With barely a month to go for Delhi University’s new four-year undergraduate course to begin, the logistics of how 54,000 students will be given access to textbooks or “reading material” required for the 11 compulsory foundation courses is yet to be worked out.
“There will be no textbooks as such, since we mean to encourage participative learning through these courses in which only 75 per cent of the evaluation is going to be through a written exam at the end of the semester,” said Dean (Academics) Malashri Lal, adding that for this purpose only “reading material”, that was strictly meant to be a “platform for taking off for creativity”, will be made available by the time classes begin.
“We have already uploaded a reading list for these courses, but we will not be making course packs and selling them, since we are already in trouble for violating copyrights when we did this in the past,” said Prof. Lal. She was referring to the ongoing legal battle raging between the university and the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis for ostensibly infringing copyright.
So, if course packs were out of the question, does the university expect these students to buy each of these readings and that too for just one semester?
“Of course, we do not expect the students to buy them, each college library will be stocking all these readings,” said Prof. Lal.
There will be about seven foundation course taught in the first and second semester to 54,000 students in about 77 undergraduate colleges, so the explanation that these students can all learn from the library even if they have “stocked material separately” does not hold good unless they are allowed to photocopy these readings from these books and that would again amount to a copyright violation, again landing the university in trouble. “We have started the process of talking to these copyright holders to ask permission to print their books and we might package them…
In fact, many of the essential readings are from books written by our own faculty,” added Prof. Lal. A critic of the FYUP, Physics teacher Abha Dev Habib is very concerned. “Generally, in the normal course of things earlier, I would tell my students that I will mostly be using one book, so please buy this and then refer to other books available in the library. But in the foundation courses, it is a different matter altogether, we will be getting around 1,000 students and the college will not be able to update its library at once” Her sentiments were echoed by English teacher Vinita Chandra who said that if the university knew that course packs were now illegal, they must’ve thought ahead as to how to make these readings accessible and affordable.
“We are literally in a state of panic, because we do not know what to teach on the ﬁrst day of class, even I do not have thereadings or text with me, and even if the college were to prepare them, it can be ready only by September or August,” she said.