For a lot of students in India and neighbouring nations, Delhi University (DU) is the ultimate goal. DU is famed for its renowned faculty, high cut-offs, and iconic brick walls. But, does ground reality match the legendary tales?
Delhi University alumni are pioneers in their fields; they are film-makers, politicians, economists, bureaucrats, and more. Every year DU College’s release their first cut-off lists and every year newspapers and T.V channels present sensationalised stories on the soaring cut-offs; this has become an annual ritual by now. Delhi University Student’s Union (DUSU) leaders end up becoming major politicians and exert considerable influence over regional politics. These stories present a rose-tinted vision of DU, which may or may not be the truth. Stories about the crumbling infrastructure of DU colleges are never talked about enough; professors not being paid for months on end, mismanagement of funds, an outdated curriculum, the ad-hoc culture, the kind of vulgar display of money and power that DUSU elections have now become are stories that are side-lined.
The biggest problem that DU faces, something which any student on campus can attest to is inter-college elitism. Colleges like St. Stephens, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Shri Ram College of Commerce, and a handful more colleges see a concentration of resources and facilities; owed largely to their well-established alumni network and efficient management. Colleges not ranked in the top ten list experience a shortage of classrooms for tutorials, sports facilities, and at times even washrooms. Unless there is a significant improvement of the current state of all DU colleges, this institution will never be worthy of its hype.
A second concern is related to the curriculum and how it has become outdated. Students pursuing professional degrees like commerce and management often find the curriculum to be theoretical with less emphasis on practical knowledge. Vijeata Balani, a second-year student pursuing Bachelors in Commerce says, “The syllabus (for commerce) is mainly fixated on memorising and not much focus is given to increasing skill-based subjects, which is what makes a student employable. Many private universities have better syllabi.” DU examinations and question papers are also reasonably predictable for a lot of subjects; this shows how the faculty does not make intense efforts to keep up with times in the same way that private universities do.
The third drawback that DU faces is the general lack of efficiency. Sometimes permanent faculty members become secure and complacent in their ways and there is no existing system that keeps a check on this kind of behaviour. Placement Cells which in private colleges is the most important unit of the institution is treated like just another student-run society in DU. Some colleges don’t have Placement Cells while others have a cell that barely functions. These seemingly small issues can collectively weigh down on the general efficiency and functioning of the university as a whole.
These drawbacks do not mean that Delhi University does not have its strengths too. The university is highly affordable, diverse and, democratic. A private college which may charge a student upwards of five to ten lakhs over four years in the name of tuition fee; a DU student would have to pay less than one lakh rupees (approximately) in tuition fee. The culture of protests in DU, its diversity, its legacy, and heritage are all unique aspects of this institute. Niharika Dabral, a second-year student from Cluster Innovation Centre says,” The legacy of Delhi University that has been going on since the British rule and emerged again during the Emergency is alive and kicking. One can learn so much by just observing and living around the campus. Everything from fests to protests plays a great deal in shaping someone. Owing to the diversity, everyone can feel more or less included here.”
Studying at Delhi University is a one-of-a-kind experience. This place is a fascinating combination of history, legacy, and of the future. No one can deny that some of the best minds in the country can be found here, both amongst students and the academia. DU is a pioneer in free-speech and the air on campus contains urgency and youthful energy to challenge status-quo and question the unquestionable. But this is not enough. Evolution and innovation are the only ways to keep up with changing times. For all its strengths, DU is witnessing the collective crumbling of its infrastructure while watching its syllabi become redundant. Delhi University has a lot to offer its students but the nation’s selective fixation on its desirable aspects while conveniently ignoring the ugly parts of it is unhealthy. Patting our own back or becoming complacent will lead to the demise of our university. Times are changing and it is important that DU matches up to the quality of education offered by private colleges across the country. If DU wishes to continue being India’s premier university a century later as well, it needs to give us the best of both worlds- its democratic nature and culture of protest which needs to be aggressively protected while it evolves to reach new heights and set higher standards for itself. DU is an amazing place to be but it will have to accomplish a lot more to be worthy of its hype.
Feature Image Credits: Indian Express