Employability issues are a narrative created by corporate world: Delhi University VC

'We are not training centres, but higher education centres'

116-Prof-Yogesh-Singh Prof Yogesh Singh | Kritajna Naik

Interview/ Prof Yogesh Singh, vice chancellor, University of Delhi

Prof Yogesh Singh is the 23rd vice chancellor of the century-old University of Delhi (DU). An engineer with a PhD in computer engineering, Singh has an impressive track record of teaching, innovation and research in the area of software engineering. He has more than 250 publications and his book, Software Testing, published by the Cambridge University Press, is well-received internationally.

In an interview with THE WEEK, Singh talks about trends in higher education in India, the challenges faced by big universities, and how to make higher education more interesting. Asked about the perception that Indian graduates are “not employable”, he reacts strongly, and emphasises the difference between training and higher education. Edited excerpts:

QWhat are the trends in higher education in India and how do they compare with the west?

AHigher education in our country is passing through a transformative phase. Many provisions of the National Education Policy 2020 were not there earlier. Now every institution is implementing the NEP. So things are improving at the ground level. We also need to understand that proper emphasis had not been given earlier to skill and value education. The purpose of education is also to make good human beings. In the higher education scenario, things were missing earlier. We are incorporating those in the curriculum.

Another interesting aspect is the new credits system. For instance, if someone wants to play or wants to take sports as an elective, then credits are assigned to the course and those may be given to the student. Now, there is a system for assigning credit to such courses. Many good things are happening in the higher education institution. The NEP has given us a platform to experiment.

QWhat changes have you made in your curriculum?

AWe are in the process of implementing the NEP and are designing a new curriculum. We are continuously improving it. Now it is research-based and research-intensive. This promotes conceptual understanding. By the next academic session, we will have the revived MPhil (Clinical Psychology); MPhil was not under the NEP. There are also the programmes started last year, such as Hindu studies, Korean studies and BA LLB five-year programme.

[Moreover,] it now is a multidisciplinary system. For instance, someone doing BSc Physics (Honours) can take minor in AI. Or, someone doing commerce can go for a minor in data analytics.

QHow can higher education or classroom teaching be made more interesting?

AMany students used to tell me that classrooms were boring and that information was easily available through various means. Classrooms should be energetic. Discussions should take place. One concept, which has many propagators, is the flip classroom, wherein you prepare a 10-minute video of whatever you want to cover in the next class. On seeing it, students understand what is to be covered in the next class. When they come for the class they have ideas and thoughts in their minds. This can enhance learning capacity and make students more interested in discussions, thereby establishing relationship of the theory with practice.

Like this we can design new experiments and student participation will make our classrooms effective, energetic and positive. Technology is there to help us and it is an enabler. For instance, one can take a cue from the advertising industry. In a limited time frame of 50 seconds or so they have to show content and make it interesting.

QWhat do you feel about the concerns around employability of graduates?

AEmployability issues are a narrative created by the corporate world. I do not agree with this. This is a narrative created in our country as one does not want to value the education system and the value to teaching in the education system. Through such narratives, a perception is created in the minds of the students that whatever they have learnt is not important.

Many corporates say that they have to give specialised training for a few months to their people. In this context, my question is that if your six months training is so good then why don’t you employ students immediately after Class 12?

Our students are good, but if you want to assess them on a particular technology or a particular procedure or your particular software... there is a broad difference between training and education. Training is a subset of education. We are not training centres, but higher education institutions.

The purpose of education is learning to live together. We are not preparing students for a particular technology, software or thought process. Rather we want to energise and rationalise our students so that they can take right decisions at the right time.

QHow has the CUET exercise been?

AIn terms of inclusion and equity we are now getting more students from many states and small towns. Earlier also we were getting good students, but now it is not only from large cities, but from all places.

Many state boards were in a disadvantageous position as some of them are generally strict. At the same time, some state boards are lenient. The boards of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal are strict. So, earlier most of the students coming from these states were from the CBSE. But, with the CUET in place, we are getting students from across all boards.

The CUET looks at a student’s preparedness and involvement in the subject and does not differentiate among boards. The point here is that a student who has done well in intermediate is expected to do well in the CUET. Those who are thorough with their NCERT books should be able to perform well in the CUET examinations.

QWhat are the challenges which large universities like yours face?

ALarge-sized institutions have challenges. For instance, Delhi University is a 100-year old institution. So we have to not only create new infrastructure, but also maintain the existing one. We have received full support from the government and have got more than 01,500 crore. We are constructing new buildings and recruiting teachers as we feel that recruitment of teachers should not be a one-time activity, but a regular one. We recruited more than 4,500 assistant professors in the last year-and-a-half. We have a backlog and it will take six months to fill that.