It’s 2017 and the University of Delhi (DU) is crumbling under degrading infrastructure, a culture of ad-hoc and degrading standards of education; the only sustenance is DU’s history and the pride associated with it and the sense of exclusivity and hype partly owed to the ridiculously high-cut-offs.
Delhi University with its ridiculously high cut-offs, glitzy fests, and star nights and a long list of alumni winning accolades in the world of politics, films and academia, has a lot to boast of. Its reputation and prestige, along with its hype and exclusivity make it a dream institution for students across the country. The culturally rich and “woke” campus is coveted by undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students across the country. But Delhi University has been systematically degrading to meet not just global standards, but it has failed to match up to the infrastructure and resources offered in colleges in India. Globally, DU is ranked as 481-490 by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings, which is largely regarded as the most accurate ranking for universities.
The ugly truth about the University of Delhi is that despite having some of the best students and faculty members from across the country, it fails to reach its full potential or even push its own horizons. Ceilings have fallen in Daulat Ram College and College of Vocational Studies, Gargi College students complained of lack of an adequate number of washrooms, and most colleges are witnessing their main building slowly crumble away. A significant lack in number of classrooms for tutorials, no proper arrangements for recreational and extra-curricular activities, and a severe shortage of adequate sports facilities is a problem faced across colleges in DU. India has grown out of the phase where it only had the bare-minimum- when the then Prime Minister Shastri had to ask citizens to fast once a week due to grain shortage. But while the rest of the country has come out of that era of scraping by and having only the bare-minimum, DU has not. Apart from the top five or six colleges, most of the colleges still lack proper resources, auditoriums, and interactive classrooms. But infrastructural resources or the lack of them is not Delhi University’s only problem, the ad-hoc culture is as well. The practice of inviting teachers to teach temporarily in colleges as ad-hoc lecturers has become extremely common. As a consequence of this, lecturers often shuffle from college to college as they are replaced. Since their jobs are not permanent and are highly dependent on the authorities’ whims and fancies, most ad-hoc lecturers find themselves under immense pressure to meet the expectations of their immediate superiors. This is necessarily a bad thing because lecturers have often complained of ill-treatment under such a system, as is evident by the extensive number of protests that take place regarding the same issue. While these academics dedicate their time to save their jobs and seek a certain degree of stability in their lives, any autonomy that they have- to teach with absolute freedom, confidence, and passion, to criticise anyone from college authorities to governments and administrations, to speak fearlessly without censoring their opinion- is snatched from them. Most of us would think this isn’t a particularly big problem; after all they are completely free to teach the prescribed curriculum as they please. But the point is, Delhi University gets its je ne sais quoi from the kind of space it reserves to discuss unconventional and unpopular opinions. The very spirit of the university can be summed up by its culture of questioning and challenging status quo and the emphasis it lays on political awareness, activism, and protests. When its academia- the people responsible for providing students not just knowledge about the curriculum but also about the world- tread with fear and are afraid to speak their minds, students may also be afraid to do the same.
Times are changing and universities across the world are constantly innovating and offering its students better facilities. Those attempting to silence me for criticising DU’s lack of resources might say that since DU offers a highly subsidised education, it cannot obviously meet global standards due to financial reasons. The truth is, even Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) offer a subsidised education (while there was a revision in the fee structure, a professional degree is bound to cost more) as well. To say that one government-funded institute can have adequate resources at its disposal while another cannot, makes little sense. Change is the only constant and those who fail to evolve, stagnate and then disintegrate. For the University of Delhi to continue living up to its hype, it needs to evolve and adapt to modern times. Better resources, facilities for students and teachers and reformations in its problematic ad-hoc culture are some ways in which it can do the same.
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat