Desperate to a degree

Desperate to a degree

Despite opposition against the new four-year undergraduate programme, Delhi University has sold one lakh forms so far and the number is rising. The competition is intense, and in the end only the crème de la crème will get into a college of their choice

While Delhi University is seeing protests against the implementation of the four-year undergraduation programme, yet in its first four days of undergraduate admissions, which started on June 5, the varsity sold at least one lakh forms. But it does not stop here. DU officers claim that the number may reach two lakh this year.

DU has over 70 colleges and 54,000 undergraduate seats. In previous years, DU has seen high cut-offs, even a 100 per cent cut-off was recorded. The university sold 1.5 lakh forms in 2012.

According to DU teachers, several factors make DU attractive for students coming from nearby states and far-flung areas. “The varsity’s location in the country’s capital makes it an important central university. Also, other central universities such as Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU) focus more on postgraduate students,” says Prem Singh, who teaches in the Department of Hindi.

“So there is a dearth of options for undergraduate students in most other central universities, which offer a handful of undergraduation colleges that are linked with state universities,” says Singh. DU’s prestige is its syllabus, teaching faculty and timely results, he adds.

Why is DU sought-after

Other factors that contribute to the rush in DU are the generally bad conditions in a majority of state universities across the country. “Apart from a few old and well-known state colleges, the condition of the remaining state university colleges remains dismal. There is no exposure and development for teachers in the form of seminars and symposium. Teachers are not encouraged,” says J Khuntia, teacher and president of Academic for Action and Development.

“There is immense bureaucratization, which hampers the quality of teaching and learning process in these varsities,” adds Khuntia.

DU officers are of the view that among the old central universities in north India, DU has maintained its “academic rigour”.

“The situation of BHU, AMU and other famous universities of a time is degrading due to socio-political factors. In such a scenario, DU still holds its vibrancy in terms of activities offered, faculty and curriculum,” says Khuntia.

Even DU teachers say that central universities that were set up recently, especially in the 90s and in the past one decade, have limited number of seats to the tune of a few thousands.

AMU was started in 1875, Allahabad University in 1887, BHU in 1916 and DU in 1922.

Campus life scores high

The quality of campus life and the ‘free environment’ of DU compared to other old central universities also attract students. “The environment in DU gives complete freedom to students, which in itself is a fresh experience for new students coming from the small cities. Teachers are friendly, something which many students were not used to when in school,” says Khuntia. “Students also enjoy political freedom of thought; they suddenly feel their opinion matters, and the media is active in DU. All these reasons make DU very attractive.”

A strong alumni base and high placement records of reputed colleges add to the appeal of DU among young adults.

Wind of change

Despite all its merits, the ride has not been smooth for DU in recent times after it completely changed from the three-year undergraduate format to a four-year one (FYUP).
The curriculum has also been altered by amalgamating previous Honours and programme courses into the new four-year format.

FYUP has met with stiff resistance from a section of teachers and students for being hurriedly designed and formulated. Even political groups, including the main opposition party, public intellectuals and ministers from the United Progressive Alliance have also shown reservations against FYUP, seeking to postpone its implementation until the curriculum is designed properly.

DU, however, insists that FYUP is being implemented after following due procedure. It says the increasing number of students applying this year shows that criticism is coming from only a small section of “politically motivated” groups.

“There is a need for academic reform in the varsity. There are courses and papers that have lost their essence. The FYUP is designed to cater to the needs of present India. Some sections of teachers have a problem with any kind of change. The growing number of students applying shows that people are open for experimentation and change in the age-old curriculums,” says a DU officer.

Teachers opposing the new format are of the view that FYUP has nothing to do with increase in the number of students this year. “We have to keep in mind the wider demographics of the country. The population of youth in this country is the highest in the world. Population growth in the 90s was 1.9 per cent, which was still high. Those born then are applying for higher education now,” says Khuntia.

“The population is expected to stabilize by 2030-2040. The millennium saw less growth in population. That is one of the reasons for the increasing number of students applying,” adds Khuntia. “The repercussions of FYUP will be visible in the next few years of its implementation.”

According to a teacher of a South Campus college, students have no option but to apply to DU with or without FYUP.

“With the introduction of more policies in the education sector like Right to Education (RTE), Other Backward Classes (OBC) expansion and reservations, more students from these categories who were denied education are applying.

“But the question now is that with the government making clear in its 12th Plan that it will not increase funding in higher education, rather stating that private players should venture into higher education as the government does not have much funds for education, the dynamics in higher education will change again.

“This will probably hit the underprivileged the hardest,” says the teacher.
The government’s policies of giving more attention to colleges in the metros is also creating limited options for students who want to pursue higher education.

“The overall migration rate to metros like Delhi is rising. Apart from permanent residents of Delhi, people who have been working in the city also opt for DU. The case is similar in other metros as well,” says Khuntia.

A majority of students say affordable education and the good reputation of DU are the two major factors that come into play.

“If I do my graduation from Chaudhary Charan Singh University in UP, and someone else from DU, preference will be given to the student from DU while applying for a job. At the end of the day, apart from a handful few who want to get into research, others want a good job option,” says Ruhi Srivastava, a native of UP.

Teachers who are against FYUP, however, feel that the new structure will dissolve the nomenclature attached to a DU degree.

“Under the new system, it will become tough for students who are not bright. The structure of the degree is to pass the student. The curriculum has been badly tampered with. So much has been deleted from the current curriculum that it will put a student at risk of no thorough knowledge of a particular topic or subject when he or she applies for a job. Then the degree will slowly lose its value,” a teacher sums up.

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