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Don’t overstretch DU, build quality options

delhi Updated: Jun 10, 2012 23:50 IST
Shivani Singh
Shivani Singh
Hindustan Times
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Every year, it is the same story. Cut-offs for admission to Delhi University go soaring and thousands don’t get into their desired college or course. Others don’t make the cut at all. There are academic debates on unrealistic cut-offs. Yet, the top colleges manage to fill seats at the first go.

Last year, when SRCC asked for a perfect 100 in a certain subject combination for admission to B.Com. (Hons), HRD minister Kapil Sibal shared the mass outrage and promised “over-arching reforms”. But the college did get a candidate from Chennai who had the perfect score in four subjects. In most popular courses in top colleges, cut-offs stayed above 85% and with ample supply of students from across the country, seats were quickly lapped up.

As we await reforms, the numbers spiral out of control. Compared to 2011 figures, 900 more students joined the CBSE’s 95-per cent club and the application count on day one at DU went up by 8,000 this year. With limited seats, such demand is likely to push the cut-offs higher. Last week, the Opposition in Delhi Assembly demanded the number of colleges in DU be increased “to ensure all students get admission in the course of their choice”. Separately, another set of politicians demanded a quota for students from Delhi. But are these the solutions we need?

DU is the biggest central university in the country, offering 54,000 seats in 61 colleges. Yet, it is forced to admit extra students as it gets more candidates even with high cut-offs. The applications to DU increase by 7% each year, which include students from central and state boards. In 2010, there were 1.8 lakh students vying for 54,000 seats. DU is clearly the preferred choice for undergraduate studies.

But it is paying the price for building a reputation. Why else should DU be expected to accommodate the increasing load of students from across India when the university is already cracking under its own weight? Conducting admissions, supervising operations, holding examinations and evaluating students of such large numbers of constituent colleges is already an administrative nightmare at DU. With little uniformity in academic standards, teaching quality and availability of infrastructure, getting consensus on any kind of policy reform has become a huge challenge.

Yet, DU is accused of being competitive and turning away students, often by the same dispensation that has done precious little to provide good alternatives. Clearly, it is not DU’s responsibility to keep increasing the number of seats or colleges. As strategy reviews such as the one by the National Knowledge Commission and the National Policy on Education before that have pointed out, large universities are a bad idea.

What our students need are more quality institutes across the country and in Delhi. They certainly need something more than an affiliating body that holds together random private institutes. It is time we open smaller and efficient institutes and delink some colleges from the affiliating structure, allowing them academic and operative freedom, an experiment that has worked well in the case of Kolkata’s Presidency and Bangalore’s Christ College.

With administrative reforms and initiatives, we also need to change our mindset and look beyond DU. Set up in 2008, Delhi’s Ambedkar University has handpicked its teaching faculty from some of the top institutes in the country and runs inter-disciplinary schools and centres rather than a monolith unit. Four years on, it is yet to find enough students to fill all its seats.