UGC directive to teach courses based on student demand misunderstands academic worth, university autonomy

UGC directive to teach courses based on student demand misunderstands academic worth, university autonomy

The University Grants Commission (UGC)’s letter to central universities, asking them to teach courses based on student demand, is based on questionable academic logic. How many students queue up for a course often reflects how much it boosts the chances of their employment. While important, for a university, that must not be the only metric in determining the span of its academic ambition. The work of producing knowledge, training students in critical thinking, and pushing ideas towards new frontiers — the reasons why societies invest in universities — cannot rest on a narrow, instrumentalist approach. That is to say, a university must make space for arcane philosophy as much as economics, even if there are few takers for the former. Seen in this light, the UGC’s insistence that courses be taught or stopped based on the number of enrolled students seems rather short-sighted. The Delhi University Democratic Teachers’ Front has said that it fears that “rationalizing” courses in this manner would have grim consequences for social science and language departments, as well as job losses for those who teach in them

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