The DU VC has chosen to play pliant agent to the Government of India in its design to “revamp” higher education. As we know, this includes introduction of the semester system with choice-based credit system, insistence on accreditation of institutions by NAAC and point based system to deny promotion to teachers. All these measures are aimed at the larger objective of commercialising higher education in the interest of private and foreign edu-business. The rhetoric of “revamping” and “international standards” masks the real game plan of depriving the large majority of students of education, unless they are able to pay for it.
THE “REVAMP” OFFENSIVE:
Semester System + NAAC + Point System for Promotions
The UGC has threatened to make NAAC mandatory so that all providers of higher education services are given ratings that are necessary in the education market. The higher the NAAC rating, the higher the quantum of fees that can be extracted from students. The success of the elected AC members to compel a reluctant VC to oppose NAAC is only a first step. The attack comes from the Government and it must be confronted.
The mandate to impose semester system all over the country is a major reorganization being pushed without entertaining arguments and despite recognition of its unsuitability for large affiliating universities with examinations external to the teaching units. The overriding concern of the VC and the UGC is to enforce a uniform calendar and put in place inter-institution credit transfer to facilitate bilateral exchanges between similarly NAAC rated public and private institutions. In other words, Mr. Sibal’s reform of higher education amounts to the following: Commercialise public funded institutions and make private investment in education more profitable. A good illustration of public private partnership in practice!
One more step in the same direction is to keep teachers’ salary levels down with unreasonable conditions for promotions along with heavy teaching and examination work that make it impossible to satisfy those conditions. On top of this, teachers are also expected to carry out research, participate in development activities, etc. The temerity with which the UGC is drafting its Regulations, i.e. the points system for promotion, reflects a clear governmental fiat to promote the neo-liberal agenda in higher education.
Delhi Government Move on DU Colleges
After the forcible takeover of the Delhi College of Engineering to expand technical education solely through self-financing courses, the latest move by the Delhi Government to set up a new university with the 28 colleges of the Delhi University funded by it has also found support in Mr. Kapil Sibal. The dismemberment of the University is what is in store for us unless we collectively resist.
VC in a great hurry, no concern for academic quality
The UGC threatens the Delhi University: we will impose NAAC on you unless you accept it yourself! Never mind that the Delhi University, after extensive and considered deliberation, has rejected the NAAC. The VC announces an AC decision to impose the semester system for undergraduate studies without allowing the AC the right to discuss it. And he wants to have it immediately. His servility vis-a-vis the MHRD and the UGC explains his impatience, non-academic manner and authoritarian assault on the democratic structures and procedures involved in course restructuring. Lacking in arguments and reasoning, he finds the procedures requiring informed debates and discussion as hindrances to his anti-educational agenda.
The VC started with a faulty argument that the annual system per se is responsible for all the ills of the present system (such as rote learning), which would be overcome with the magic wand of semester system. No system, annual or semester can be the best under all circumstances, but the rigid anti-teacher norms requiring every college teacher to teach a minimum of 18 periods every week through the year for determining the number of teaching positions is completely incompatible with the semester system. The VC claims to be a proponent of quality education for the youth and denounces those who disagree with his semester obsession as lacking concern for young Indians. But why does he not take up the issue of reducing the excessive teaching and examination load on college teachers?
The semester system is not synonymous with interdisciplinarity, continuous assessment and the credit system. In fact we have the first two in an annual system. A more flexible system would also require massive expansion of infrastructure. The 54% expansion in intake currently underway remains inadequately supported by expansion of material and human infrastructure. The restructuring pursued by the VC will destroy the undergraduate system.
Dilution of Honours Courses, Cut in Teaching Posts
The VC has proclaimed a restructuring plan and appointed an “Empowered Committee” to approve his plan which the HODs are to carry out through nominated committees. His model is unfortunately devised to merely conduct examinations twice a year. The standardised structure disregards subject-specific needs. As a result, the rigour of Honours programmes will take a beating both due to the reduction in time allocated in some cases and also because the course curriculum would have to be designed to allow students from other disciplines to reasonably pursue six papers from such a curriculum. Workload and consequently the number of teaching posts in various departments will take a substantial hit saving the Government the burden of expenditure on teachers to meet the 54% expansion.
The VC has ignored elected members in the AC in a most undemocratic manner. Neither he nor the Government can justify academic non-engagement with teachers as they scrutinize and critique the ill-thought proposals and inappropriate haste in undertaking an drastic restructuring of the entire Delhi University undergraduate programme.
Urgent Need for Collective Resistance
The DTF salutes teachers for their own initiatives of resistance, as shown for instance by teachers of English (through the GB of the English Department), Economics (in the meeting of teachers convened by the HOD), Sciences (in a meeting organized by science teachers in Miranda House) and Physics (in a meeting convened by the HOD). The rules of the University provide for the GB of departments, including all College teachers of the concerned subjects. Serious issues such as the semester system must be discussed in these bodies. The DTF urges teachers to argue for and petition holding of such meetings by each department.
It is time for DUTA to take up the Challenge
There is urgent need for a struggle against the proposed semester system, NAAC, the point system for promotions and the Delhi Government move to take away 28 colleges. The simultaneous struggle against all these attacks on us (such as the semester system) does not weaken our ability to resist and overcome the other attacks (such as the point system based service conditions for teachers) but on the contrary each successful resistance will enhance our ability to face and fight back all other attacks made on us by the MHRD, UGC and VC.
Despite overwhelming opinion expressed by Staff Councils and the DUTA GB, resistance to the semester system was restricted till recently to protest actions by elected AC members, supported by symbolic dharnas by the DUTA Executive. The VC could have his way since elected members are an absolute minority in the AC. They derive strength from mass action outside the AC, especially when the administration is unreceptive to arguments. During the last few weeks, teachers have expressed their views forthrightly in subject meetings against the proposed semester system. It is high time for the DUTA to rally all teachers for collective mass action both at the level of the University and the Government.