Monday, July 19, 2010

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

A politically charged campus, JNU exhibits excellence in patches. A great place to study, though.

Established: 1969
Vice-Chancellor: Prof. B B Bhattacharya
Status: Central University
Courses: BA Hons. (Foreign languages), MA, MSc, MTech, MPH, MPhil, PhD (various disciplines)
Schools: 10
Centres: 3
Student strength: Approx 5,500 (Research: PG:UG - 6:3:1) (Male: Female - 7:3)
Fees: Rs. 300-350 annually excluding hostel food charges (Rs. 1,000 monthly)
No. of hostels: 17
Entrance exam: JNU Entrance held at 71 centres in May
Full-time faculty: 514 (Profs.: 250; Asso. Profs.: 134; Asst Profs.: 130)
Faculty with PhD: 472 (90%)
Student activities: Nine cultural clubs (Debating, Drama, Film, Fine Arts, Literary, Music, Nature & Wildlife, Photography and UN & UNESCO); Mountaineering club & Sports.

WHEN a multinational food company proposed to open a beverage stall at the JNU campus, the idea was argued to the hilt. Students discussed, debated and eventually voted against the opening of a branded outlet in the university grounds. This is just one of the many tales that the 41-year-old university has in its fold. Life has moved on since then, with logo-free tea/ coffee, but not without strengthening the legacy of free expression, a uniquely distinctive feature of the JNU.

Images : Samik Sen

On campus: JNU’s 1,100-acre expanse provides ample physical and intellectual space for young and agile minds. One can spot a lone student pouring over Socrates’ philosophy or the merits of socialism. Debating over issues like societal change, meritocracy, labour laws and other political, socio-economic topics form the DNA of the university.

One can sense that banter is not the core competency of students here and talk of subjects like fashion would be regarded as frivolous. On the other hand, aesthetics would be considered interesting. A research-focused university, it has stood by its culture of cerebral discussions that occur more passionately after dinner hours. Campus life, which follows a certain pace and rhythm, moves unhurried and un-harried.

The walls of the university act as a canvas for student groups to express their ideologies. We are greeted by graffiti walls, mostly provocative political slogans, as we approach the admissions and counselling section at the West Wing. “Oppression is your privilege, protest is our right”, “Resist commercialisation of education”, “Scrap Article 370, Implement uniform Civil Code”, “Red salute to the ongoing movements of the Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Lalgarh”, find an outlet.

Future of JNU
JNU has a rich history and a unique, vibrant culture. While admirers may love to regale in its past glory, it’s disconcerting to notice that the institution is gradually getting caught up in a time warp. It needs rapid overhaul to realise its potential of a truly global university...

1. The university lacks diversity of disciplines. Programmes in medicine, chemistry, engineering, architecture as well as other areas don’t exist, thus leaving students with a limited choice of subjects.

2. Political slogans dominate the campus, giving an immediate feel that beyond political history, other disciplines don’t impact the student’s expression that much. Thoughts on environment, Information Technology, Culture, physical sciences or Sankrit slokas, find little or no space on the wall.

3. For a campus that engages in high-minded debate, it’s ironic that something as elementary as cleanliness in public spaces does not strike students. Students casually tossed the cups after finishing ‘intellectual’ conversations over tea.

4. A run-down Teflas (canteen), with poor maintenance and questionable hygiene greeted us with passable food. That’s pretty much the state of all canteens; chipped walls, energy-inefficient tubelights and rickety fans.

5. The vast expanse of space does act as a thought ground for ruminating minds. Aesthetically maintained greens is icing on the cake. However, only a few select stretches of the campus are well-manicured; other manageable tracts lie neglected.

Student groups: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), All India Student Federation (AISF), Students Federation of India (SFI), National Students Union of India (NSUI) and All India Student Association (AISA), seem very active.

Pamphlets jostle for space on the walls that highlight course-related announcements, cultural festivals, invitation for debates and similar notifications. The West Wing has a computerised notice board, which flashes an event listing and beamed an ad for volunteers for Commonwealth Games. It also transmits student-related matters like anti-ragging policies and more.

The JNU has 10 schools and three centres in the campus (see box). One can’t help but notice the eclectic mix of students, national and international, underlining heterogeneity in its true form.

Programmes and eligibility: Admissions are through an entrance examination conducted at 71 centres across the country. The admission notification is published in newspapers in February. In the third week of May, a written test is conducted across various centres (see table). Performance in the written test and marks in the viva voce determine the admission.

Each programme has a fixed number of seats. The total capacity of the institution is around 6,000 students. The university provides 22.5 percent reservation for SC and ST students and 3 percent for the physically challenged. Reservations for foreign nationals amount to 5 percent. The last date of admission to any programme is August 14.

Faculty: Academic freedom is what a true-blooded scholar desires and the JNU provides just the ground for that, keeping research as the nucleus of the academic activity. Student-teacher ratio hovers at 12:1. The faculty strength is 514 plus 19 Professor Emeritus and four Honorary professors. The attrition rate of the faculty is negligible.

Prof. S K Kejriwal of the School of Social Sciences attributes this trend to the academic autonomy allotted to faculty members. Students and teachers bond well and enjoy great interpersonal relationships, he tells us. “There is no hierarchal relationship,” he adds. Unlike the trend in some academic institutions, the faculty members engaged in research work here don’t receive monetary reward for their published works, another faculty member adds.

