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To prefer course or college? A professor explains

College vs Course, Is College Better Course, The Right Choice: Whether a course matters more or the college is a common dilemma when opting for an undergraduate course

College vs Course | College Better Than Course | College or Course | What Should I Choose Course or College | The Right Choice | Is Course Better than CollegeCollege or Course: How do you decide between your preferred course and a better college? Check Expert Tips to Make the Choice Easy (Graphics by Abhishek Mitra)

(The Right Choice’ is a series by The Indian Express that addresses common questions, misconceptions, and doubts surrounding undergraduate admissions. You can read the stories here.)

– Tanvir Aeijaz

For the school students preparing to join college, the feeling is quixotic and the dilemma is palpable. They understand that they are now free to choose, not only about what to eat, what to dress, and whom to make friends with in the campus, but also about the discipline that they want to study and the college/university in which they want to study, of course, with certain limitations. The decisions about what to study, where to study and with whom to study are very crucial, both for students entering into the portals of university and to the university receiving the students into its fold.

University System

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The university system, in a recent couple of years, has witnessed a major disruption due to covid, undermining not only the efforts of those who assiduously worked to maintain status quo but also much of the things that we had taken for granted and relied upon. Nevertheless, disruption does provide an opportunity for innovation, adaptation and preservation.

Students must know that the university space into which they are entering after their twelfth grade is a site, whose raison d’etre has long been innovation, conservation and dissemination of knowledge. For students, universities are the most sought after way to become educated, employable, and enlightened. The brick-and-mortar university system, more like an institutional home and less like a shopping mall, is a powerful form of teaching and learning process for generations of young people. Students want to sit in a classroom together with their own peer groups, see their teacher live, organise festivals and dance in ‘rock shows’, and therefore they look forward to taking admissions in a brick-and-mortar university.

Course versus College

The students are confronted with one of the biggest dilemmas whilst taking admission in the university for higher education, particularly in the Delhi University, and that is giving precedence to course over college. The science students have the maximum leverage to courses as they can switch over to non- science courses, if they may prefer. This luxury is not available to the students from arts or commerce background. Commerce students may switch over to some of the arts courses such as political science, economics, literature etc. but arts students are restricted to their own subjects available in their own stream. Generally, the student from arts background opts for the discipline in which she has scored maximum marks when counted in the best of four. So, the choice of courses narrows down moving from science to commerce and to arts stream.

Despite this narrowing down, we still have quite a large number of courses for a student to opt for, after all a student cannot study more than one course. In a course, for instance BA Programme, however, a student can study different subjects, and with the implementation of National Education Policy (NEP), from the current year in Delhi University, and also other universities, the student may take different subjects from different courses. In an effort to make the course structure multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary, the NEP promises to give a wide array of choices as far as papers in different subjects are concerned. One will have to be very cautious while exercising the choice-rationale among the plethora of options available in the course’s bucket list.

The course, as mentioned above, is a discipline carrying a certain part of the larger knowledge system available in academia. For instance, the discipline of political science is that part of the larger knowledge system which deals essentially with the ideas of human beings organising themselves to shape state, civil society and market. The discipline relates with human behaviour responding to rules, regulations and traditions of society. Economics, for that matter, relates to that part of the knowledge system that explains human behaviour in a certain set of market-institutions within larger socio-political framework.


Modern education is designed as such that any discipline one opts or will shape up accordingly the behaviour, personality and capacity. The discipline’s core concern remains with the student lifelong and it does help in shaping up the career prospects. The subject of interest facilitates students to realise their potential, both at the academic and job stage. The students of journalism, for instance, make a good journalist if their preferred course was journalism at the college level, exceptions notwithstanding.

The college, on the other hand, provides a physical space for intellectual discourse between teachers, students and the administration. A good college is one which has a tradition of robust interactional processes set by the interplay between academics, extra-curricular activities and critical thinking. Students and faculty together, drawing strength from their disciplines, enrich the college in achieving the goals of education and the administration has to keep up a great degree of academic freedom and institutional autonomy to maintain the flow of this enrichment.

Course is important because, at the end of the day, it aids to the fulfilment of one’s career aspiration. All competitive exams are based on the skills – comprehension, interpretation and analysis – acquired during the course of study. Course must be given precedence over the college for a brighter future. One is, of course, doubly blessed if one gets both, the choice of college and the course.


(The writer is an associate professor teaching public policy and politics at Ramjas College, Delhi University)

First published on: 20-07-2022 at 09:25:30 am
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