UGC member critically examines Delhi University’s Four-Year Undergraduate Programme

Even as the debate over Delhi University’s Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) continues, a member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) has described the move as “misconceived” as it distorts the theoretical parity of diploma/degree awarded by the higher educational institutions (HEIs) and retards mobility of students across universities.

Delhi University (DU) lacks both academic preparedness and the necessary financial wherewithal to launch the programme. In the era of financial crunch, it cannot raise required funds for effective implementation of the proposed programme, UGC Member M.M. Ansari said. He has called for a comprehensive debate to arrive at a consensus on the vision of education policy.

“More importantly, in the garb of a new programme, the FYUP makes a major departure from our existing policy of +3 to +4 years degree programme in arts and social sciences. This is bound have its own cascading effects on all types and levels of university education. And most higher educational institutions may follow different routes to realize their objectives, which will eventually disturb harmonious relationships among the diverse social groups. A comprehensive debate is therefore called for to reach a consensus on the vision of education policy,” he said.

Pointing out that the academic community was sharply divided on the idea of launching FYUP by Delhi University (DU), Mr Ansari, Centre’s former interlocutor on Kashmir said there are those, mainly the members of DU Councils, who think that the proposed programme is conceived to improve quality and relevance of course contents so that the linkage between education and the world of work could be improved and strengthened. It is also perceived that the DU is an autonomous organization to take appropriate decisions with regard to the structure of various academic programmes.

On the other hand, the teachers and a section of students are opposed to the hurriedly designed programme and its implementation, mainly on the grounds of lack of preparedness of the university for effective execution of the programme, distortion in the 10+2+3 policy on education, thereby affecting the parity and equivalence of diploma/ degree awarded by the universities as also the increased burden of costs of education, due to length of the programme, particularly on the students from outside the Delhi region.

Critically examining the issues around the new programme, Mr Ansari said that it may indeed be closer to the manpower requirements of the job markets but it gets totally delinked from the conceptual and theoretical linkages with the equivalent courses offered by the rest of universities under the accepted scheme of 10+2+3 years of education. Eventually, students’ vertical mobility in pursuit of further education from any other University would be adversely affected.

For instance, all the HEIs would continue to enrol students for Master’s level courses after the completion of 10+2+3 years of study, as per our national policy. However, DU’s students would be eligible after 4 years of study, mainly because certain elements of degree courses in DU would be taught in the fourth year of honours course whereas the same would be imparted elsewhere in the third year itself. A three year degree of DU may not be equivalent to the corresponding degree of other institutions.

At the same time, for the purpose of a Master’s degree, DU may not recognize +3 years degree programme as equivalent to its three or four years programme due to variations in both the course contents and teaching techniques of different universities. The students are therefore likely to be discriminated in jobs and admissions to courses leading to higher degrees.

Secondly, the concept of university autonomy will have to be reviewed if the DU makes a major policy departure from +3 to + 4 years of degree programme in arts and social sciences.

Driving home his point, Dr Ansari pointed out that if a majority of B.Tech students, after four years of study, are ‘unemployable’ in multi national companies, should they be required to study an extra year to enhance their technical competence? If all the HEIs exercise their autonomies in the manner DU has done, will it not create confusion, inconsistency and anarchy in the entire education system? This will unfortunately lead to further commercialization of higher education, he warns.

Also, the proposed FYUP will require substantial funds for revision and development of curricula, teachers training including recruitment of new teachers. The Central government has already indicated that the level of expenditure in the ensuing Twelfth Plan would be pegged up at level of the previous Eleventh Plan. This implies that the level of funding for the DU and its affiliated colleges would, in real terms, would be half of what they received in the recent past. “Clearly, it seems unlikely that the University would be able to mobilize required additional funds from the government, which has already indicated its financial constraints, or beneficiary students who have limited capacity in the era of perpetual rise in prices and costs of living,” Mr Ansari said.

Fourth, the DU ought not to be oblivious of the fact that the government’s financial support through UGC would be provided to the institutions, which are accredited by the NAAC. “Lack of accreditation of the DU and its affiliated colleges, would not only affect the delivery of regular programmes due to delays in release of funds till the accreditation is granted but would also impinge upon the launch of new programmes like FYUP,” according to Mr Ansari.