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Vacant seats in DU could mean a huge financial loss to exchequer

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By Sidharth Mishra

This is the centenary year of Delhi University. Founded in 1922, the 100-years-old university for at least last five decades has been the leading centre of academics for both the under-graduate and the post-graduate programmes in the country. Till a few years back, the newspapers gave screaming headlines saying that even a 100 percent score in the qualifying examination could not ensure you a seat on the prestigious campus.

Last week, read a squirming headline in the inside pages of the newspapers. It mentioned that the university still had 6000 seats vacant in the under-graduate programmes. This means that the university has been unable to fill almost 10 percent of the seats allocated to it.

This scenario compares with the situation, where the private, self-financing being the more appropriate word,  education institutions count on their vacant seats and try and find the remedial measures to meet the financial losses which the untaken seats would accrue to. Financial losses are not necessarily interpreted in the terms of loss of profit but the availability of finances to meet the salary and the infrastructure bills.

However, the Delhi University would not be much concerned about it as it lives on hefty grants from University Grants Commission (UGC) and other funding agencies. The exercise to undertake student-teacher ratio has always been throttled and workload prepared by the colleges seldom been scrutinized.

However, it’s clear that there are 6000 seats vacant, which would amass to at least 120 vacant classrooms. According to conservative estimates, each class is served by around eight teacher. If multiplied by 120, it would mean about 1000 teachers remaining on the rolls of the university without any workload.

In the financial terms this would add to, again by very conservative estimates, the university paying a monthly salary of Rs 10 crore and spending Rs 120 crore on teachers without the workload. Now this article isn’t a petition to remove the teachers from the rolls but it certainly means to pose a question to the university administration whose lack of vision, planning and administrative skills have led to such loss to the exchequer.

The salient points XXX and XXXI of the National education Policy 2020 mentions, “Multiple mechanisms with checks and balances will combat and stop the commercialization of higher education. All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity.” The framers of the policy are, however, silent on how to combat inefficiency to the level of idleness in the government institutions, which in case like Delhi University could lead to a loss of Rs 120 crore annually.

While the government has guidelines to not allow the managements of the self-financing institutions and says, to repeat, “All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity”, what mechanism does it have in place to counter ‘forced profiteering’ by teachers, for no fault of theirs, taking salary home without doing any work.

There are several issues contributing to the loss of interest among students for a seat in the prestigious university. The factors which are most agonizing are rampant absenteeism among the teachers and administrative staff, dilapidated infrastructure and absence of any mechanism to establish accountability. Today we have more number of Professors on DU campus than good teachers who can profess well.

Who is to be blamed for this disaster? Delhi University, to use the corporate lingo, the flagship institution of the Ministry of Education of Government of India. It should have taken a closer interest in the functioning of the university than just allow it to fall into a fathomless crevice. One is not sure if the decay of DU bothers any of its stakeholders.  

(First Published in The New Indian Express)  


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