As Delhi University gears up to conduct admissions for the academic session 2020-21 next week, principals and teachers say online classes being conducted due to the Covid-19 crisis may be a temporary fix to accommodate an increased number of students this year without the fresh appointment of faculty under an expansion plan.
They expressed concern over the problems that may arise once physical classes begin and will require mandatory social distancing protocols.
In January last year, the Centre had approved 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for economically weaker sections in the general category. And to implement the order, the university is increasing its intake of students by 25%.
The increase in student intake was going to be implemented in two phases: 10% in the 2019-20 session and 15% in the next. Around 6,000 undergraduate seats were added in the last academic session and around 9,000 are expected be added this year.
However, teachers are yet to be appointed under the EWS expansion plan, leaving colleges short-staffed to deal with any increase in the number of students. At present, of the 10,500 teachers in DU, around 4,500 are ad-hoc, appointed on a contractual basis for four months. Around 3,000 guest teachers who are paid per lecture also work on the campus .
Online learning will allow colleges to cater to more students without fresh appointments, but principals are concerned over the problems that will arise once physical classes begin and will require mandatory social distancing protocols.
They pointed out that in less than two decades, the number of students per section had doubled due to another expansion programme initiated in 2007 to increase other backward class (OBC) and EWS seats.
Manoj Sinha, principal of Aryabhatta College and secretary of the Delhi University Principals’ Association (DUPA), said online classes were only buying colleges some time.
“Once physical classes resume, accommodating extra students while maintaining Covid-19 protocols will be a challenge. We will need more classrooms, staff, labs, and teachers to accommodate the increased number of students. We are expecting grants to come sooner than later so that colleges get necessary logistical support systems on reopening .”
Physical classes have been suspended since the nationwide lockdown announced in March to restrain the spread of the Covid-19 disease. Since then, classes and examinations have been conducted online with teachers and students adapting to the digital mode of learning.
Monami Basu, who teaches Economics at Kamala Nehru College, said, “During online classes, we just have one section. Once physical classes begin, students will be split into multiple sections due to the increase in number and that is when more teachers will be required to take classes. Right now, during online classes, workload won’t increase substantially other than extra assignments that will have to be graded by teachers.”
“The online classes are like a blessing for the university administration since they are getting away without an increase in the number of teachers required under the EWS expansion to maintain teacher-student ratio. Colleges haven’t received funds for EWS expansion so far and they don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate more students. Once the Covid-19 situation improves and physical classes begin, we will need more teachers,” said Rajib Ray, president of Delhi University Teachers’ Association.
Last month, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had asked central universities to curtail administrative expenditure and “creation of posts” in view of the “current fiscal situation.” The advisory was issued based on instructions from the finance ministry and the higher education department under the ministry of education.
The universities were asked not to fill posts created after July this year. Vacancies can be filled only after approval from the Centre’s department of expenditure.
DU Dean of Colleges Balaram Pani said, “The UGC circular is not a blanket ban and is only an advisory which says new posts can’t be created. We have already received grants for the first phase of EWS expansion. Since classes are mostly being conducted online, the increase in the number of students can be managed. Conducting offline classes will be difficult but we plan to start EWS-specific recruitments from next year once the situation improves.”