Anisa Akbari, a final-year student of MA, development studies, from Afghanistan, joined Ambedkar University in Dwarka (AUD) instead of Jamia Millia Islamia because of its faculty strength, unique teaching pedagogy and interdisciplinary approach.
“I had met them (the faculty) before the admission and the experience was amazing,” she said.
She is not alone in her admiration of AUD. There are a couple of other students who quit MA psychology at the University of Delhi to join this two-year-old institute, which is still functioning from a makeshift campus in the sub-city of Dwarka.
“DU’s programme in psychology focuses on the conventional model of medical science, which is now an old practice, whereas, over here, we are sensitised to other subjects such as anthropology and politics, which also matter in psychology. The interdisciplinary approach towards education makes this a holistic learning,” says a first-year student of MA (psychology) who quit DU to join Ambedkar, but does not wish to be named.
Another notable characteristic of this varsity is its unique assessment procedure, which is continuous and takes into account class participation to a great extent.
“The semester-end exams can’t judge your knowledge in totality. You may or may not know the answers to the questions asked in the examination. What you have learnt in the entire semester is a different proposition altogether. Learning is a continuous process, which must be assessed on a regular basis,” says Acio Maliam, a first-year student of MA in development studies who came from Uganda to India especially to study at Ambedkar University.
This state university is really making its presence felt. Vice chancellor Dr Shyam Menon talks to HT Horizons about plans for the future and the fresh challenges the varsity faces:
The university opened its doors two years ago while postgraduate programmes began last year. This year, the university offered a viable alternative to DU and Jamia by offering BA programmes. How would you rate the response to your offerings?
In some programmes, it was good. In psychosocial clinical studies, the ratio of applicants and number of seats is 5 is to 1 while in the undergraduate programmes, more than 200 students applied for 64 seats. In environment (studies) unfortunately, we couldn’t fill all the seats. (Despite that) we had to deny admissions to some of the students because we didn’t want to dilute our standards.
Was something lacking on the part of faculty because of which the university couldn’t draw students in environment studies?
No, our faculty in the environment department comprises PhD holders from the likes of Oxford, Duke, Ohio State, DU and JNU. It (lukewarm response of students) is a manifestation of the lack of appreciation of the social science dimension in environment studies. People don’t want to join programmes which they haven’t heard of.
Things would have been different if it were an MSc in environment studies.
Even in University of Delhi, for the MA environment programme, the number of applications fell short of seats while in MSc environment, 900 students applied for just 30 seats.
So, what is being planned to bridge the perception gap?
We are planning a review process wherein the curriculum will be re-looked at. In this process, we will also invite people who could be prospective employers (for students of environment studies).
We will divide the programme into three specializations – science, management and social science, so that it serves the needs of students from all streams.
What are the other programmes the university is planning to start?
We recently started PhD programmes in all our disciplines – history, political science, sociology, English, Hindi, development studies, environment and gender studies (application deadline January 3, 2011).
Probably by next year, we will start programmes in law, management and education. However, even if we can’t start full-fledged degree programmes in these disciplines, we will start rolling out short-term programmes.
Tell us about the new programmes which will be on offer?
It might look foolhardy but we don’t want to run the programmes, which are already on offer in other universities - such as three- or five-year law, or BEd or MBA, which churns out corporate managers. In law, we don’t want to produce lawyers. Rather, we will run BA and MA programmes. Those who already hold an LLB, will earn an LLM degree at the PG level whereas those who are plain graduates will be eligible for an MA in law.
In the field of education, we will start an MA in education (and not MEd). We want to steer clear of the statutory bodies such as NCTE (National Council for Teacher’s Training) or BCI (Bar Council of India) for the permissions.
In management, we will offer MBA in social entrepreneurship wherein major focus will be given on producing entrepreneurs that too in the field of social enterprises.
But what would be the motivating factor for the students when they don’t have any employable qualifications to go for?
We want to produce scholars and promote research. Those who study MA in law can go for MPhil or PhD, and MA in education will be useful for working teachers.
There is a dearth of good quality teachers. In the case of MBA too, social entrepreneurship has deliberately been chosen as our core area of competence. In fact, what appears as unmarketable is marketable.