Delhi University | Photo by Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Delhi University | Photo by Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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From a distance, Delhi University seems like the hallowed college life that only a minimum of 95 per cent in your Class 12 board exams can get you access to. But up close, the university space is just a cesspool of incompetence, premised on the need to make life for students absolutely miserable.

Since the lockdown was imposed in March, the university has approached online examinations with a single-minded obsession. Disregarding all pleas, warnings and prayers of students against these exams, the cause for merit reigned supreme for the university.

Delhi University’s ‘Open Book Examinations’ (OBE) debacle continues. After months of will-they-won’t-they, the university announced that it would finally begin the much-criticised exams from 10 July. However, after the Home Ministry and the Delhi High Court intervened, the exams have been postponed till 15 August. Leaving final year undergraduate and postgraduate students in a lurch, yet again.

For the record, the notification for this change came two days before the exams were actually scheduled to begin.

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that life as we knew it could not continue like before, but it seems like Delhi University (DU) did not get the memo.

This examination obsession shows all that is wrong with Delhi University — apathy toward students, prioritising outcome over process, and an inflexible attitude that ignores the ground reality.

Also read: StudentsLivesMatter trends as students outrage at UGC decision to hold final exams amid Covid

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‘It’s straight up apathy’

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown on 24 March, DU was in the middle of its mid-semester break. With half the semester slated to be conducted online, things began to look dicey.

An average English Masters class in DU consists of over a 100 students. Now imagine conducting online classes with these students, when even Zoom’s participant limit is just 100. Many professors gave up early on, but those who endeavoured to try soon realised how futile the exercise was.

However, even failed online classes were not enough to break DU’s resolve. Since March, the university has switched dates, postponed exams or changed the rules at least four times.

According to Megha, an MA student, this constant back-and-forth regarding exams has revealed how incompetent the university is when it comes to to dealing with a crisis.

“This situation just makes you want to completely give up. It is almost like they are playing with the students’ lives, mental health and their anxieties. It is just straight up apathy” she says.

Also read: Your creative talent won’t get you into DU anymore. Keep obsessing over marks marks marks

When mock tests become a mockery

Much has been written about Indias’s unequal access to internet, especially during this pandemic. A large part of this can be attributed to the communication blackouts imposed by the government. But the way the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission (UGC) has refused to consider this as a hindrance is appalling.

A glance at the websites of these institutions can give you a clue about how much they actually know about technology — DU’s official website is a quagmire to navigate through. No one really knows where the important links are, and the website takes hours to load on result day.

This is the same system that was supposed to handle the traffic of lakhs of students logging into its server for online exams from 10 July.

The joke was on them when they conducted mock tests of these proposed OBEs, earlier this week. There was an embarrassing array of problems that popped up — from difficulties during registration to wrong question papers. DU’s mammoth exercise proved to be a mammoth failure, and this was only the trial run. Till about a week ago, there was no provision of writers for visually-impaired students.

A student from Kashmir, who wished to remain anonymous, comments that this is all just a “bad imitation of the Western model”.

“It seems that the university is only interested in putting up a demeanour of being ‘capable’. Ignoring the situation of the students, [it] is coming across as a rigid institution that sees nothing but marks and exams as the eligibility criteria of an acceptable student,” she says.

“Working on 2G internet, which takes hours and sometimes days to download a book, with the pandemic coming as close as your neighbour’s house, this exam is just designed to produce crippling anxiety in students who are expected to shut off from the world and its tragedies and focus on getting grades,” she adds.

Also read: UGC cites top universities like MIT, Cambridge to justify decision to hold final-year exams

Incompetent bureaucrats and unhelpful departments

What has been evident through this entire debacle is the blatant manipulation DU has indulged in. Not only has the administration clearly lied to its students about the OBE exams, in terms of the regulations, dates and expectations, it has also been accused of lying to the court.

The university was all set to conduct the exams on 1 July but then suddenly postponed them to 10 July without informing the Delhi High court, which then considered contempt proceedings against DU for withholding information about deferment. The exams were allegedly postponed because the vice-registrar’s mother contracted Covid-19 —another illustration of how arbitrarily this university functions.

“We have a university administration that has managed to make things substantially worse for students in terms of infrastructure, accessibility, mental health and preparedness,” says Anshul Mukarji, another postgraduate student.

“There is a callousness coming from the university, which is completely unaffected by the plight of students. Even though there were reports of some students even committing suicide,” he adds.

Students are the bottom-tier stakeholders in their own education.

According to another student, “What we have is a bunch of bureaucratic fatcats who are just sitting around with no accountability to the students.”

Many blame their departments and the UGC for failing to provide the students some respite. This week, UGC released guidelines asking universities to conduct exams for students in their final year. It is now pushing states that had rescinded exams to compulsorily conduct them.

“It’s a ‘you must persevere, you must suffer’ sort of a situation for all students,” says Srishti, a student of IP University, which also held exams for some departments after the UGC’s directions.

Unfortunately, the students have little option but to persevere because the raging pandemic is not going anywhere anytime soon. And by the looks of it, neither is DU’s incompetence or callous attitude.

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4 Comments Share Your Views


  1. The point that the infrastructure is not ready to deal with the numbers is moot. It’s a technical and a resource issue which the University will overcome in the near future.

    Internet connectivity, speeds, devices. Now these were things that were at premium in India with reduced availability in sections of society. But this is where the challenge lies, and where the Digital India push will and should happen. Policies by the govt. to make digital resources economically viable will have to be made, towards that, reduction in GST, and import duties is one such step. Next, the govt will have to upgrade it’s IT services delivery network, cloud servers in India, PPP to run an IT network with built in redundancy, reimagining and reviving the MTNL, BSNL networks along with the reach of the postal department will help in incrementally stepping up the IT infrastructure to deliver services. Running online classes and examinations is but just one of the capabilities that this will unlock.

    Lastly, the reluctance of our students to take up an open book exam points to a pedagogical system gone wrong. The evolutionary process of gathering knowledge, from the teach (in junior classes) to the learn (in the senior courses) has not happened. The systemic dilution of the syllabii in schools have created a generation of students who cannot see the course they study as a whole which requires knowledge and understanding. The push for a literate India, has resulted in this generation of students being passed from class to class, (no detention policy) . A generation of students who do not know the value of perseverance and achievement, when confronted with an open book at an exam and a question which requires them to think through the problem presented, crumble, as they are doing now.

    Their inability to take on this mode of examinations is a failure of the notorious Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation CCE of the CBSE. COVID 19 has laid bare the faults in the system and fears of a generation of ‘easy pass’ students who have now been made to realise that the world outside will demand of them more than they can deliver. Class of 2020…. You are our failure. COVID 19 has dropped the fig leaf on your education.

  2. Merit?? Bullshit. Half of year is spent in Strikes(yup ,the professors too) , departmental fests , college fests , University fests etc etc.

    Apathy? Visit the staff room & the students hostel & you will know. Student lives DON’T matter. Forget the mental health, be strong.

  3. Bad imitation of western is a pandemic situation. Who take possibility if a student attack 8:2 is the best formula for final yer/final sem examination.

  4. The closure of educational institutions and putting them under non essential category has exposed our educational are unsafe, Corona or otherwise. Infrastructure inside from KG to PG including wash rooms,hand wash areas are of no use. No wonder HRD minister or those around him have not prepared how to reopen and make them functional and instead busy in showcasing digital India by announcing half backed online classes from KG to PG to please the boss PM Modiji.


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