At premier colleges in Delhi University, students from outside Delhi account for as much as 70% of the strength, but the demography in its off-campus colleges scattered across the city presents a different yet dynamic picture.
Away from the bustling North Campus, Swami Shraddhanand College in Delhi’s Alipur village tells the story of students from outside Delhi vying for a DU degree. Among DU’s “rural” campuses, the closest Metro station, Jahangirpuri, is 8 km away. Despite this, of the 1,258 students who were admitted to the college last year, 691 were from outside Delhi. College officials estimate that of the 4,600 students in the college, approximately 1,500, or 33%, are from outside Delhi. A large number, however, are from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
DU has 61 constituent colleges, but North Campus colleges such as SRCC, Hindu, Miranda House and St Stephen’s College and South Campus institutions such as Sri Venkateswara, Jesus and Mary College and Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma remain top picks for students.
Then there are colleges scattered across Delhi, including those in relatively remote locations, established to cater to the education needs of those from Delhi’s rural pockets.
On Wednesday, The Indian Express had reported how over the past five years, the demography of DU’s top colleges has become more diverse — with more and more students from South Indian states joining each year.
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While the numbers might not be comparable, off-campus colleges are increasingly getting admissions from outside the city, especially as cut-offs get more cut-throat every year.
In Najafgarh’s Kair village, Bhagini Nivedita College is meant to provide access to higher education to women of the area. In 2018-2019, while 480 students were from Delhi, 90 were from neighbouring Haryana, 75 from Uttar Pradesh, 20 from Uttarakhand, 20 from Bihar and seven from Rajasthan.
“The college doesn’t have a hostel, so students take houses on rent in nearby villages and live together. They arrange for a van to pick up groups to travel to college,” said Dr Alokka Dutta, who teaches there.
Swami Shraddhanand College does not have a hostel either, and principal Dr P V Khatri also speaks of the development of an economy in the village to accommodate students.
“We have 30-40 students from various North Eastern states, and many from towns in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. Setting up PGs to accommodate them has become a business for local people. There are also many who live near North Campus or in Mukherjee Nagar and travel around 40 minutes — taking a Metro and then a bus or shuttle to reach college,” he said.
Principals across off-campus colleges believe a Delhi University degree has become valued to the extent that applicants are willing to travel across the country to study even in relatively lesser known colleges for it.
Dr Khatri said the trend is gathering pace. “This is a more recent development. I think this was facilitated by the entire admission process moving online. DU’s popularity has gone up so much that many youngsters with comparatively lower percentages, who want a DU degree, come to colleges like ours,” he said.
“The hard truth is that everyone wants to study in a set of North Campus colleges, where cut-offs are close to 98%. Then there are other North and South campus which are favoured, where now the cut-offs go up to 96%. Our college would be on a tier below those, yet there is a huge number looking at us. DU colleges are preferred so much nowadays — because of the exposure they provide and the teaching quality — that aspirants are willing to study in any college. We have popular courses like BSc (Honours) Maths, BA (Honours) Physics and BCom (Honours) for which there is high demand. We have representation from almost every Indian state among students,” said Keshav Mahavidyalaya principal Dr Madhu Pruthi. The college is located in West Delhi’s Pitampura, and approximately 36% of its 2018-2019 student body was from outside Delhi.
While it has a women’s hostel, albeit with a limited capacity of 78, some off-campus colleges have even created institutional support systems for students who are living in PGs.
At Shivaji College in West Delhi’s Shivaji Enclave, 43% of students are from outside Delhi.
“There are students from North Eastern states, Jharkhand, Bihar, towns in Haryana and UP… since we don’t have a hostel, they live in PGs in Shivaji Enclave, Vishal Enclave and Rajouri Garden. Three years ago, we began a mentorship programme, where a teacher is made the mentor of 20-25 students from their department. This helps us understand the problems of students living in PGs and we can act as their guardians. This has brought several issues to our notice, like some students requiring breakfast in the canteen or for library hours to be extended,” said principal Dr Shashi Nijhawan.