30 June 2014, New Delhi, Sunil Sondhi
If university of delhi cannot experiment, it should not exist
The University of Delhi in one of its most daring initiatives ever, introduced some most sought after
skill-based courses in 2013-2014. These included B. Tech. in Computer Science, B. Tech. in Electronics, Bachelor of Management Studies, and Bachelor in Journalism and Mass Communication, amongst several others. All these courses had been introduced after prolonged and rigorous discussion amongst the faculty in the respective departments. And the response of the students to these new courses was overwhelming. All the colleges which offered these courses had hundreds of students lining up for these prestigious courses. Those who got admissions are among the most talented we have in the country. Not only had they secured on average more than 90 per cent in their school exam, they had exceptional problem-solving and teamwork skills.
One year of their study in these courses had not only helped the students to develop their competencies, but it had also helped the teachers and even the colleges and the university to build their respective strengths. These students had participated in hundreds of undergraduate research projects which were unheard of in this university before. The projects of these students had attracted the National Skill Development Corporation to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with DU to provide a programme for Industry-University partnership to develop the skills of the students which would promote employability as well as productivity. Company’s like the Maruti-Suzuki and Infosys had offered to tie up with all the colleges of DU to train the students in practical skills.
All these courses have now been scrapped at one go. They have been replaced with courses like B.Sc., B.A. Pass, and B. Com Pass. Not that these courses of yester years were not good. But these courses have negligible component of skill development and they have long been overtaken by the march of global economy. Globalised economy of India can only progress and compete with countries like China if we build the functional skills of our workforce and not just their composition and debating skills. Our graduates have degrees without skills. What the country and the world needs is skill, even if it comes without a degree. It is no surprise that the private universities and colleges mushrooming in the country offer skill-based courses and hardly any one of them gives conventional B.A. or B.Sc. degree. The professional courses have been withdrawn ostensibly for the reason that procedural lapses have been found in administrative sanctions one year after the coming into operation of these courses. Isn’t this delayed discovery itself a procedural lapse? If one is so keen to enforce adherence to the rules and regulations of DU and the UGC, how come one of the most fundamental regulations is observed more in defiance than compliance? This regulation says that there must be a minimum of 180 days of teaching in the university in an academic year. It is common knowledge that on an average just about 120 days or less of teaching takes place in the university in a year. This has been going on for decades now. No students union or teachers union has ever sought to demand implementation of this regulation and no government agency has ever sought ‘immediate compliance’ to this most fundamental requirement of higher education.
Speaking more generally, if we are indeed so serious about procedures how many houses, factories, offices, and hotels in Delhi have been built or are functioning in accordance with laid down procedures? Haven’t we regularised hundreds of unauthorised colonies in this city, several times, on humanitarian considerations? Isn’t education a humanitarian consideration? Aren’t our young students human beings whose body, mind and heart deserves all the care we can give? Have we become so insensitive and callous that we can no longer feel the pain of our younger ones?
Institutions should certainly follow established rules and procedures. But education is about the young minds, their future, and the country’s future. Of what use are the best of procedures, if the young minds and their future is trapped in fossilised colleges and universities. If a university cannot experiment it should not exist. University contradicts bureaucracy. A bureau must perform a fixed job, university must cultivate an open mind. In an effort to streamline the procedures of the university it has unknowingly strangled innovation on the campus that had just began to bloom after decades of barren education.
The author is Principal, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi