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In the Marathon of Higher Education, Delhi University Keeps Losing

The University of Delhi is the place to be for most non-PCM students in India. Why is it, then, that the varsity is not able to compete with higher education institutions abroad?

If I told you, dear reader, that I knew where to start when I first took on this topic, I would be blatantly lying. Should I start with the insane cutoffs that plagued the varsity until this year? Perhaps the lack of teachers for advanced subjects in various colleges? Maybe the Sisyphus level pointlessness of trying to cooperate with DU’s admins?

Or maybe where it all starts and ends: the education system. It is no secret that India’s education system has lagged for a long, long time. Ask the first student you see about what they think of the education system they are a part of and answers range from a frustrated and tired admission of defeat to a colourful and impressive string of swears (the latter is a lot more common in Delhi though). 

It might just be that universities in India are seen as the natural extension of the schooling system instead of a place for learning and growth – quite unlike their high-ranking counterparts in other parts of the world. The schooling system is geared towards gaining marks and memorising book knowledge to then ace exams and DU seems to be a very similar system but without the influence of a schedule or teachers. For example, students in higher education institutions abroad choose electives and minors in fields that support their major, are their interest or are beneficial to their overall development. However, you will find most students at the University of Delhi picking their electives and by extension, their minors, based on what’s scoring and what gets marks with the minimum amount of effort. Despite learning how to score in exams instead of true learning for the 15 years of school life, it seems that students will not or cannot make the choice to expand their knowledge in an environment with experts that can offer that knowledge to them.

However, can you really fault them? After all, it’s hard to gain knowledge and gain insightful learning from experts when your college doesn’t have any of them for your subject. Delhi University struggles with having enough professors for undergraduate subjects across different colleges. According to the data shared by the education ministry, as of April 1 2022, DU has 900 teaching positions vacant. As Hindustan Times found out in its piece, as of 2019, there were 4500 ad-hoc teachers – about 50% of the teaching posts available at the varsity. 

Then there’s the issue of infrastructure. Colleges across the university seem to only remember to invest in infrastructure and facilities during inspections. The University of Delhi has a long history – most of its colleges were established in the 20th century. As its reputation as being one of the most sought-after universities in the country has grown immensely, its infrastructure has barely followed at all in the decades that have followed. To give you perhaps the quickest summation of this issue that I can: in April of this year, a ceiling fan fell on a student in Lakshmibai College. Only colleges like SRCC and Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies have centralised air conditioning, with most other colleges having only a few classrooms that have this amenity. Some colleges, on the other hand, barely have working fans let alone air conditioning. The lack of air conditioning in most colleges, thus, made the lack of summer holidays for the batch of 2024 an especially hellish condition during the Delhi summers this year.

Which brings us to the next issue: the University of Delhi’s admin. The university and its college’s administration is notoriously caught up in bureaucratic chains. Its almost impressive inability to address issues efficiently led to the delay in admissions and the subsequent start of the first semester for the 2021 season. This delay in sorting out the admission process then led to a first and second year with barely any breaks in between semesters and thus the aforementioned lack of summer holidays. In fact, the batch of 2024 has been given the long, relaxing and peaceful vacation of exactly one night after their third-semester exams. The Lakshmibai incident we mentioned earlier, needed the filing of an RTI to gain any sort of transparency on the state of infrastructure within the college due to the college’s repeated refusal and avoidance of answering any questions. 

Delhi University ranks 521-530 in the QS Global University Rankings. The reasons behind such a low rank for a university that lakhs of students clamour to gain admission in are varied. There is an emphasis on studying for marks, an education system that teaches you how to work hard and worry about placements that net you a decent amount of annual packages instead of growing and developing a knowledge base that goes beyond the books. There is the lack of infrastructure except for when you’re getting graded on it (ironically, just like most students including yours truly’s tendency to study the night before exams). Quite infuriatingly as a student of this university, it’s also the typical bureaucratic government administration style. 

Perhaps, these are all signs of an institution that knows there are lakhs of students fighting for a seat here anyway. Perhaps, Delhi University is simply an institution that prefers to rest on the laurels it won in days gone by instead of actively competing with the Harvards and Oxfords of the world. After all, when all is said and done – DU toh DU hai!

Read also: DU and its All-Pervading Issue of Inadequate Infrastructure

Featured Image Credits: College Fix

Siddharth Kumar

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Siddharth is your guy for doing anything that would make a legen-wait-for-it-dary story. However, if you find him, get ready for him talking your ear off about how Van Gogh is the greatest artist to walk the earth, Doctor Who is the best show ever and how the Ancient Greeks had a point.