NEW DELHI: The past few months have been testing times for many public universities across the country. Two of Delhi’s centrally administered universities, the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia, have been at the receiving end.

The government considers them among the best universities in the country – the HRD ministry’s National Institute of Ranking Framework in 2019 ranked JNU and Jamia in 2nd and 12th place respectively.

Now with the admission session about to start and students looking for options, recent events at these premier national universities raise the question: Are students still willing to take admission here?

Shivani Pundir, a third-year graduate student at Delhi University, says, “Being a political science student, my priority is JNU. Then, DU, Jamia, Ambedkar University are the other options.”

But Pundir admits that despite these universities’ merits, there is definitely a “sense of fear. How can an educational institution be unsafe for us? That fear is there, no doubt. But it’s not going to be a deterrent for me, at least,” she says.

For 21-year-old Harshita Singh, university campuses in Delhi are not as safe as they used to be. “I had planned to pursue my higher studies at JMI after completing my graduation from Delhi University. But now, I would discourage every outsider student from taking admission here.”

There is also the realisation that if one rules out these campuses, there aren’t many good alternatives left. Anjali Yadav, another third-year graduate student at DU, says that while recent events have deterred her from considering JNU and Jamia, there are definitely not enough options. “There are very few good master’s colleges in India,” she says.

Singh agrees, saying that there aren’t even enough good colleges in India, and certainly not as good as these two. “These universities are in the list of top universities,” she says.

It has been said that these universities aren’t worth spending “taxpayer money” on and should be shut down. But the students I spoke with emphasise that there simply aren’t many good, affordable options for students pursuing higher education.

Kritika who studies journalism says that private colleges are not a feasible alternative. “Seeing the current situation of the Indian economy, not everyone will be able to pursue their higher studies from private colleges due to excessive fees,” she tells The Citizen.

On the other hand, the students say their parents are very scared for their future and well being. “My parents and even relatives are scared. They even told me not to give the entrance exam of JNU or Jamia,” Pundir reveals. She believes she will have to do a lot persuading just to take these exams.

Singh, who hails from Agra, also says her parents are very concerned, and are willing to “send” her as far as Bangalore but not to Delhi, because of how things have unfolded in the past months.

Yadav’s parents meanwhile are categorically opposed to her taking admission in these colleges. She says her father even told her not go out anywhere during the past month.

Angela Fatima Mirza, another student who looks forward to admissions this year in a master’s course, says she has been explaining the situation and trying to “make her parents understand everything” just so they let her sit for the entrance exams at these universities.

Santosh Singh, Harshita’s father, puts forth the parents’ point of view. “I disagree with whatever the students are doing, but I will be okay if my kids get into these colleges as they are the best colleges. But only as long as they are just interested in studying.”

The sentiment is the same for Pooja Rani, whose younger brother is applying for a master’s this year. She says she wouldn’t like him or for that matter anyone to take admission in these colleges, as she doesn’t feel they are safe, and a student can easily “get distracted” there.

“Students should indulge in studying, whatever else is happening is only hampering them and their studies,” she says.