The AISA survey has recently found out that 91 percent of all Delhi University first year students are against the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), which has been adopted by the Delhi University from this academic session onwards. That is, 10,519 students out of the 11,556 number of students surveyed are against the course.
This collection of data seems rather interesting keeping in mind the number of protests that took place against the implementation of this programme. To start with, a lot of students who are in favour of the FYUP were unable to vote since the poll booths were placed outside colleges at inconvenient times. Several of these students disagreed with the data, since their vote wasn’t taken. On the basis of a percentage as high as 91, it is possible that the number may have fallen slightly, but the public opinion against the FYUP stands irrespective of the fact that the data provided may not have be 100% accurate. The other aspect that this data sheds light upon, is the sample size. In this academic year 2.5 lakh students applied to Delhi University. Keeping the large number of applicants in mind and the large number of first year students enrolled, a meagre sample of approximately 12,000 students doesn’t do justice to the various opinions of students. This implies that the data is inconclusive since the sample size is very small and is thus not a true reflection of the public opinion.
But the question then arises, why are so many students (those who voted) against the FYUP? The answer is a rather a simple one, the students are considering their opportunity cost. Instead of coming to Delhi University which is the best university in the country, these students could have enrolled themselves into St. Xavier’s College Mumbai, St. Xavier’s College Kolkata, Loyola College, Chennai which hold ranks in the top ten colleges for arts and sciences in the country. All these colleges offer a 3-year programme, which implies that students of Delhi University have to study for an additional year.
St. Xavier’s College Mumbai and Loyola College, Chennai, do not offer honours degree, which thus weakens their stand. However, St. Xavier’s College Kolkata, offers a 3-year programme along with an honours degree, which makes it a better choice for most students of Delhi University since in this case, the opportunity forgone seems better than the opportunity availed.
If this be the case, then why did the students opt for Delhi University in the first place? The reasons vary from not getting admission in other universities, to being in favour of FYUP, to wanting to study in Delhi for all the exposure that the capital offers, to studying in a place close to home. All these factors increase the demand for wanting to study in the Delhi University, which is why, despite the implementation of the FYUP, 1.2 lakh additional students applied to the University this academic year. However as the constraints stand, the number of seats are limited, and thus the supply of available seats falls short of the demand.
Seeing the rising demand, a lot of the colleges such as SRCC, St Stephens have decided to hike their fees by a marginal amount. Also several colleges such as Gargi College, Kamla Nehru College, admitted more students than the number that they could accommodate. This has forced those extra students in Gargi College to stand in the sun for hours at a stretch and peep in through the window to attend classes. Thus the colleges have increased their supply without increasing the infrastructure to accommodate the same. The lack of infrastructure has been the prime cause for the increasing number of protests against the FYUP programme. Students consider the FYUP a repetition of the CCE system, full of flaws and of little value.
In this cost-benefit analysis, the students are only considering the implementation flaws rather than looking into the concept that the programme comprises of. The implementation hasn’t been up to the mark since the concept is still very new and is in its transitional phase. Professor Tsui, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University commented on the FYUP by saying that “creativity comes with constraints.” She emphasized that foundation courses help to integrate learning and help to develop the attribute of inquisitiveness in students. These skill sets may not add to the private benefits in terms of time, but they add to the social benefits which are the benefits availed by the society in non-monetary terms. In this case, they are the benefits towards building a more holistic understanding of learning experiences and self. In a country like India where labour is in abundance and jobs are relatively fewer, skill sets are the key in order to get a job amidst the competition. It is through the development of skills, that the FYUP increases the employment opportunities for the students.
Irrespective of the benefits, the lack of infrastructure has affected the utility of all students. Utility in economics is the satisfaction that is gained from consumption of a particular commodity. The vague and undefined syllabus and ever changing marks distribution together contribute to making the utility derived from the four year course less than the price paid for it, which is the time and money spent on their entire undergraduate programme. A rational consumer would never choose a product whose price exceeds the utility gained from it. This raises the question that has been circulating across the university; have the Delhi University students not analysed the present market and based their choice on prior market trends, or have these students made a rational choice by choosing the FYUP which is said to provide better employment opportunities?