'Restructure courses instead of fighting over four-year programme'
In June, Delhi University's four-year undergraduate programme was scrapped and restored to three years after an ugly tussle between DU and the University Grants Commission (UGC). The university regulatory body has also ordered several universities to scrap similar courses. But experts feel it is more important to think about re-structuring the courses, than fight over the number of years.
The universities which have been ordered by UGC to scrap four-year programmes are the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, Shiv Nadar University based in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and Symbiosis University in Pune.
Unlike DU, IISc was however able to resolve the matter amicably with UGC, and was allowed to retain the programme but with certain changes.
"In the matter of institutions like IISc by enforcing such rules UGC cannot afford to destroy innovation in the country. Elaborate discussions have to be held with the university on the kind of courses being offered. Sending a circular was clearly not the way," C.N.R. Rao, eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee, told IANS over phone.
IISc was allowed to retain the programme after it said that students admitted to the Bachelor of Science (BS) programme will be granted a Bachelor of Science B.Sc degree after completion of the third year and a B.Sc research degree on completion of the fourth year of programme.
UGC says it is against the four-year programme as it violates the National Education Policy of 1986 which envisages 10+2+3 criteria.
"The institutions should be allowed to plan their own system. The discussion should not be about whether the course is of six or eight years; I think all it matters is about the course one wants to study," Yash Pal, eminent scientist and Padma Vibhushan awardee, told IANS.
Pal has also remained the chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) here and stresses on bringing reform in the education system.
"There is a need for reform in our education system, it should be a continuous process and is of great importance," added Pal.
While IISc was able to continue its courses, in the case of the other two, Shiv Nadar University and Symbiosis University, the commission is yet to take a decision.
Shiv Nadar University offers four-years inter disciplinary B.A. And B.Sc courses, while Symbiosis University offers Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Arts Degree) and Bachelor of Science (Liberal Arts Degree) programme covered over eight semesters.
The officials of both the private university said they would appeal to the UGC and the ministry.
"Why can we not have the system followed in US? We can also give an integrated four+one year BA, MA degree..This can be clearly implemented by India also," added Rao.
However, Anitha Rampal, eminent educationist, said that there was no need to emulate what the other countries were doing.
"What other countries are doing is not our concern. Reforms at all levels of education is important," Rampal, a professor at University of Delhi, told IANS.
She added, "Higher education also requires reform. They instead need thinking on how they are going to re-structure the courses."
She too feels that the now-scrapped four-year programme in Delhi University was introduced hastily and bringing such changes requires a lot of work.
The commission is also collecting information on four-year undergraduate general degree programmes being offered in O.P. Jindal University, Ashoka University in Sonepat, B.R. Ambedkar University in New Delhi and Azim Premji University in Bangalore.
In all this juggling over years, the students are the most worried lot.
"Now when we are already in the midst of studying then all these things come up...Why didn't the UGC and the ministry check all this in the beginning," Samarth Jain, studying at Shiv Nadar University, told IANS.
Echoing similar feelings, Radhika Puri of the same university, told IANS:"I don't know why these bodies wake up so late. I have already completed a year here and now all this is cropping up."
(Shradha Chettri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 17-08-2014)