GANGTOK: The Centre of Excellence could become another University in Sikkim. The State government has been presented with a proposal for the Centre of Excellence Bill to be passed in October 2021.

The Sikkim government recently passed legislation to establish two private universities and revive the unrecognised EIILM University with a new nomenclature.

Professor Mahendra P. Lama, who served as the founding Vice-Chancellor of Sikkim University and is the current Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of Sikkim, presented a 13-page draft on March 29, 2021, to the State government for the Centre of Excellence in Chakung, West Sikkim.

Lama has presented a deadline of June 2023 for the classes to begin at the Centre. But he proposes a university status with full autonomy for the Centre of Excellence.

Speaking with EastMojo, Professor Lama highlighted how the State government has already allotted land for the COE. “There have been two rounds of meetings with state government officials. The draft that I have presented has been discussed thoroughly. Core elements from the draft have been considered for implementation. For the Centre of Excellence, there will be an overarching committee that already exists under Chief Minister Golay. The vision of the Centre of Excellence has conditions with the political leadership needing to think big. The traditional and narrow thinking which I faced as the Vice-Chancellor of Sikkim University would not work. The political elites will have to think big while the step holding must be local,” he said.

Professor Mahendra Lama

On the University status for Centre of Excellence, Lama shared, “The best would be to give Centre of Excellence a University status. We have to let it flourish and thrive as it wants to, when you affiliate with other institutions, your autonomy is gone. If you affiliate with Sikkim University, you will have to follow their courses, examination pattern, recruitment pattern. The autonomy of the institution is very vital, there are no interventions from institutions or individuals. The Central University status gives no role to the State government. Despite that, the previous State government played such a derogatory role. It tried to damage it. We do not want it to be a playground for political elements”.

Speaking on the failure with Sikkim University, which he framed as another model university, Lama said, “The present vice-chancellor can convert it as a model university. The previous vice-chancellor was clouded with political influence and made it a complete failure. The current VC is a serious scholar, and he can do it. The political leadership then had narrow thinking, he had no idea what a university is. We never got the land, but when we got the land there was no money. It was a good experience and sad that political institutions took it as an ordinary government college. He (Pawan Kumar Chamling) missed an opportunity, and the Sikkimese people missed the opportunity”.

Lama, who has been involved with the economic development concerns by the state government under Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay’s regime, highlighted, “Sikkim has the highest per capita availability of Universities. For every 70-80,000 people, you have a University. There should be a PhD degree holder for every 2,000 people if there are so many universities. Every household would have professional degree holders, doctors and engineers. Despite that, the desirability of Sikkim’s educational standard is much lower”.

No institute can be mutually exclusive, Lama said. “There will be challenges initially, like we faced with Sikkim University. The revenue model of an institute is vital, either funded by philanthropy or the government. Hence the initial investment will be by the Government of Sikkim, then there will be exploration and invitation for others to participate. Anyone with the right idea can be welcomed if it adheres to the constitution of the institute. There are foreign foundations, who can be welcomed, wherein the midterm it sustains and in the long term becomes a profit-making venture,” he added.



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