Future of Delhi University students at stake

A switch to the four-year model should have been seriously debated by educationists in government

Delhi University, India’s premier centre of learning, is a mess. The reasons are several. But each points to subversion of institutional integrity at all levels, which is a hallmark of underdevelopment. Brought under extreme pressure by the University Grants Commission, which takes its orders from the ministry of human resources development, the vice-chancellor who, of course, has much to answer for had to be persuaded by senior faculty members not to resign on Tuesday.

This is only a symptom of the malaise and does no credit to the UGC, which has changed its tune. It is trying to please Smriti Irani, the new HRD minister, whose party is against the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) along with parties on the Left. Last year UGC had kow-towed to her predecessor, Kapil Sibal, while giving the green signal to the introduction of the FYUP, which was energetically pushed by the V-C, presumably at Mr Sibal’s behest. Some two and a half lakh students from all parts of India seek admission to DU each year.

The application process is now on hold. The HC is being approached to pronounce on the many questions involved. In short, some of the study time in the year will be lost, not to speak of the enormous emotional stress on the students. The debate is whether to continue with the four-year programme or return to the traditional three-year format. A critical linked question is: if DU returns to the earlier format, what happens to those who enrolled for the FYUP last year? In their first year they wasted their time with an abysmally low-grade foundation course which is unlikely to qualify them to be promoted to the second year of an undergraduate course. Unfortunately, DU embarked on the FYUP without expert-level nationwide consultation.

A switch to the four-year model should have been seriously debated by educationists in government and outside as an overturning of the 10-plus-2-plus-3 education policy was taking shape. A change of this magnitude goes beyond the question of a university’s “autonomy”. Besides, the way the FYUP syllabus was framed spoke poorly of the preparation that went into it. The courses were revealed to be a slap-dash affair. A four-year course also means 33 per cent higher financial commitment from students.

UGC clearly did not bother with the basic education policy when permitting DU to scrap the three-year degree. Was the DU exercise only an experiment to be imposed on all universities to bring India in line with the US pattern without saying so up front, as some believe? Forcing DU to quietly slip back to the earlier pattern — being now attempted — also appears high-handed. Imagine having a debate right when fresh admissions are due. This is criminally ad hoc.

( Source : dc )
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