Students of the Darjeeling Hill University (DHU), a state varsity, are dropping out of the institution as offline courses are not being held amid manpower and infrastructure crunch, said sources at the varsity.
In November 2021, the Mamata Banerjee government opened the varsity, a longstanding demand of the hill residents. Since then, it has been running out of the ITI (Industrial Training Institute) building in Mungpoo. The construction of its permanent building is on.
The Trinamul government came up with a bill in the state Assembly in October 2018 to set up a varsity in the hills.
After the bill was passed, PG courses in six subjects — English, history, mass communication, mathematics, Nepali and political science — were introduced at the DHU in 2021.
Around 350 students, from the hills and the adjoining foothills, including the Dooars, enrolled themselves for PG degrees at the DHU.
However, as there are no teachers at the DHU, students could only attend online classes taken by teachers of the hill colleges.
“Out of these 350 students, around 25 per cent, that is, 80 to 90 students have already dropped out, citing lack of infrastructure, poor communication between teachers and students and irregular classes are some of the reasons,” said a source.
An official of North Bengal University — the vice-chancellor, registrar, and some other officials of this varsity have been given additional charge of DHU — said for the first time, DHU students in the fourth semester of postgraduate courses could attend physical or offline classes at NBU on June 23 this year.
“A total of 163 fourth-semester PG students attended the classes at NBU (located on the outskirts of Siliguri). Ever since the varsity opened in the hills, only online classes have been conducted for students,” the official said.
Debashish Dutta, the controller of examination at the NBU, said around 153 students of the second and fourth semesters appeared in exams held in the DHU. "However, around 20 students didn’t appear in the exams,” he said.
A student, who had enrolled for a PG course in history at the hill varsity, said he had high hopes from DHU but now was unsure if his MA certificate would have any value.
“I come from a remote village near the India-Bhutan border (in the Dooars) where getting a master's degree is a challenge. I will be the first boy from our village to be an MA. But the way we studied at this university has left me worried. We just had 15 days of offline classes and the rest were online,” he said.
He said two of his friends left DHU.
“We have no permanent place to study, no hostel, no vice-chancellor and no teachers. Owing to my family's financial condition, I can't opt for another university,” he added.
Sources said Prem Poddar, an academic from the hills, took charge as interim vice-chancellor of DHU on March 24 this year. His tenure of three months ended on June 23. Since then, the VC’s office has been vacant.
During his tenure, Poddar said they were exploring infrastructure options for physical (offline) classes.
“He held talks for the improvement of DHU's infrastructure, but nothing changed,” said a source.
In DHU, no recruitment drive was done for administrative and academic posts. The varsity doesn’t have a finance officer, registrar or professors.
“The interim VC had, in fact, proposed to the state to start offline classes temporarily at the under-construction Presidency University Kurseong campus (in Dowhill), but it didn’t happen,” the source added.