With the Punjab government’s putting squeeze on its annual grant to state universities to keep its own finances in order, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) here has no option but to sacrifice quality and go for quantity.
The class strength in the first-year BTech courses such as computers and IT (information technology), which used to be just 30 about seven years ago, went up to first 60 and now 120.
However, the fee increased only marginally, and is unchanged for the past three years.
“The number of our students has gone from 7,000 to 23,000 in five years,” says university registrar Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, agreeing that the dramatic increase in enrolment saved the university from a fiscal collapse.
The large section of the university teachers had criticised vice-chancellor AS Brar when he had raised the number of seats in most courses; but he had argued that “with the government help being limited, we cannot put the burden on the students”.
This university also has regional campuses at Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Sathiala, and Fatthu Dhinga in Kapurthala district, besides constituent colleges at Narot Jaimal Singh, Niari, Jalandhar, Mukandpur, Verka, Chung, Mithra, Sathiala, and Patti, all of which it has to run with own money.
However, the investment in infrastructure creation has not kept pace with intake. The hostels are overflowing, with four students in rooms meant for two. The old lecture theatres can’t hold even 120 students.
The university pays nearly 3,000 employees. To lessen its burden, it has had to outsource some non-teaching functions. It has 360 regular and 450 to 500 ad hoc teachers. The University Grants Commission (UGC) forbids this “adhocism” but regularising the services of ad-hoc teachers will hurt finances. Former V-C HS Soch said “adhocism” would ruin the educational standards, as “underpaid employees will not work seriously”. On regional campuses, “adhocism” flourishes.
Huge salary, research bills
The annual grant from the state is Rs 36 crore, mere 16% of the annual salary bill. The monthly salary bill is Rs 13 crore. Of the RS 120 crore UGC grant, Rs 50 crore has been paid.