DTF Letter to VC, 24-3-2011

On recent measures to push through the semester system

Professor Dinesh Singh
Vice Chancellor
University of Delhi
Delhi 110007

24 March 2011

Subject: Recent measures to push through the semester system

Dear Professor Singh,

We wish you to recall that when a DTF delegation had met you on 18 January 2011 on the issues which the University needs to address, in response to the issue of semesterisation of UG courses you emphasized that ‘rules will be followed’. This you maintained in the meeting with teachers-in-charges organized by you on 1 February 2011 and also later in the media. The teaching community had hoped that the ‘rules will be followed’ not only in letter but in spirit also.

The manner in which this ‘reform’ is being forced today is unacceptable to the teaching community and proves further that semesterisation is not being carried out as an academic reform. We take serious note of the series of recent letters issued by the Registrar to the Heads of Departments who had followed the laid down procedures and rules not only in letter but also in spirit and had communicated the concerns of the teachers of their disciplines about the proposed semesterisation of UG courses. The letter is highly objectionable both in tone and content. That Heads should be directed to carry out orders to record – and therefore obviously report – the individual views of their colleagues voting for, against or abstaining on the issue is preposterous and can only be interpreted as an act of threatening the Heads and individual teachers to fall in line despite their academic concerns or face the consequences.

In an unprecedented manner the Faculty of Arts passed several courses in its meeting held on 14 March 2011 without application of mind. The agenda papers circulated before the meeting did not include the proposed syllabi for semesterised UG courses. These syllabi were distributed while the decisions on them were being taken. This gave no time to members to seriously look into the course contents and structure. The courses passed by the respective Committee of Courses were also not circulated by the Departments to the colleges for feedback. Following your advice of bifurcation, the Department of Philosophy just decided in its Committee of Courses to bifurcate the existing courses. However, the revised version was never sent to the colleges.

Not only threats but also tremendous confusion has been spread by your office as regards the structure of the proposed semesterisation. Some departments have apparently been told that even 18 papers in the Honours subject are now acceptable though there is no decision to this effect. Equally unclear is whether the proposed distribution of papers envisages a scheme of major and minor subjects or of main and concurrent subjects. Apart from the violations of all procedures, it appears that the approach adopted is of anything goes as long as semesterisation is accepted. Surely this undoes all that was supposed to be beneficial in the semester system.

The decision of the Faculty of Social Sciences at its meeting on 23 March 2011 not to surrender to the threats and unacademic haste to rush through semesterisation is a sharp pointer that academic decisions with far-reaching consequences should not be taken in this manner. We hope that this will persuade you to reconsider your approach.

We wish to further highlight the mess that has been caused by the headlong rush to implement the semester system come what may:

  • Post-Graduate Courses: A framework was passed in the AC meeting of February 2008. The proposed model showed the mobility of students between various departments and increased interdisciplinary nature of the post-graduate courses. The courses were revised in a brief period of one year and many courses were produced by simple bifurcation of the existing annual courses. The courses were passed in the special AC meetings of June and of 22 July 2009 for a session starting from 21 July 2009! The result is that all the features which were advocated as positive features of the semester system are lost; moreover, this mindless hasty reform has resulted in an increased number of failures. Additionally, the system is under tremendous stress of examining students twice whose number has gone up by 54% following the impementation of OBC reservation.
  • 13 Science Courses: As part of the former VC’s team, you are aware that the Empowered Committee documents were abandoned by the former VC and were never tabled in the Academic Council meeting of 13 May 2010. This came as a compulsion as none of the science courses followed the recommendations of the Empowered Committee (whose sanctity itself is also under question). While looking at the structure of the 13 Science courses, we see that they are completely devoid of the much advocated features of a semester system. The courses have come with absolutely no choice for the students and a reduced interdisciplinary content. They suffer not only from faulty content but a faulty structure. The moderation of question papers and of marks may result in favourable media reports for the administration but will certainly not add to the quality, which is completely missing. The impact of such a reform will start reflecting in terms of weaker foundations of the students and their consequences in higher studies inside the University system as well as in students’ job prospects outside.

With this we need to ask why this haste to have the ‘semester system’ pushed through without worrying about the quality of this change. The Delhi University is a large University catering to over 3.5 lakh students and emphasis should be on the quality of education. The very fact that you yourself are propagating production of ‘semester courses by mere bifurcation’ comes as a shock as we are sure that you as an academic understand that this is certainly not a quality change.

This University’s reputation rests significantly on its undergraduate teaching which has been marked by years of diligent efforts by its teachers. This hasty reform will damage the quality of the teaching-learning processes and the reputation of our courses. Today, this reform is being carried out by your office on the basis of threats. In the absence of any proposal paper and road-map such steps are bound to push the entire system into further mess with grave consequences for the students.

We again appeal to you to take seriously the feedback coming from the teachers, who deal with the undergraduate teaching and are, therefore, well-versed with the realities at that level. Further, we impress upon you to follow ‘rules and procedures’ not only in letter but in spirit as well.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

Shaswati Mazumdar

Rajeev Kunwar

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