New Delhi

Protests in Delhi University

Print edition : September 20, 2013

During a protest by the All India Students' Association in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) introduced by Delhi University in the current academic year received a big setback when more than 10,000 students voted against it in an unofficial referendum conducted on August 22.

The referendum, organised by the All India Students Association (AISA) and supported by all teachers’ unions, is a first-of-its-kind protest in the university in which students have voiced their opinion on the FYUP. Despite attempts of a few college administrations to scuttle the protest by trying to snatch the ballot boxes placed outside college gates, 11,556 students in 20 university colleges voted. In an open-air counting held in front of independent observers, 10,519 students voted against the FYUP, 936 supported it, and 101 votes were declared invalid. “The fact that 91 per cent students voted against the FYUP shows the strength, commitment and resilience of students who came out to vote despite all odds. It is high time the D.U. administration took note of such an overwhelming result,” said Sandeep Singh, president, AISA.

The teaching community feels that the programme puts an extra financial burden on students without any relevant value addition to higher education (see "System Error", Frontline, May 17, 2013). Students have to cope with a confused programme, a consequence of hurried implementation.

The four-year programme was conceptualised with common foundation courses for all disciplines in the first year and multiple exit points that would award the student either a diploma, a plain bachelor’s degree, or a honours graduate degree.

The FYUP is designed to admit students into a general course after a common entrance examination, and allows them to choose their specialisations in the second year. But the university found it unmanageable to conduct the entrance examination for such a large number of aspirants in the available time. Hence, admission to FYUP happened in the traditional way—students chose their disciplines on the basis of cut-off marks in their first year itself. This choice is irreversible, rendering the idea of "flexibility" in FYUP redundant.

In the event, the foundation courses, which help students choose their specialisation, also became unnecessary. “However, the university went ahead with the foundation courses, which were poorly designed. The books are unavailable. The science foundation courses are too easy for students who studied science in the 10+2 level and too difficult for others,” said Saikat Ghosh, English Department, SGTB Khalsa College.

“The constant focus on foundation courses in the first two years gives students hardly any time to focus on their core discipline,” said Naveen Gaur, Associate Professor at Dyal Singh College.

The foundation courses are evaluated through a centralised examination of 40 marks and internal assessment for 35 marks. However, the D.U. administration, seemingly for want of resources to complete the evaluation on time, allotted 55 marks for internal assessment and 20 marks for the main examination, which was also decentralised. Academics said such a system would lead to rank favouritism, caste-based discrimination and even absenteeism of teachers since they had so much power.

The structure of the FYUP is such that it seems to have failed in what it set out to achieve—greater employability of students by better specialisation. “The students who obtain a two-year diploma will study only eight papers from their core/main discipline. The remaining 20 courses will be compulsory, extremely basic, mostly school-level. If the student chooses to complete the three-year bachelor’s degree, s/he will merely study 14 main discipline courses. The remaining 28 courses will be a wild assortment of applied courses, subsidiary courses, cultural activities, and school-level foundation courses,” said a note prepared by the AISA.

Similarly, a student who completes all four years and obtains a bachelor (hons) degree will have to do 50 courses, of which only 20 will be from his core discipline. In spite of having spent both time and money on an extra year, these students will have less knowledge of their core discipline than students who had acquired an honours degree in three years.

Amid all this, there has been a continual fee hike across colleges every year, with one college increasing its fees by 11 per cent. Besides, around 4,000 teaching posts are lying vacant and they are filled by appointments on an ad hoc basis.

In an appeal to the government and the President, five eminent scholars—Professor Yash Pal, the historian Romila Thapar, the author U.R. Ananthamurthy, the former chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpeyi and the critic Namvar Singh—said: “The four-year course… goes beyond the National Policy on Education (1986) as it violates the 10+2+3 structure mandated by the policy. Delhi University cannot be allowed to proceed with its new course without revision of the national policy and adequate discussion that such a revision would require.”

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta

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