You’ll find out soon enough that academics in India work in a way that is dramatically different from what you’re accustomed to in the West – and that’s a good thing since you’re not travelling halfway across the world for things to be just the way they are back home! Academic institutions in India are highly influenced by the guru-shishya (guru-disciple) tradition, in which the student absorbs the teachings of his guru with reverence and utmost respect. The resulting effect is that there is a much greater emphasis placed on attendance to lectures and writing examinations than on assignments or research papers.
One of the most positive aspects of studying at Delhi University for me was to integrate the atmosphere of intense camaraderie that pervades Indian colleges. Students here take every single of their papers (i.e. course in North America) together for all three years of their bachelors’ degree. Consequently, students all know each other very well and solid bonding takes place, which can be very refreshing for students who come from large and somewhat impersonal universities in Canada or other Western countries.
Another noticeable difference on my end is that university ended up using up far less of my time in India than it usually does in Canada. This is true despite the academic week spanning six days instead of five as it typically does in the West. Having more free time was facilitated by several things: i) I could write research assignments in place of examinations, ii) there are many holidays in India, and iii) about half my lectures got cancelled. Each of these points is covered in more details in the next sub-sections of this guide. That academics were less challenging for me here than back home allowed me to get a first-hand perspective on the country by travelling North India on different occasions. That said, a friend of mine, Alexander Harmsen, had a very different experience at IIT Delhi where he found academics to be very intense. You can read about his experience here. My friend Judy who did an exchange at the Delhi School of Economics also had a very rewarding academic experience. Regardless of how challening or not so challenging academics end up being, those looking for a solid life experience are in for a real treat!
Overall, it is an understatement to say the academia functions in a very different way in India. Navigating the bureaucracy will have you bend over backwards a couple of times, but the overall the experience is incredibly rewarding in terms of cultural exposure, human interaction and self-discovery. The next sub-sections gives practical information about term dates, registration procedures, attendance, evaluations, and relationships with professors. Feel free to ask questions.
Note: This guide is based on personal experience and is not a university-sponsored publication. Policies, rules and processes, where they exist, do change and are often applied differently by different staff or colleges. The information in this guide should only be used to get a general idea of how things work for exchange students at Delhi University, and specifics should be validated with university officials.