The city’s largest public university is witnessing a steady drop in student population since the pandemic struck. Once the only choice for collegiate and university education, Mumbai University saw a fall in the count of candidates for two successive academic years owing to factors including economic distress and the emergence of more options in India and abroad. The rise of private and deemed universities has stressed the trend.
Pranav Tompe, the founder of the Graduate Association / Maharashtra State, said, “The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected day-to-day life. Many students lost their parents. Many aspiring University students have lost their lives. Then the Road transport sectors are shut. The accommodation is still under the medical scanner. Financial problems of the working-class people, economic crisis and low comfort level have developed uneasiness in the operating system, leading to uncomfortable situations in the rural and semi-urban areas. The pupils there are looking for local colleges. These are the basic reasons for the admissions’ number to decline.”
The highest drop is within Mumbai, where numbers in city and suburban colleges fell 12.5% in 2021-22 over the previous year in traditional programmes, including the popular ones at the undergraduate level. In absolute numbers, commerce courses recorded the sharpest drop in enrolments (21,147), but in percentage terms, it was in the science stream that the city faced the biggest reduction (18%). Academicians say a section of students are opting for other universities, while others are holding back from signing up for a college education. The admission slump was, of course, deeper when the academic year 2020-21 opened amidst the pandemic.
The total student count in the traditional streams had dipped to roughly 3 lakhs in Mumbai in 2020-21. That went further down to 2.6 lakh in 2021-22. Experts said the situation is similar in Thane, Palghar, Raigad and Sindhudurg. According to data from the MU, over 37,000 fewer students enrolled in 2021-22 as compared to the previous year.
“The worst affected are the self-financing programmes showing that many are not ready to pay a higher price tag for college education. Many cannot pay any fees at all. For those living far away from colleges, shelling out hostel fees is another financial burden. In 2019-20 too, another BUCTU member had asked the university regarding enrolment. They found that apart from the population of students dropping, enrolment has also fallen. Last year, a lot of students’ parents lost their jobs, many could not afford a smartphone and initially, colleges did not give any concession,” explained Aarti Prasad, senate member.
Rohidas Jadhav, Student Federation of India/ State Secretary said, “Not only Corona but there are also many other reasons. The dropout’s scale has increased last year. Now once a student gets dropped from Mumbai university, it becomes almost impossible for him to get admitted anywhere. The mental instability and restlessness in the past two years have perturbed the conscience of students to study more. The Academic flow got disturbed. Once you stop studying, then it gets difficult to bring back your confidence. Many students depended on their parents for college fees. They have lost their guardian; this has developed nervousness towards studies.”