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on. The amended Act would have removed a major flaw in the current Act which in essence offers Governing Board seats to East Asian Summit countries making the highest financial contributions in the last three years."

"This provision, which was never recommended by the Nalanda Mentor Group, would not have been a good way to constitute the Governing Board and was the reason the Government of India requested the Nalanda Mentor Group to continue functioning as the Governing Board for a number of years until the Act could be amended.”

"For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act is amended. This is of course entirely the prerogative of the Government of India,'' he added.

"The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University's development. It is puzzling why I, as Chancellor, was not even given notice of it. When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now."

"With deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as Chancellor to the Visitor,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Yeo, in a Facebook post said, "The sudden dissolution of the old Nalanda Board is bound up with Indian domestic politics which I do not wish to be embroiled in."

"I am not an Indian citizen and prefer not to make further comments beyond what is contained in my statement of 25 November 2016," he said.

"On the Nalanda project, I have worked closely with leaders of different political parties in India including the BJP and Congress," Yeo said.

"I remain completely committed to the original mission of Nalanda as supported by the leaders of the East Asian Summit in 2009 and as debated and unanimously agreed to by all political parties in India in both the Upper and Lower Houses when the Act was passed in 2010," he asserted.

Incidentally, the resignation of Yeo comes on the day of the Foundation Day of the University.

Yeo, a former foreign minister of Singapore, had replaced Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as the chancellor last year.

The Board was reconstituted by President Pranab Mukherjee as its Visitor on November 21 which severed Amartya Sen's nearly a decade-long association with the institution after the government reconstituted the governing body of the prestigious institution.

Sources said the President, in his capacity as the Visitor of the university, approved the reconstitution of the Governing Board in accordance with provisions of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

He also approved giving temporary charge of Vice Chancellor to senior-most Dean of the University as the current VC Gopa Sabharwal's one-year extension expired yesterday. It will be a stop-gap measure until the new Vice Chancellor is appointed.

The new governing board will be a 14-member body which will be chaired by the chancellor. It will also comprise vice-chancellor, along with five members nominated by India, China, Australia, Laos PDR, and Thailand.

Former revenue secretary NK Singh, who was also a member of the Nalanda Mentors Group, will represent India.

Located in the Buddhist pilgrim town of Rajgir in Nalanda district, the university began its first academic session in September 2014 on a makeshift campus.