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NEP: UGC’s Curriculum and Credit Framework Compromises Quality, say Teachers and Student Bodies

Ravi Kaushal |
Academics say that new courses replace time-tested honours programmes that have so far exposed students to the rigour of a discipline.

The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) recently released curriculum and credit framework for undergraduate courses is replete with inconsistencies and severely compromises the quality of higher education, say teachers and students. The charges came from teachers and student bodies soon after the framework made it clear that new multidisciplinary courses would have multiple entry and exit points, a combination of major and minor programmes with mandatory value-added courses for all students.

The framework added that the students would earn certificates, diplomas and degrees after completing two, four and six semesters, respectively.

Additionally, a student would earn a degree with an honours program once he completes the fourth year dedicated to research. It said, “Students who secure 75% marks and above in the first six semesters and wish to undertake research at the undergraduate level can choose a research stream in the fourth year. They should do a research project or dissertation under the guidance of a faculty member of the University/College. The research project/dissertation will be in the major discipline. The students who secure 160 credits, including 12 credits from a research project/dissertation, are awarded UG Degree (Honours with Research).”

The framework maintained that a “course can have a combination of lecture credits, tutorial credits, and practicum credits. For example, a four–credit course with three credits assigned for lectures and one credit for practicum shall have three one-hour lectures per week and one two-hour duration field-based learning/project or lab work, or workshop activities per week. In a semester of 15 weeks duration, a four-credit course is equivalent to 45 hours of lectures and 30 hours of practicum. Similarly, a four-credit course with three credits assigned for lectures and one credit for tutorial shall have three one-hour lectures per week and one one-hour tutorial per week.”

Reacting to the new framework, Rudrashish Chakraborty, former Academic Council Member, Delhi University, said that the revised structure of the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme under the NEP and the categorical instruction to universities to take action accordingly is an unmitigated disaster. He said it puts the entire Higher Education sector in India in serious jeopardy.

Pointing out the introduction of multidisciplinary courses, he said that new courses replace time-tested honours programmes that had exposed students to the rigour of a discipline. Chakraborty, also a member of the Democratic Teachers Front, told NewsClick, “The flagship Honours courses in the reputed universities of the country, especially the University of Delhi, have been the vanguard of the Undergraduate programmes. The students admitted to different Honours courses are exposed to the rigours of the discipline along with pursuing different interdisciplinary subjects to supplement the main discipline. This has been a time-tested programme and has produced the finest minds for
decades. Any dilution of the Honours courses amounts to a compromise
in the course content and denies students the opportunity to access
quality and affordable public-funded higher education.”

He emphasised that the new framework not only reduces the credit component of existing programmes but also makes masters programmes redundant. He said, “The proposed structure talks of 160 credit hours in eight semesters which is, in fact, lower than the 176 hours approved by the University of Delhi. However, the most rampant assault of the proposed FYUP is the absolute redundancy of the Postgraduate or Master’s courses. The document proposes that the PG or Masters courses be reduced to only one year from the existing two years. Moreover, PG has been made redundant since a student can directly apply for a PhD after completing the four-year undergraduate programme. This is academically unviable as it does away with the pedagogical consolidation required at the PG level for any student who wants to pursue a PhD.”

Rajesh Jha, national spokesperson of Academics for Action and Development Teachers Association, told NewsClick that the UGC is unleashing chaos in the universities in the name of the New Education Policy. He said, “As far as four year undergraduate courses are concerned, please tell me who will be first to exit these courses. It will be always Dalit, Tribals and women who will be under pressure from families to leave courses. Will they get any job ?”

He further commented on the policy saying, “You are snatching the autonomy of the universities to decide their course content. Delhi University was known for its honours, Jamia Millia Islamia for its Mass Communication programme, and AMU for its History department. the UGC thinks the one size fits all formula can work here, but it is doomed to fail. Overall, you are compromising quality by reducing the number of credits. Currently, I am taking five classes a week, but with the new regime, only three classes will have to be taken. What will students learn?"

Mayukh Biswas, General Secretary, the Students’ Federation of India, told NewsClick that he is apprehensive about the increased number of dropouts resulting from the implementation of the new framework. He said that the approach to higher education seems to have shifted from knowledge to market where the availability of cheap labour is the focus. “Introducing FYUP would be most detrimental to students from OBC, SC/ST and other marginalised communities. It sets back the advances made through years of struggle by teachers and students to implement the 50% reservation in an otherwise upper caste-dominated classroom. Social factors like caste, religious status, class and gender would play a significant role in making a student exit which cannot be merely disregarded as personal reasons when it puts them at a severe disadvantage in their future academic and employment prospects. This will result in a large number of students belonging to marginalised backgrounds exiting the system, ultimately leaving a privileged section alone to monopolise all the resources.”

Biswas also raised questions about the research programme in the fourth year. He said, “I mean, students can do some form of documentation and paperwork but expecting research in the fourth year is a gimmick. Where are the teachers in the universities to look after research? The vacancies in the universities are mounting, and still, there is no recruitment. Where are the libraries with books and journals to back the research.” A government reply in the Lok Sabha this winter season stated that there were 33% vacancies in the central universities.

N Saibalaji, General Secretary, All India Students Association, told NewsClick that the warning by Dr B R Ambedkar has come to the fore to haunt us about institutional regimentation of casteism, which finds legitimacy in the new four-year framework. “Until now, providing education was a constitutional responsibility. The new framework says it in your face that you buy education up to the level you can afford and get lost. It is very easy to say that a student can opt out and come back, but our experience suggests that a student who leaves a certificate while other batchmates are in class will have less chance to get employed,” he said.

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