How does the Delhi University administration respond to a query pertaining to the infamous FYUP? “There are other universities in Delhi, go there if you want to.” Shocking, but true. This is the response most of the questions about the roughshod implementation of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme have elicited from the DU administration during a recent meeting. At a time when students seek answers and reinsurance that what they might venture into, will not holistically sabotage their future plans, engineers of the FYUP have either taken to inordinate jargon or have sworn to secrecy. While the University is hurriedly passing the FYUP, growing protests among students and the academic circle are proving to be a strong opposition to the process. However, the University has shown no signs of rescinding the passage of the programme and has been showing great fortitude in the face of adversity, in its own twisted manner. As a student who has fortunately escaped the clutches of the FYUP by almost two years, I pity those who still perceive the University of Delhi to be the safest bet to quality education.
The arguments posited by the University in favour of the FYUP are emaciated in number and riddled with loopholes. As a student who has experienced the semester system of education, which, nevertheless, has its own share of problems, the new system promises much more but is speculated to deliver almost zilch. During my first and second years of college, all of us were required to write a minimum of three assignments per paper in one semester. In the new FYUP, students will not be required to submit even a single written assignment! Instead, there will be one group class presentation per course. I heard from a few friends of mine that students have been spending an inordinate amount of time learning how to create new documents on MS Word and MS Excel! Pretty productive, is it not? No tedious written work might seem pretty relieving to the seemingly over-burdened self-proclaimed industrious student, but how will students acquire training in academic writing if they aren’t made to write papers in their under-graduate foundation course? To top this, the total number of teaching weeks in the new programme have been reduced to 14, from the previously 16 weeks in the old system. While there will be undue wastage of time in teaching mandatory school-level ‘foundationÂ courses’(which have almost no relevance with the main course that a student wishes to opt for) for the first two years, very little time will be spent on the core discipline, owing to lesser number of teaching hours. Sources tell me that a question scrapped from the foundation course books includes, “Who is scarier? Santa Claus or a Vampire?” Activities in the foundation course involve watching movies such as Student of the Year and identifying famous filmmakers. Who wouldn’t want to take a few tips from a teen-drama/rom-com on how to deal with two buffed up stalkers in disguise?
While the University dangles a carrot for public consumption by stating that a student of the four year programme will be at a higher academic level than a three-year programme graduate, this argument falls short on factual evidence. In reality, the FYUP student will have to do 50 courses, out of which only 20 belong to her/his core disciplines! Hence, despite having an extra year, these students will have lesser knowledge about their core disciplines than a student of the three-year programme, where 75% of the courses are part of the core discipline. If this isn’t disheartening enough, exit options after two years, which are apparently ‘in the interest of the student’, award students with the certificate of an ‘Associate Baccalaureate’, which is neither a full-fledged degree nor a diploma. Contrary to the purpose it was supposed to serve, these students will not be eligible for employment in many fields. Why does the Vice Chancellor fail to understand that the students ‘dropping out’ after the second and the third year, will invariably be perceived by the job market as ‘drop outs’ of the FYUP? They will be regarded as students who could not survive the FYUP and will be scorned upon for their incompetence and insouciance.
As a student of the Three-Year semester programme, I can safely say that the system upholds the tenets of social justice and attempts to make education available to all strata of society. Low fee structures for courses and ample scholarships ensure that affordable education proliferates to students coming from all sections of society. However, the FYUP will place an increased burden of an additional year on students. This will undoubtedly discourage students coming from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds to carry on with their honours programmes. Ergo, they will instead choose the exit option of ‘dropping out’. These reforms will unequivocally negate the advancements of the past. Says Arundhati Roy, “They have taken the water and land and now they are taking the mind.” Many speak of a conspiracy hatched by the University Management to privatize higher education in India through the FYUP. This comment holds great truth when a few dissenting colleges in the University have begun envisaging a more privatized and autonomous future for themselves, by deciding to opt out of the University. Many others, such as CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury believe that there is a larger plan that involves changing the structure of education to accommodate western interests.
The University of Delhi is the largest Public University in the city and is obligated to provide affordable education to all and not pave the way for foreign investment. It is also interesting to note that the FYUP that the University is so hell-bent on implementing, violates the 10+2+3 structure mandated by the Nation Policy on Education (1986). Implementation is therefore, not possible unless the existing policy is amended. Only a year ago, the University was coping with the change from the Annual mode to the Semester mode. Now, we have a new system replacing the existing infant system. Teachers criticize the FYUP by stating reasons such as lack of infrastructure, hasty and unplanned implementation and have called it a ‘travesty to higher education’. It is time the administration of DU realised that the University’s role as a hegemonic institution of education is continuously being questioned. Change will not happen without bouts of acrimonious debate, that is, if the administration finally decides to give out some well-needed answers. If this fails to happen, the twisted logic used by them when they say, “there are other Universities in Delhi”, will eventually lead to the supreme relegation of an institution, once regarded the vanguard of higher education in the country.