To stay relevant in the 21st century – the University of Delhi (DU) needs to let go of its laissez-faire attitude. Read our Editor’s take on why DU is trapped in its own history.
Making it into DU was a dream for so many of us. We battled the unpredictable and exhausting board examinations, obsessed over cut-off lists, and withstood the impossibly frustrating admission process to finally make it here. Once here, all the effort seemed worth it. To study with the brightest people in our generation, participate in DU’s competitive society culture, absorb its active protest culture, and learn under its brilliant faculty, made it a one of a kind experience. This, coupled with a relatively relaxed attendance policy and reasonable fee, was enough to make this place a dream come true.
However, three years in the University and my rose-coloured glasses have finally worn off. What I saw as the culture of protest is actually teachers and students demanding basic resources and rights. What was seen as thriving society culture is the students’ way to keep themselves occupied and challenged since the varsity offers few opportunities to do so. The affordability of DU is constantly at threat, with newly established schools like Delhi School of Journalism charging a hefty fee and offering sub par education in return. With the Higher Education Funding Agency and the current government’s obsession with privatisation, DU’s accessibility is historically most vulnerable right now.
However, this is not all. The bigger problems with DU are related to its academic rigour. The truth is, towards the end of our three years, there is very little that the institution has taught us.
This facade of DU’s reputation has limited influence; recruiters and major corporations are distinctly aware of how little a DU degree teaches you, which is perhaps why they avoid us like the plague. Navigating the process of landing your first job on your own is chaotic and most people seek the security of campus placements. However, in DU, the word ‘placement’ is reserved for commerce students from the five top – ranked colleges in the varsity. It’s not as if commerce students or those in top colleges are necessarily more skilled than the rest of us but selective elitism goes a long way. The rest, pursuing other “non-employable” degrees in the remaining colleges, cannot aspire to be recruited in any capacity.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to DU for the exposure and experiences but they were by and large the product of the hard work of the students who made societies their life and gave them their competitive edge. Apart from its reputation, there is very little that DU offers us. My resentment stems from the fact that I, like my peers, am horribly under-prepared for the real world. It is responsible to revive the curriculum to make it competitive with other universities, and it is their responsibility to realise that their job does not end by offering students mere theoretical knowledge.
Sports facilities in DU are underwhelming and most sports’ quota students find their own way of training themselves independently. Certainly, there is a funding crisis that the varsity is experiencing and the threat of a bigger impending crisis looms above the surface, but even existing funds aren’t appropriately utilised. For example, in 2017, the varsity returned 108 crores to the University Grants Commission (UGC) because it could not find an avenue to spend it. Three crore rupees allocated by the UGC remained under-utilised and had to be returned as well.
As I reflect upon my three years in DU, I am grateful for the creative minds I got the opportunity to interact with. However, nostalgia has not clouded my judgment and I know that there was so much more that DU could have offered and so much more that I deserved. The only people who graduate from DU and make it in life should not be B.Com. students, IAS officers, rich kids whose resources get them into an Ivy – league college for Master’s or those studying in Hindu, Lady Shri Ram, Stephen’s, and Hansraj. The rest of us also deserve access to an education that teaches us the required skills, has a curriculum abreast with top international universities, and offers us the opportunity that allows us to get employed if we wish to be. Like an egocentric, ageing actor who cannot get over their glory days, DU is iconic but stuck in the past. It needs to catch up with the times and enter the 21st century. After all, reputations alone can only last so long.