Interview by Ketan MOR | Taking Action at Home: Sustainability as Core Pillars of University Governance

Ketan Mor was India’s representative in 7thASEF Rectors’ Conference and Student’s Forum in Bucharest, Romania.Currently a second Law year student from the University of Delhi, he has also previously completed a honours degree in Political Science(H). He is also a Youth Speaker, writer, motivator and working for communities. His interest areas are quality education (SDG 4), reducing inequality (SDG 5) and peace, justice and strong institution (SDG 16). Since his topic is Taking Action at Home : University as core pillars of SDGs, he would like to discuss about how the University of Delhi, being one of the largest and most reputed universities in the country, is contributing in promoting SDGs in university governance. In this interview, heis  discussing these issues with his Dean and Head of the Faculty of Law at the University of Delhi, Professor Ved Kumari. She has  teaching experience of more than 35 years with 8 years of administrative experience. She is also part of various committees of university’s academics and administration, who is responsible for key decisions in implementing any projects in University of Delhi. Therefore, he believes she is the right person who can answer his concerns related to the faculty as well as administration.

How do you feel [the] University of Delhi is contributing in providing quality education?

Prof. Ved Kumari:

University of Delhi, established in 1922, is one of the oldest universities in India. The University is composed of 16 faculties and 86 departments distributed across its North and South Campuses. It has 77 affiliated colleges and 5 other institutes with an enrolment of over 132,000 regular students and 261,000 non-formal students. The fees charges are very low with tuition fees 15 INR and annual fees around 5000 INR. The University follows strict norms in appointing faculty members. The Faculty of Law has recently appointment 120 highly qualified assistant professors to impart quality education among the students. We have completed 2 Faculty Development Programmes for the newly appointed faculty members so that they can impart quality education to young minds.

What is the importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Higher Education? What challenges are we facing in attaining SDGs at University level?

Prof. Ved Kumari:

These are the universally-agreed objectives for which we all working. We are the training institute of future minds and that must be seen in our course curriculum. I am happy that our university has recognised these fields and is offering courses for students to understand their importance in lives. Courses related to Environmental Science, Life Science, Applied Psychology, Social work, Law and Society, Human Rights and Law and poverty are directly related to one or the other SDGs. There are different challenges at various levels. Due to the University’s huge structure, policy implementation gets delayed. Numbers of students are increasing every year but we have the same limited infrastructure. Moreover, recruitment rate of permanent faculty members is lower than the retirement rate. Sensitization of faculty members is also missing in the classroom.

What policy decisions have been taken in Faculty of Law relating to SDGs?

Prof. Ved Kumari:

We decided to raise awareness for saving electricity in faculty. So, stickers with the text “Do faculty a favour, switch off the lights before leaving” were pasted in every classroom. We have “Gender Justice” as an elective in our curriculum with the aim of reducing gender-based inequality in the society. We have Societies/Committees for SC/STs, North Eastern Students, Equal Opportunity Cell through which we try to bring equality among students.

We encourage students’ participation in faculty governance. To achieve the same, a student body/union is constituted each academic year by following the democratic way of holding elections among the students. The Student’s Union formed is open to give critiques, opinions and comments about all the major and minor decisions made by the Faculty/University administration.

We also have Joint Student-Teacher Consultative Committee to increase the students’ participation in faculty governance. Teaching should be centred around sustainability, principle of cooperation and overall development of university. We always maintain and promote greenery in the campus with cleanliness at highest priority. We have set up pits for organic waste to convert it into organic fertiliser.

How students in Faculty of Law are involved in attaining SDGs. How does it bring SDGs as core pillar of university governance?

Prof. Ved Kumari:

The best thing about our Faculty is that most of the activities are taken up by the students. Our students are active in both academics as well as extra-curricular activities. The student members of Legal Services Society (LSS) are contributing in fulfilling SDG 16 which talk about Peace, Justice and Strong Institution. They are not only providing free legal aid to needy people living in slum areas of Delhi but are also making them aware of various welfare schemes available for them. Our alumni are working in different fields at different levels in the whole country. They are the ones who create and implement policies which ultimately strengthen our institutions and bring positive changes at ground level. Their willingness to work for communities automatically brings SDGs in centre of university governance.

Since India is a developing country; what role should universities play in order to maintain balance between development and sustainability?

Prof. Ved Kumari:

Higher Education can play vital role in attaining SDGs. Our curriculum should be developed on sustainability lines. For example, we have Environmental Science as compulsory subject; we can suggest some other subjects as compulsory in higher education to develop thinking on attaining SDGs. Green Building, less power consumption, good health and well-being of students as well as faculty members by developing our ability to accept innovative ideas are few things every university much focus on. We should promote solar energy, waste treatment plant, rain water harvesting in campus and help in not just greening the campus, but also in greening the mind of students.

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