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DU BTech cry against one-batch relief

New Delhi, June 29: Jitendra Singh was among the top 3,000 to clear last year’s JEE-Advanced and could have studied computer science at any of the 16 IITs. He chose Delhi University’s BTech course in computer science instead.

Today, the student of DU’s Sukhdev College was with his BTech batch-mates outside human resource development minister Smriti Irani’s home, demanding continuation of the four-year course not just for his group but for future batches too.

They were not alone. Hundreds among the 2,500 who enrolled in the university’s six BTech courses last year hit the streets against a University Grants Commission directive.

The directive said only the BTech students admitted last year would be allowed to pursue the four-year courses; the new admissions would be to three-year BSc courses in line with the revocation of the university’s four-year undergraduate programme.

“Who will give us jobs now? We will be treated as a special batch. Our degrees will not carry much weight,” said Amay Kumar, another BTech student.

If the four-year course stays with the BTech tag, the students say the degree’s brand value and appeal among prospective employers will be greater. The six BTech courses relate to computer science, electronics, food technology, instrumentation electronics, polymer science and psychological sciences.

“Four-year BTech programmes may continue only for the students already admitted for academic year 2013-14,” the commission order said, listing five of the courses but remaining silent on psychological sciences.

University officials said this and another programme not mentioned in today’s order — Bachelor of Management Studies or BMS — were likely to be converted into three-year courses. The decision on the BMS — also a four-year course with around 850 students — could be taken tomorrow, sources said.

A commission official claimed that psychological sciences was not on a list of courses the regulator allowed universities to offer.

But university academic council member Sanjay Kumar said: “The course has been designed keeping in view the needs of society. The UGC’s list of courses has not been updated for over a decade.”

He added that the programme would help the graduates get jobs in hospitals and schools.

The commission has asked the university to ensure that the colleges offering the BTech courses receive approvals from regulatory bodies such as the commission itself and the All India Council of Technical Education.

For the families of the BTech students, the one-batch exemption from the four-year course rollback offers little relief.

“My daughter got an offer from the National Institute of Technology, Goa, last year. She preferred DU because of its reputation. If they do not continue admitting new batches, the degrees of the present batch would be always under question,” said R.K. Sharma.

K.K. Khanna, a retired government employee whose granddaughter Nikita is pursuing computer science at DU’s Keshav Mahavidyalaya, said all the BTech students had secured more than 90 per cent in their Class XII boards.

“My granddaughter had taken admission to Shiv Nadar University but she preferred to join DU because of its brand name and low fees,” he said. The private Shiv Nadar University charges around Rs 1.6 lakh a year for a BTech course while DU charges only Rs 10,000.

The commission as, however, claimed that DU’s infrastructure and faculty for BTech courses was poor but remained silent on why the regulator had then allowed the colleges to offer the programmes. Earlier, some colleges offered BSc in computer science but it was not deemed equivalent to BTech.

The university’s labs and faculty may be adequate for BSc but they are not so BTech, the commission official said.

Human resource development ministry sources voiced the worry that such BTech degree-holders would be “exposed” in jobs or further studies. While it would endanger careers, it would also harm DU’s reputation. “Responsibility will be fixed on how these courses were started without planning,” the commission official said.

The parents were not convinced. “If the facilities and faculties are substandard, they can be improved,” said Shail Bajaj, mother of a BTech student.

Khanna said: “I have visited many colleges under the Indraprastha University in Delhi. The facilities and faculties in DU colleges are much better.”

DU sources said the BTech courses were extremely popular and pointed out that of the 2.7 lakh applicants for the upcoming 2014-15 session, over one lakh (37 per cent) had applied for such programmes.

“The BTech courses should continue and the seats should be increased,” said Khanna.

The BTech and BMS students have lined up a protest outside the ministry tomorrow.