One year after the Delhi University (DU) introduced the Four Years Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) in 2013, the new HRD Ministry put an end to the stand-off between the Vice Chancellor and Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) by scrapping the programme.
Academic circles in DU vociferously debated the topic ad nauseum from the day it was introduced till it got scrapped. The two broad camps that emerged were DUTA supporters that in most likelihood opposed the FYUP and that of the Vice Chancellor’s (VC’s) supporters who of course supported the FYUP in form and spirit. Amidst the swords that were drawn, slowly but definitely, the essence of the debate got lost.
At the culmination of the decision by the HRD, the finer distinction between FYUP as a concept and the way by which it was implemented got muddled. So the VC’s undemocratic way to push the course acted as the basic argument to denounce the course in toto. There was no positive criticism offered, no alternate arrangement proffered other than letting the status quo remain vis-à-vis courses. So much so, that the academic circle is gleeful to have FYUP removed irrevocably – at least that is how the public image around it revolves.
It is imperative to note that the FYUP came as an innovative concept in the traditional ways of education in the DU. Not only did it extend the erstwhile three-year long program by a year, but it also promised more and viable options to students after they passed, like directly applying for a masters degree abroad. To rule out this positive development in totality by the outright rejection of the experiment, is a pathetic portrayal of the impervious attitude of elite institutes like DU and JNU towards a change in their way of teaching and pedagogy.
Each time there is a request to bring dynamism into education and teaching, activism in campuses increases in order to eliminate any possibility of hampering the comfort zone of educators using the traditional formats. The cases in point are the almost militant protests against digitisation of data (student attendance, performance evaluation etc.), request to publish research papers and academic notes, drawing attention towards making the syllabi more holistic, chances of introducing ideas beyond the cut and set mold of leftism, Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism etc.
I have been a student of English in DU both in my graduate honors course and in my postgraduate course. My batch was the first one to have seen the semester system introduced in MA. I agree that there were problems and issues in the implementation of the course, but at the same time, I also admit that this course did bring in some degree of order and professionalism in the study of English as a serious discipline. I am sure that after the lab rat treatment the first wave of experimentation gave us, the course would be much sorted and better by now.
But even at that time, professors and students complained ad hominem about the authorities and used that flawed argument as the primary tool to attack the semester system. In hindsight, I do not recollect any instance where the lecturers, professors or student bodies offered a positive criticism to any proposal tabled by the DU authorities. I never saw them attach an alternate plan to what was proposed. I never saw any appendage detailing the ‘other’ proposal to work around the semester system and as a repetition again, today, to improve upon the FYUP model.
It is good to raise concerns and questions, because that is how a healthy democracy functions. But to criticise something just because it is cool in certain ‘intellectual’ circles to bash up any innovation that comes up is the most regressive gesture and thwarts any possibility of change.
FYUP was an idea that could have galvanised a fresh perspective within the intellectual environs of India’s most renowned and premier seats of humanities education. As a student of English literature, I can very clearly see that the extended year was a huge opportunity – now lost – to revamp the traditional mold of how English is taught in colleges. Had the course been designed such, students would have got a fair taste of what higher education looks like in literature. A teaching of formative tools of research would have helped students in making up their minds in taking up higher education, if at all they chose to do so.
FYUP also had the possibility of changing the otherwise biased literary canon of DU syllabi to include north-eastern, Southern and northern literature in English because then we would have had more time at our disposal. It had the possibility of making literary theory and criticism and postcolonial literature a compulsory slice within the course for all students of English.
What the recent turn of events have done is to brand DU as a staunch ideological battleground. DU has definitely lost an opportunity to change and evolve for the better.
The author is the founding member of the non-profit Citizens for Accountable Governance and a freelance writer