Say goodbye to the Delhi University you knew

The proposed four-year undergraduate programme will stratify society even more effectively than the current system
G. Sampath, Livemint
A file photo of Dinesh Singh, vice-chancellor of Delhi University. Photo: HT
A file photo of Dinesh Singh, vice-chancellor of Delhi University. Photo: HT
Delhi University (DU) is in turmoil. Vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh wants to scrap the existing three-year undergraduate degree course and replace it with a four-year undergraduate programme from the academic year starting July 2013.
A large number of faculty members and students are opposed to the very idea of converting to a four-year system. An even larger number are upset by the haste and secrecy with which the vice-chancellor is pushing through far-reaching changes in the curriculum.
It would be misleading, however, to see the proposed change as a manifestation of one man’s hubris. Singh’s endeavour is an important but still minor sub-plot in a larger narrative of transition, both within and outside the university. The central theme of this narrative is privatization.
Traditionally, in higher education, there has always been a clear demarcation between the two kinds of higher education: vocational training, which equips you with skills for the job market, and a broad liberal arts education that equips you with competencies so you can function as a politically mature citizen in a functioning democracy.
What the Delhi University vice-chancellor’s mutant baby, the four-year programme, will do is to jumble up the two and spit out quarter-graduates, half-graduates and almost-graduates who will have no option but to join some private institution or the other to skill themselves up into employability. Unless, that is, they are happy to be the bottom feeders of the labour pool.
As a DU lecturer pointed out (he did not want to come on record for fear of reprisals from the academic henchmen of the friendly neighbourhood vice-chancellor), the biggest impact of the proposed system would be a two-fold stratification—within academia and without—along class lines.
The internal stratification will be achieved through the “exit points”, which many DU academics have termed “social apartheid”. Basically, a student can opt out of the four-year programme after two years with an Associate Baccalaureate, or after three years with a Baccalaureate (the equivalent of a pass course). To get an Honours degree, you will have to spend a fourth year in college—one more than at present—which will obviously cost more money. In other words, the most important determinant of an Honours degree is your paying power and not merit.
The DU lecturer explains this with an example. “Let’s take two students, A and B. A is poor but brilliant. B is rich but academically weak. In the current system, A can get admission into a three-year Honours course on merit. If she can rustle up the tuition fee, at the end of three years, she will be an Honours graduate. B, given her low percentage, will simply not get admission into a DU Honours course. If she wants to do an Honours course, her only option is to do it in one of the expensive private universities by paying a few lakhs.
“But in the proposed FYUP (four-year undergraduate programme), both A and B will get in. Given her financial and other vulnerabilities, it is very likely that A will opt out after three years with an inferior degree, while B will emerge with an Honours after four years, thanks to her financial staying power.”
The new model will thus stratify society even more effectively than the current system, which is already a stratifying tool, heaping more privileges on the privileged, which universities generally tend to do (a phenomena well documented by sociologists such as Pierre Bourdieu). That was internal stratification.
Once these pseudo-drop-outs (or drop-outs-with-certificates) go out into the real world, they would obviously not be able to compete for opportunities with those who completed the four-year course. They would thus become the next lot of subalterns in the knowledge economy. And the elite would enjoy the benefit of a legitimizing ideology—university-certified merit—to justify the widening economic disparity and their own entrenched privileges.
All said and done, education is the most powerful tool for social mobility available to a citizen today. It is therefore the responsibility of any nation that believes in the ideal of an equitable society to make this tool available to every citizen. It was this vision of education as a social good that inspired independent India’s first National Education Policy, based on the Kothari Commission Report of 1966. But contemporary India’s ruling elite seems less interested in social equity than in securing its privileges for succeeding generations.
So there is a simple reason for the haste and secrecy, not to mention the climate of fear that has marked the preparations for the DU vice-chancellor’s introduction of the four-year programme: it will not survive a process of democratic debate and pedagogic scrutiny.
DU is probably one of the few public universities left in the country today that can give private universities a run for their money. It represents the best of the old regime. Its continuing pre-eminence lends credence to the argument that a state institution can deliver quality education on par with global standards of excellence. Therefore, as was done with Air India, it is necessary to destroy it in order to make a watertight case for handing over higher education to private capital. Why else would you add an entire year to an undergraduate course, increase the workload on teachers, overburden the exam infrastructure to breaking point, and yet refuse to fill the 3,000 odd vacant teaching posts, or invest even a wee bit on university infrastructure?
The vacant teaching posts will be filled, if at all, and infrastructure will be improved, if at all, when DU welcomes private investment, if at all – not before. In the meantime, as the four-year programme unleashes chaos and confusion, as it will, the best of the faculty and students will abandon DU and migrate to other alternatives, which will be—no points for guessing—private universities.
Recently, I was surprised to discover that two eminent sociologists who I was used to identifying as DU academics are now faculty at OP Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University, respectively. I’m sure there are sound reasons—and academic ones—why they found DU less attractive than these private universities. But it should surprise nobody if, over the coming months and years, the best of DU’s remaining academics—including all the Marxists—follow suit, and end up at one or the other of the private universities.
Of course, all this makes eminent sense from the perspective of the market. After all, how can DU get away with charging Rs.16,000 or less for a course that a private university might sell for Rs.2 lakh, and that too with faculty far less distinguished than DU’s?
Once DU is taken care of, it would be much easier to replicate the academic mutation in the rest of the state universities. DU’s agitating teachers are battling not a misguided, authoritarian vice-chancellor, but the larger agenda of privatization, of which he has made himself a convenient tool. As things stand, the odds are in favour of the vice-chancellor and against the survival of DU as we know it.
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#India – Disastrous Consequences of Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) of DU