Learning resources: The library, spread over an area of approximately one lakh square feet, is a nine-storey block. One wonders why the library is not fully digitisatied till date. It is open 361 days from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and gives access to 5.51 lakh reading materials including books, serials and non-book materials. A total of 965 journals are subscribed.

The collection is categorised subject-wise on different floors under three major streams: Social Sciences, Humanities and Sciences. The ’Dholpur House’ situated next to the library attracts civil services aspirants to come and prepare for the exams there. A cyber library with 200 computers is available to access 14,000 full text e-journals/databases as well as for theses/dissertation work. During exam time, library timings are extended up to midnight. The Helen Keller unit is a separate one for visually impaired students.

Programmes offered
Arts and Aesthetics
Visual Studies, Theatre & Performance Studies, Cinema Studies
MA, MPhil, PhD
Diverse areas of Biotechnology
MSc, PhD
Computer and Systems Sciences
Computer Science, Computer Applications

MCA, MTech, PhD

Environmental Sciences
Environmental Sciences: physical sciences, earth and atmospheric sciences,environmental biology, environmental monitoring & management
MSc, MPhil, PhD

Information Technology
Computational Biology; Bioinformatics; System Biology

MTech (Computational & System Biology);
Pre-PhD; Direct PhD
International Studies

American; European; Canadian; Chinese; Russian; Central Asian;
African; West Asian; Japanese and Korean; South Asian; East Asian
Studies; Diplomatic Studies; International Legal Studies; International Trade and Development; International Politics; International
Organisation; Disarmament Studies; Political Geography
MPhil, PhD
MA - Politics (International
MA - Economics
Language, Literature
and Culture Studies

Arabic & African Studies; Chinese and South East Asian Studies; French and Francophone Studies; German Studies; Japanese, Korean and North East Asian Studies; Persian and Central Asian Studies; Russian studies; Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Latin American Studies
BA, MA, MPhil, PhD
Diploma and Certificate
Programmes in Portuguese,
Italian and a few others
Indian Languages; English Studies; Linguistics
MA, MPhil and PhD only
Life Sciences
Multidisciplinary & interdisciplinary disciplines in life sciences
MSc, MPhil, PhD
Physical Sciences

Physical Sciences and interdisciplinary areas interfacing physics,
chemistry and mathematics
MSc, Pre-PhD, Direct PhD

Social Sciences

Economic Studies and Planning; Historical Studies; Political Studies;
Studies in Regional Development; Social Systems
MA, MPhil, PhD

Philosophy; Science Policy; Social Medicine and Community Health;
Educational Studies
MPhil and PhD only

Special Centre for Molecular Medicine
Molecular medicine; molecular and cell biology with direct application to the study of human diseases
Pre-PhD, Direct PhD

Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies
Sanskrit Language and Literature; Computational Sanskrit
MA, MPhil, PhD

Centre for the Study of Law
and Governance
Multidisciplinary approach in various aspects of law and governance
MPhil, PhD, direct PhD

Residential facility: The campus houses 17 hostels independently for boys and girls, including one for married research scholars and one for Post Doctoral Fellows. The hostels accommodate about 4,300-odd students. Monthly mess charges are Rs. 850 and the annual rent for single and double seats are pegged at Rs. 240 and Rs. 120 respectively. Besides, other annual nominal charges of newspapers (Rs. 15) crockery (Rs. 50) among a few others.

Important Dates
May 17-20, 2010: All–India Entrance Examination for Admission to MA/ MSc/MCA, MPhil/PhD, Pre-PhD/PhD, MTech/PhD, MPH/PhD

May 17- 19, 2010: All–India Entrance
Examination for Admission to: First and
Second Year of BA (Hons.) Programmes in Foreign Languages

May 18-19, 2010: Entrance Examination for Admission to Part-time Programme of Study (Advanced Diploma in Mass Media in Urdu and Certificate in Language Proficiency)
Students activities: There are various cultural clubs which function under the supervision of a convener elected by the students. Each club is dedicated to an area such as cinema, fine arts, music, photography, the UN and UNESCO. They organise or collaborate with relevant institutions or corporate for activities like social campaign or contest.

Students can seek membership of one or more club by paying a nominal fee. Sports facilities include a stadium, lawn tennis court, badminton court and also provision for indoor sports like chess. Sports fellowships are offered for one full academic year to students who play at the state and national level.

Placements: For a campus, which displays full-blown political activism, not many opt for a career in politics. However, it’s a hub which feeds teaching and research positions in academic institutions and in think tanks. Civil service both at centre and states is another favourite career option in the campus. Barring science schools and economics students, corporates aren’t seen jostling to pick up students. “Many youngsters mostly take up jobs in NGOs,” says a former student.

More features: The JNU has employment, information and guidance bureaus to help the alumni. The GSCASH cell takes up matters of sexual harassment with strict disciplinary action. Anti-ragging policy ensures that the menace is kept under check. The Health Centre is open on all working days, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m and membership is compulsory.

Though the campus is not in the pink of health, it still is an oasis, in terms of the opportunities it offers to a potential student. With its progressive admission policy, and ridiculously low fees, it is an attractive option for even a student from the lowest stratum of the society. The open culture it promotes among students and faculty, is a bonus. If not for anything else, it does provide the intellectual ambience and personal space for pursuing any goal you may choose. If you get admission, just grab it.