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Seats go abegging in time of campus boom

New Delhi, Dec. 14: Delhi’s second-largest university extended its admission counselling by a month this year but still failed to fill all the 22,000 seats in its 100-odd colleges.

Vacancies at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University now stand at around 3,000 seats compared with 1,000 last year and fewer in 2010.

Campus public relations officer Nalini Ranjan is clueless about the reason: whether the demand for the university’s courses is falling or whether Delhi now has too many college seats.

“We have been witnessing this trend of huge vacancies for the past two years,” Ranjan said.

The 13-year-old university, one of the two affiliating universities in Delhi, has increased its seats substantially in recent years thanks to its “liberal grant of affiliation” to private colleges, insiders say.

Having started out with 30 colleges in 1999, the university now has 103, of which 80 per cent are privately managed.

“The university has blindly granted affiliation to private colleges that offer courses such as BTech and BBA without bothering about quality,” a teacher alleged.

He said most of these private colleges were provided land at cheap rates by the Delhi Development Authority. Even if some of them close down for lack of students, their managements can make a profit by selling the land, the teacher added.

Vice-chancellor D.K. Bandyopadhyay said the vacancies were the result of a demand-supply mismatch.

“The demand for certain courses is less than the supply. Professional courses such as BBA or Bachelor in Journalism and Mass Communication are not getting enough students. The reason could be that many institutions are offering such courses because the job market is down.”

Bandyopadhyay claimed Delhi had emerged as a hub of higher education with significant contribution from his university.

“I cannot deny affiliation to a college that fulfils the approval and affiliation norms: the college can go to court,” he said.

Data with higher-education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) show that Delhi is home to 23 university-level institutions —more than any other metro — and over 200 colleges. Delhi University has about 70 affiliated colleges with about 50,000 undergraduate seats.

The city has four central universities, three “institutions of national importance” such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), IIT Delhi and NIT Delhi, five state universities, ten deemed universities and one international university: the South Asian University.

One more institution is coming up. Land has been identified for the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Peace and Sustainable Development, to be set up by Unesco and the Union human resource development ministry.

Delhi has more universities than entire states such as Bihar (20), Odisha (19), Jharkhand and Assam (15 each). Bengal has 29, including 20 in Calcutta.

Acting UGC chairman Ved Prakash said it was difficult to say whether supply had outrun demand in Delhi since the regulator does not have a prescribed population-institution ratio.

Former Delhi University vice-chancellor Deepak Pental said the city had so many universities because it attracted students from across the country. For example, he said, 40 per cent of Delhi University students were from other states.

“We have expanded the access but, unfortunately, not evolved a method to arrive at a comparative picture on how these institutions are doing in respect of research,” Pental said.

He said the quality of research and teaching at Delhi’s medical institutions, such as AIIMS, Maulana Azad Medical College and Lady Hardinge Medical College, was undisputed.

Besides, Delhi is home to nearly 20 research institutions on health, science and technology, agriculture and food processing, and music and drama.

Delhi, however, has also witnessed a parallel trend: that of “fake” universities. Of the 21 allegedly fake institutions the UGC has identified in the country, six are from Delhi. Eight are from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.