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 Delhi University, a premiere public funded central university, is a coveted higher education institution for millions of students across the country for itsaffordable high quality education. This status of Delhi University has been seriously threatened by the forced and mindless implementation of the FYUP by the DU VC Dinesh Singh. In spite of serious concerns raised by numerous noted intellectuals and teachers about the academic and pedagogic flaws of the FYUP, the VC has remained intolerant to all concerns and has repeated the rosy dreams and false claims of “employability” flexibility” and multidisciplinary approach” of the FYUP. It is high time we make an honest factual assessment of the dark reality lurking behind the false claims made by the FYUP because it is the students who will suffer from these changes in the University.

It is significant that ALL the established decision-making and course-making norms of DU have been bypassed in the unseemly haste to push through the FYUP. The FYUP goes against the National Curriculum Framework – but such a major change is being bulldozed through in spite of the opposition of the most respected educationists and academic voices of the University and the country. And the VC who is projecting himself as a ‘flexible modern reformer, is so scared of debate that he took pains to systematically deny the DUTA any venue inside the University to hold meetings and GBMs on University premises! A new low for campus democracy was reached on 12 May when the venue for the DUTA GBM in a college was cancelled at the last minute.       

How FYUP adversely affects the lives of Students

1.     To get an honours degree the student will have to bear the financial burden of an extra year. The VC sheds crocodile tears for the economically deprived sections but conveniently forgets that thousands of students are forced to spend an exorbitant amount of 10-12000 rupees per month in food and lodging over and above the college fees while studying in DU. With the FYUP, students will have to bear this extra amount for another long year for a degree which students from other universities will complete in three years.

2.     The students’ entry into the job market will be delayed by a year and the DU 4 year graduates will lose the precious opportunity of appearing in competitive exams for a year.

3.     Since FYUP is at variance with the National Curriculum Framework of 10+2+3, students emerging from DU with 2, 3 and 4-year certificates will face serious incompatibility in proving “equivalence” while joining other courses, institutions and Universities.

Is there enough class room space to accommodate the 54000 new students who will enter the university with the addition of an extra year? It is a well known fact across the colleges of DU that the colleges are suffering from serious shortage of space and more often than not fails to accommodate all the students under the 3 year programme. After the OBC expansion the funds received by the corrupt DU administration has been criminally wasted in mindless beautification drives without any attempt to enhance class room and laboratory space in the colleges. The VC has been responding with absolute irresponsible nonchalance when ever this issue has been raised. Can we allow the students to suffer academically when such primary infrastructural requirements like classrooms are not adequately met?

Teachers: What is even more alarming is the fact that DU is running severely short of teachers. With not a single appointment in last 3 years there are 5000 permanent posts lying vacant across the 80 colleges of DU. The show is managed by Ad hoc teachers whose job insecurity and rampant exploitation has made DU a most unequal university. The VC has developed the habit of rabidly slandering the teachers for raising genuine concerns about the shortcomings of FYUP while turning a blind eye to the glaring inadequacies with which the DU teachers are struggling daily. Can any University function in a sane manner when the majority of teachers are contractualized and are in a constant flux with no job security?

Dangers of Multiple Exit Degrees in FYUP

In the 3 year model DU offered two different programmes, 1) The BA, BSc, B.Com (Programme) courses and 2) BA, BSc, B.Com (Honours) courses.The Programme course and the honours courses were two separate courses with different curriculums, coherent and complete in themselves, offering the students with the choice to decide their courses according to their future career plans. The FYUP offers one single integrated course with a single “fit for all” curriculum with multiple exit points after 2 years (diploma degree), 3 years (bachelor Degree) and 4 Years (honours degree). This is disastrous for students for two reasons:

1.     Unlike a student from the 3 year programme who will have a complete degree in their hand the student from FYUP who exits after 2 years and 3 years with Diploma and Bachelor degree respectively will have an incomplete degree where s/he will only complete a certain number of courses of the entire 4 year programme. {2 year diploma will do 11 FC + 8 DC1+ 2 DC2+ 3 AC + 4 IMBH/CA course and 3 year Bachelor will do 11 FC + 14 DC1+ 4 DC2+ 5 AC + 8 IMBH/CA courses of the entire FYUP package of  11 FC + 20 DC1+ 6 DC2 + 5 AC + 10 IMBH/CA courses} The biggest concern is that the diploma and bachelor students will do a far lesser number of main discipline (DC1) courses.

