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An admission of apathy

india Updated: May 23, 2007 00:08 IST

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Delhi university has declared that 35,000 students will be given admission to its undergraduate courses this year. The sharp drop of 8,000 seats will put tremendous pressure on students, who having gone through the ordeal of the boards, now have to plunge into the tedious college admissions process. For a university that had 43,000 seats till last year, it is reasonable to wonder where the 8,000 seats have disappeared. Has DU cut down on its seats? This is unthinkable at a time when expansion plans are on the anvil to accommodate the HRD Ministry is mandate of an increased quota for reserved categories. University officials would have us believe that it’s a case of skewed data. But for a statement made by DU Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental, we would be inclined to agree. Mr Pental has said that there are plans to expand DU’s capacity by 18 per cent. Unfortunately for him, the figures add up. The expansion plans will cover this shortfall almost to the last seat. A coincidence?

True, DU, like all other colleges and universities, is hard-pressed to accommodate the tens of thousands who flock to it every year for admission. But tweaking data can hardly be the solution. Much has been written about the need to expand the higher-education pie, instead of carving it up into tiny fragments that serve only a handful. Failing admission to DU, students turn to private institutes. This, in itself, is not at all a bad thing and can work out well if only there were regulations governing such institutes. The lack of reliable accreditation for private players makes admission to such courses a gamble, the measure of an institute being the strength of its advertising and ‘placement cell’ — a dubious measure if ever there was one. Also, the fee-control regime in the form of subsidised higher education makes for bad policy. As has been said often, the education system needs a drastic overhaul. The inefficiencies, right from primary education to the highest levels, ensure that many deserving students fall between the cracks.

DU attracts some of the best students. Yet, it does not have adequate hostel facilities, is in the grip of party politics and its infrastructure is appalling. A more rational fee structure could fund more higher education institutions and ease the pressure on existing colleges. University is the first step in the passage to adulthood. Let’s try and make it a joyous experience for students.