TWELVE. THAT is the total number of faculty members at the Department of Laws, Panjab University, that boasts around 1,050 students. Its corridors are all abuzz with students but the faculty rooms are beginning to wear an empty look. The teacher to student ratio of 1:87 at the department is a far cry from the ideal ratio of 1:15 recommended by the University Grants Commission on the basis of the Prof JAK Tareen Committee in 2011.
Established at Lahore in 1889, Department of Laws is not only amongst the oldest departments of the varsity, it’s also one of the most coveted. But the staff shortage is beginning to tell on the quality of education. Anjali Sheoran, the department representative, groused that many specialised subjects are now taught by research scholars and not experienced teachers. ‘’It reflects on our knowledge of the subject,’’ she said.
Officially, the department has 16 teachers, but one among them is on long leave, two are teaching on court orders after having crossed the age of 60 and one has retired. The growing discontent among the students took the shape of a protest last fortnight. “In February, we protested in front of the department for increasing the permanent faculty members. We said we do not want JRF scholars to teach us and we were assured that necessary steps will be taken but nothing has been done.”
Sheoron said the department has also discontinued the PU law review magazine for the last two years even though the students pay for it.
Gurpreet Singh, a fourth-semester law student, also complained of being taught by scholars reading out from papers. ‘’It’s as if they are just biding their time,’’ he fumed.
The shortage of faculty members is also beginning to tell on extra-curricular activities that the department was known for not too long ago. “There have been no moot courts or debates for the last eight months. The department’s standard of education is degrading with every passing day,” said Ajay Marya, a senior law student.
Law students also fumed over the condition of computer lab and lack of space in the library, which can accommodate only 55 students at one go. Gurpreet Singh said, “We also need more books and periodicals. And there are only two computers, making it impossible for us to download legal cases, new articles of legal experts because most of the websites are paid. The department should provide us these facilities.”
Abhinav Madaan, a student of first year, told Newsline, “Our precious time is wasted as teachers are not allotted for months at the start of the academic session.’’ PhD scholars teaching the students complain about not getting any time to dedicate to their research. Gurjinder Singh, a research scholar, said, “The faculty strength should be beefed up. Scholars have little time to prepare for lectures and teach students, which diminishes the quality of teaching. We need time for our own research in the last two years of our fellowship. It is unfair to saddle us with teaching work during this period.’’
Meenu Paul, chairperson of the department, declined to give any comment. Dean University Instructions Shankar Ji Jha, when contacted, said, “There are a number of departments with staff shortage. Some departments are really having a very tough time in view of the dwindling number of teachers. But it is not the fault of the university. Our hands are tied due to the ban imposed by the HRD ministry on the recruitment of permanent teachers.”
He added that the university had written to the ministry last year seeking permission for recruiting new faculty members but were yet to receive any answer. ‘’Our hands are tied, we cannot recruit without the permission of the HRD ministry,” Jha said.