2.     The FYUP programme will institutionalise the already existing high drop-out rate among DU students. The VC admitted as much in his Walk the Talk interview, where he said that 12% students drop out of DU without any certificate; the FYUP programme will equip such students with some certificate! Instead of seeking to correct the drop-out problem and ensure that students get a holistic and complete education, the multiple exit system is giving a ‘golden handshake’ of sorts to the students who, usually due to social and economic marginalisation, are dropping out.

3.     The biggest fallout will be in terms of the employability of the Diploma and Bachelor degree students who will exit after 2 and 3 years because they will be considered as students who failed to complete the entire 4 year programme. The multiple exit points of FYUP are therefore an open invitation to social discrimination among students.

4.     Instead of correcting existing the social-economic hierarchical divisions and ensuring that universities are an engine of social mobility, the FYUP programme will instead reproduce, perpetuate and justify these divisions: in effect saying, let the socially and economically weaker students get the ‘drop-out’ degrees and are thus available for lower-paid jobs, while only those who have the financial ability to sustain education for an additional year will have the privilege of getting higher-end jobs requiring the ‘Honours’ qualification.

Degradation of Curriculum

1)Foundation (faltu) Courses: The 10+2 students who enter DU after specializing in either arts, commerce or science to pursue further specialization in the specific stream or subject of his choice will now have to study 11 compulsory basic school level foundational course like maths, geography, business entrepreneurship, computer skills in their first 2 years. A student who has left maths or business entrepreneurship and wants to study a completely different subject will be forced to do all the 11 courses which are school level in nature. Doesn’t such an imposition of as many as 11 compulsory courses make the FYUP more rigid rather than more ‘flexible’ as claimed by the VC? One wonders how will doing school level courses guarantee employment in this highly competitive world where employers are looking for even greater amount of specialized knowledge and skills from their employees. Is the VC saying that a student who enters DU with the desire to develop himself/herself for knowledge-based high skilled jobs through the graduate course, should now be happy with the level of knowledge required for low-skilled and least-paid jobs alone?

2) Lower emphasis on Main discipline courses: In the 3 year model the honours subject papers which the student wanted to specialize constituted 75 % of the entire curriculum. IN FYUP with the student will do only 18 main discipline courses in 4 years while s/he will be loaded with 24 non-main discipline courses? (11foundation (faltu) courses + 5 extracurricular + 8 CA and ‘Integrated Mind Body Heart’ course) What is the point of burdening the student who wants to specialize in a specific subject with so many nonsensical courses?

3) Reduction of classes: The FYUP has reduced the number of weeks of teaching from 15 to 12.

In the previous model every paper with 3 units each was given 5 classes per week (roughly two classes /unit). In FYUP every paper has 4 units with only 4 classes (1 class/ unit). The VC should explain what great academic rigour will be accomplished by reducing teaching time in the university.

4) Training in Writing: In the 3 year annual model every student had to write 3 assignments and 1 project for each and every paper. This trained them in academic writing, enhanced their scholarship and gave them opportunity to do independent research. In FYUP students will not write a single assignment in the course of 4 years and only do 1 group presentation (7-8 students doing 1 presentation) for every paper. And yet the VC makes tall claims about developing skills and research potential of students.  

School of Open Learning

The VC has made ominous pronouncements in his TOI interview against the School of Open Learning which runs correspondence courses for students who cannot afford regular college education. The SOL will not come under the FYUP and therefore poor students who study in courses of SOL will not be able to join the regular course even if they perform well in their studies. This is a clear discrimination against the students of SOL who are ascribed the status of second class citizens within the same university. While there is need to address the problems of SOL it is absolutely anti-student to covertly derecognize the degree that this institution awards to lakhs of students.

With such glaring flaws and discriminatory content the FYUP will destroy the very basis of egalitarian quality education in DU. The stated aim of FYUP to judge education by economic value is the sweet coated poison that will pave the way of reducing DU into a private teaching shop that churns out semi-skilled students as a reserve army required for low-end jobs in the mushrooming corporate sector which subsists on ‘flexible’ low-paid labour. The FYUP actively institutionalises drop-outs and discourages students from pursuing higher learning and developing critical faculties which ought to be main aim of higher education as a social good in a developing country like ours.

We call upon all democratic sections of society to resist the disastrous anti-student, anti-academic ‘reforms’ of FYUP in Delhi University.

LDTF                               AISA

(Left and Democratic Teachers’ Forum)                                                     (All India Students’ Association)

Contact: 9868034224                                                                                   Contact: 9213974505




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