The highest decision making body of the Delhi University approved the implementation of reform-oriented National Education Policy (NEP) and reintroduction of the controversial four-year undergraduate course from the 2022-23 academic session.
The decision came on a day when teachers and students of the central varsity raised their concerns in an online protest against the said decisions, saying that the restructuring in the study programmes will lead to “dilution of courses and degrees”.
The Executive Council (EC) in a meeting held on Tuesday, August 31, gave its nod to the academic reforms that were approved by the Standing Committee on Academic Matters and the Academic Council last week. Three EC members of the 20-member body submitted their dissent to the decision taken.
“We dissent on this restructuring which is being done at the cost of dilution of the undergraduate programmes currently being offered in the University,” the dissent note read.
The NEP, which replaced the National Policy on Education framed in 1986, was approved by the Union Cabinet last year at a meeting presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The policy includes reforming the 3-year undergraduate studies structure, changing it into a 4-year pattern with multiple entry and exit points.
This year, at the completion of one year of the policy that is flayed for pushing “privatisation of education” in the country, PM Modi announced further initiatives including an Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) architecture. It basically allows the students to pursue an academic programme with an option to exit a course and enter within a stipulated period in multiple institutions. The students will earn credits on the courses—online or offline—opted by them which will be deposited in a credits bank, and thus can be redeemed later.
The nod by DU EC body on Tuesday eventually translates into the decision to pave the way for the restructuring of the undergraduate studies in the central university on the lines of NEP. As a result, the university will also now scrap MPhil, as per what is provisioned for under the NEP, and will offer post graduate programmes—of one year and two years—from next year.
The university from the next academic session will also reintroduce the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). It was previously introduced in the university in 2013, which had reportedly triggered a university siege in protest by students and teachers, and was thus eventually withdrawn within a year.
Earlier last month, amid dissent from 16 elected representatives, the university’s academic council had passed the FYUP along with multiple entry and exits and ABC schemes. The Standing Committee on Academic Matters had passed it, with three of its 27 members dissenting.
The dissenting members of the EC on Tuesday said that the DU did not ask for detailed feedback from all stakeholders including members of all relevant statutory bodies on the implementation of NEP in the varsity.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who was among the ones to register dissent, said in a statement that it was “extremely unfortunate” that a major restructuring was passed without any response on the issues raised by EC members. Claiming that the merits of FYUP are not clear, he said: “…why should students pay for an additional year if the in-depth study of a discipline in 4-year UG course remains what it is today in a 3-year undergraduate Honours course.”
On Wednesday, while speaking to NewsClick, Agarwal said that while discussion on the issues raised by the dissenting members was held for “good 2-3 hours" it was spoken about only for the sake of it.
On FYUP, the dissenting note pointed towards the the fact that students had rejected it earlier mainly because of the “additional expenditure for the fourth year”. Further, they added that the multiple-exit-entry scheme, along with the burden of extra expenditure, will encourage dropouts. “This will hit women students as well as others from marginalized and underprivileged sections,” the note read.
Moreover, the dissenting members also said in their note that the implementation of NEP in the varsity will lead to “massive reduction of the current workload” of teachers. The Delhi University of Teachers Association (DUTA), in an online protest held on the same day, raised similar concerns.
“Hiring of teachers is on the basis of workload and MEES, SWAYAM and ABC Regulations 2021 and Blended Learning will lead to major reduction in workload and stability. For past one decade, teachers have been teaching on ad-hoc and temporary basis. While posts were advertised thrice, most of the advertisements were allowed to lapse,” the teachers’ body said in a statement on Tuesday.
Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) is an open online course platform that was launched back in 2017. Under the current system, the universities across the country are allowed to offer up to 40% of the syllabus in a programme in a semester online through SWAYAM.
In a concept note released earlier in June this year, University Grants Commission (UGC) had batted for “blended” mode of teaching by proposing to allow universities to offer up to 80 per cent of any non-technical academic programme online.
Abha Dev Habib, DUTA Treasurer, told NewsClick on Wednesday that the Central Government with these reforms is creating a market of cheap labour. “We look at the NEP not in isolation but together with labour codification and farm laws – both of which too were passed during the pandemic. Every household in the country will be affected by them,” she said.
On DU EC giving nod to NEP, Habib said that these reforms that are passed now will eventually start affecting the students and the teachers from the next academic session in DU. Other universities in the country are also expected to follow a similar line, where reforms will be implemented despite dissent of teachers and students, she added.
Given this, Habib reasoned that it is a political fight against the NEP that will see students and teachers from different Universities coming together. “Already joint platforms are being created. The movement will intensify in the coming months,” she said.