Forty central universities will kick off implementation of innovative measures such as the academic credit bank and the glue grant meant to encourage multidisciplinarity, at their meeting on Friday to be chaired by Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
However, Mr. Pradhan is likely to pull them up on a more basic issue — the fact that over a third of their faculty positions are still vacant.
More than 6,000 out of a total 18,000-odd faculty positions are still vacant and that is a major issue on the meeting’s agenda, Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare told The Hindu on Thursday. Delhi University (DU) was the worst offender in absolute terms, with 846 or almost half of its 1,706 sanctioned posts lying vacant. At the University of Allahabad, the vacancy rate was almost 70%, with only 263 of its 863 posts having been filled.
Glue grant scheme
Without sufficient number of teachers, the other ambitious initiatives proposed under the National Education Policy would come to naught. “We have taken the first step by appointing vice-chancellors at many of the institutions where the position was vacant or filled by temporary personnel. Now they must get their act together,” said Mr. Khare, noting that even in institutions like the DU and Jawaharlal Nehru University that still did not have permanent VCs, the process of advertisement and selection could begin. The interview process had been completed for the DU VC post and was likely to be filled soon, while it had not yet begun at JNU.
Under the glue grant, announced in this year’s budget, institutions in the same city would be encouraged to share resources, equipment and even allow their students to take classes from each other. “This is the first step for multidiciplinarity. We intend to start this from the second semester of the current academic year. Ultimately, faculty will be able to design joint courses, and you could see a DU student able to take a few classes at IIT-Delhi, or vice versa,” said the Higher Education Secretary. This also meant that institutions need not duplicate work by developing the same capacities, but would able to build on each other’s expertise.
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The first step would be the academic credit bank, which would have to be adopted separately by the academic council of each university to kick off implementation. To start with, the system would allow students to attain qualifications by amassing credits rather than specific durations on campus. A certain number of credits would add up to a certificate, then a diploma and then a degree, allowing for multiple entry and exit points. Students can earn up to 40% of their credits in online Swayam classes, rather than in the physical classroom. In the future, these credits will hold validity across different institutions.
“When ATMs were originally introduced, you could only withdraw money from the one run by your bank, but now any bank’s account can be accessed via any ATM. It will take time to build that kind of interoperability, but it is likely to start with the A-level universities once they have established equivalence of credits,” said Mr. Khare.