Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigns over autonomy issue
New Delhi: Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo has resigned as the chancellor of Nalanda University—an India-led international project aimed at reviving an ancient seat of learning—accusing the Indian government of failing to maintain the university’s autonomy.
In a statement, Yeo said he had been kept out of the loop on an important decision to reconstitute the governing board, which makes key decisions for the university.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who is the visitor of the federal universities and oversees these institutions, had on 21 November dissolved Nalanda’s Governing Board and created a new one.
Yeo said he was caught unawares by the order approved by Mukherjee and described it as a “complete surprise” to him and most members of the old Governing Board.
“I was neither involved in the preparation nor consulted beforehand,” said Yeo, who succeeded Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as chancellor in July 2015.
“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,” he said.
He added that “with deep sadness” he has submitted his letter of resignation.
Nalanda University currently has some 130 students from about a dozen countries and 30 faculty members.
Singapore is also funding the Nalanda project which has been mired in controversies over issues of autonomy and delays over the last few years.
Sen had resigned as chancellor in 2015 and criticised the Indian government for bureaucratic delays and failing to safeguard the international character of the university. The Indian government had wanted greater oversight over finances and other key decisions.
The ancient university, which was burnt down in 1193, was India’s first residential university, attracting scholars and students from far and wide.