Finding hostel room will prove a challenge for new DU students
With admissions to Delhi University colleges currently underway, finding a place in the college hostels is likely to become more difficult and financially challenging as several colleges are considering converting their rooms into single occupancy in order to adhere with Covid-19 protocols.
Currently, the university is only holding in-person practical classes for final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students, with no clarity on when or how classes will begin for first-year undergraduate and postgraduate students once the admissions are over next month.
Of the around 280,000 applicants to DU this year, only 40% aspirants (115,000) are from Delhi-NCR areas and the remaining are from across India. Of the 20 DU colleges offering hostel facilities (till 2019), six offer both male and female hostels, while 12 colleges offer only female hostels and the rest offer only male hostels. Apart from these, the university also has a hostel for undergraduate students on the north campus.
While the university hasn’t provided any data on the number of seats available in these hostels in the past two admission cycles due to the pandemic, in 2019, a total of 3,752 seats were available in these hostels – far fewer than the number of outstation students (146,955) that year.
This year, several colleges with hostels for its undergraduate students such as Hansraj College, Kirori Mal College, Indraprastha College, Lady Shri Ram College, and Miranda House said there have been deliberations on converting hostel rooms to single occupancy which would reduce the capacity of hostels. However, a final call will be taken once they receive guidelines for reopening from the university, the officials said.
Vibha Chauhan, principal of Kirori Mal College, which has nearly 200 seats in its male hostel, said this will be reduced when rooms are converted to single occupancy to ensure safety of students. “Since hostel admissions happen on merit, we will wait for the admission cycle to be over [to initiate the process]. However, since the double occupancy rooms have to be converted to single occupancy to ensure physical distancing, the capacity will be halved. Some of our rooms are still locked as many third-year students still have their luggage there,” she said.
Colleges such as Kirori Mal and Miranda House have had a handful of students on their campus, including foreign students, who couldn’t go back home owing to various reasons, including travel restrictions.
Babli Moitra Saraf, principal of Indraprastha College for Women, which accommodated around 450 students in its hostels before Covid, can now accommodate only 225 – of which half are already enrolled students further reducing the intake of the first-year batch.
“We are facing a dilemma because it is inherently discriminatory to open to only Delhi-based students when we have a large group of outstation students. With the Covid protocol reducing intake by half in our case, there are significant financial implications for hostel aspirants as well as for the college. Colleges have to organise housekeeping, catering and all other services regularly. We also have to have mechanisms to ensure protocols are observed with regards to Covid-appropriate behaviour, contact tracing, and other safety protocols,” she said, adding that parents too were being cautious and the college wasn’t receiving many queries about hostel facilities.
Registrar Vikas Gupta said while the university administration had advised colleges that outstation final-year students returning to hostels after September 15 could be allowed to stay in single occupancy rooms, the decision pertaining to other students will be taken later.
“Once outstation students have isolated themselves for a week in the hostel, they could stay with other students while reducing physical interactions; colleges may take a call on that. Authorities will take the final decision [on room occupancy] once more students start coming in. Factors such as the prevailing Covid situation, vaccination status, and a negative Covid test report will also be taken into account,” he said.
Many applicants, especially female students, often rely on college hostel facilities during admissions due to their affordability and safety. Assam’s Jorhat district resident Namrata Kalita, 18, who will be studying political science at Indraprastha College for Women, said college hostels are “safest” for women.
“I need a hostel admission because it is better than rented accommodations where we have to manage food, cleaning, and other chores. For a young woman moving out of her home to Delhi for the first time, safety and security are of paramount concern. College hostels are always safest. Getting a hostel seat has always been difficult and with Covid, it becomes more important for colleges to devise ways to help outstation students,” she said.
Manoj Khanna, principal of Ramjas College, said they are waiting for university guidelines on the matter. “We can only plan [how to reopen hostels] once we receive guidelines from the university on which students will be called to campus and then calculate the number of seats available for each year-wise batch. While single occupancy rooms are safer, it will halve the strength. We also have to plan how other facilities, such as mess, will work. If the mess is overcrowded, there will be a safety risk. We have to decide if we can have a schedule for meals or arrange room service,” he said.
Vice-chancellor Yogesh Singh told Hindustan Times that the university will reopen gradually due to the concerns over a third wave of Covid. “The previous two waves have been during March. So we have to be careful before taking any decision as our priority is the health and safety of students. A decision will be taken only after considering all aspects,” he said.
Several candidates who have taken admission in undergraduate courses have expressed concerns over finding accommodation in the capital. This is the second admission cycle wherein college and university hostels will remain out of bounds to new students.
Bengaluru resident Tisha Mondal, who has taken admission in BCom (Honours) in Kamala Nehru College under the second cutoff, said she plans to stay at a rented accommodation.
“For outstation students, it has always been difficult to verify the safety of rented accommodations or the facilities being offered by landlords. Parents would need to personally check these when they come for admission. Covid has disrupted that. Since there is an impending risk of a third wave, I will be opting for online classes till at least the year-end even if colleges reopen. We are hoping that the university will allow blended mode of learning,” she said.