Dissent Note against 4 year graduation

Submitted by elected AC members

We, the undersigned, are constrained to record our dissent on item numbers 2.1.6 and 2.1.7 of the Agenda for the AC meeting of 24.12.2012 since our demand for a secret ballot has not been honoured by the Chairperson of the Academic Council. We wish to record that on the above items no vote has been taken in the Academic Council in violation of the procedure stipulated in Regulation 3.7.

We oppose the proposal for a four-year bachelor’s degree course with multiple exit options on the following grounds among others:

  1. A proposal at variance with the national policy on education that stipulates 10+2+3 scheme has been brought forth in a hasty and perfunctory manner without offering any academic justification. In the interest of students who are to be admitted to the University, it is only appropriate that if upon due debate and academic scrutiny, it were to be decided that a four-year programme is desirable and feasible, the new scheme should await implementation till the national policy is reconsidered through wider consultations with all stakeholders. Delhi University should not switch to a new system in isolation. Further, itt is only wise and just to examine all views and opinions before thrusting a questionable system on students or tinkering with a working system.

  2. The fact that a proposal of this nature involving massive overhauling of the undergraduate courses has been brought to the Academic Council through discussions and deliberations in closed-door meetings of some nominated bodies and a few informal meetings. The casual approach to deliberation on a serious matter is evident that even the task force constituted by the VC has not completed its deliberations and the AC members have been notified in the evening of 21.12.2012 of a new draft. This is unacceptable since it does not provide adequate time for consultations and reflection.

  3. Extension of the undergraduate Honours degree courses by an additional year requires massive accretion to the physical space for holding lectures, tutorials and practicals as also to the number of teachers in the colleges. These additional infrastructural requirements and the required number of teachers have to be substantial if in reality more choices are to be offered to students. A stock-taking of such requirements should have been made and presented. The fact is that since the 54% expansion in intake following OBC reservations in 2007, most colleges are not in a position to provide the required number of lectures, tutorials and practicals to the students admitted to the 3 year undergraduate degrees. On account of an additional year the extent of increase in the number of students in the colleges would be upto 33% unless most of the students are expected to drop out.

  4. The proposals before the Academic Council seem to be flavoured by empty sloganeering such as learner centricity, interactivity, peer learning, self-discovery and employability without the same finding concrete implementable framework. Making academic programmes more learner-centric requires more choices to students. Greater interaction and more active involvement of students in the teaching-learning process (for example for students to be given reasonable time for presentations) require smaller class size of about 20-25 and adherence to small tutorial group size of 6-8. Otherwise, the sloganeering is only to mislead and restructure the undergraduate structure for reasons which are not stated. In the name of employability, it would be unwise to push through semi-vocationalised courses in place of the existing liberal arts, humanities, social sciences and basic sciences courses.

  5. Any proposal for a fundamental overhauling of the existing programmes should be based on carefully and specifically identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system, examining the feasibilty of the changes proposed and rigorously justifying the manner in which the suggested changes are to overcome the weaknesses which have been identified. These must be done through deliberations in the Staff Councils of the colleges which are to implement the undergraduate programmes. The academic design/structure which is proposed must be debated and scrutinized by subject-wise general body of teachers followed by deliberations in the Committees of Courses which are entrusted with the task of proposing restructuring of courses vide Regulation 16-A.4, then by deliberations in the Faculties which vide Statute 8(vii) and Statute 10 read with Ordinance XIV-B(6) are to make their recommendations to the Academic Council on the basis of proposals from the Committees of Courses. These statutory mechanisms which are also mechanisms for academic scrutiny of proposals related to courses cannot be bypassed while taking decisions in the AC. With regard to courses, the AC can only recommend to the EC its proposals on the basis of the proposals from the Faculties. It is only academically and statutorily appropriate that the proposals before the AC are sent to the Departments, Faculties and Staff Councils of colleges before any decision is taken.

  6. The Task Force itself has recognised the need for greater involvement of college teachers, the argument being that they are more conversant with undergraduate courses and have greater experience and expertise. It, however, did not occur to the Task Force that for many decades a system of General Body of teachers of each subject which debated thoroughly the issues of restructuring of courses and revision of syllabi of papers prior to the respective Committees of Courses has been in place. This academic practice does not violate statutory provisions but enriches the due process by providing expertise and due scrutiny before changes are imposed on students. Without the due process of scrutiny, the Academic Council drawing its membership from diverse fields many of which are not related to the undergraduate programmes under discussion lacks necessary expertise and academic justification to take a decision in the matter. That it has in the recent past repeatedly become party to approving unscrutinized proposals in meetings called on emergent basis shows that on occasions the Academic Council has been reduced to acting as a rubber stamping body in complete disregard for Section 23 of the DU Act which establishes the Academic Council as “the academic body” of the University. This has further been legitimized by authorizing the V.C. for forming committees to prepare courses.

  7. The proposals do not outline the shape and structure of postgraduate programmes and those offered by the SOL. These omissions render the proposals incomplete. Without having clarity on the structure and content of the PG courses, adopting changes to the UG courses lack academic justification. The disparity between the students pursuing courses at SOL and those of regular courses would be further aggravated. It is unacceptable that the University does not care about the fate of over 4 lakhs students admitted to these courses.

  8. As has been argued by Professors of CIE, the provision for exit point after two years for students to qualify to become primary school teachers is a regressive one since various commissions and government policy documents have repeatedly reiterated the need for longer duration programmes for pre-service training of teachers. The University of Delhi itself offers quality B.El.Ed course in 8 colleges to prepare practitioners and professional cadres in elementary education. The commitment to school education would be better displayed if such courses are introduced in other colleges too rather than attempting en-masse production of school teachers in a minimalist framework.

  9. There are also issues of details which have to be examined in relation to the desirability of the academic design proposed. It requires time and wider consultations to form a considered opinion on the same. For example, (a) the ratio of number of courses in the main discipline courses to others in the Honours programme has been substantially reduced (b) the choices available to students with regard to concurrent discipline papers and concurrent interdisciplinary papers in case of B.A.(Honours) have been withdrawn, (c) the assignment of two periods per week to Cultural Activities as part of the course, etc. Though it is possible for us to elaborate the casualness with which papers have been cobbled together to create a four-year programme, we wish to emphasize that academic honesty and academic morality demands throwing open the proposals to formal and open debate and only then forming a considered view.

  10. We are concerned that there are unstated motives for this hasty attempt to restructure the present system whereas the need was for a review of the functioning of the semesterisation of the undergraduate courses which began in 2010-11. We also believe that the University has sought time from the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi to submit before it as to whether it was prepared to review the working of the semester system. The matter has not been reported to the Academic Council and the time sought from the Hon’ble High Court is being used to trick the Academic Council into adopting a new system to replace the disputed semesterisation. While this does not appear to be desirable institutional conduct during court proceedings, it certainly is undermining of the Authorities of the University such as the Academic Council and the Executive Council whose decisions the Vice-Chancellor is required to give effect to under Statute 11-G(5).

  11. The fact that the motions were put on vote to be expressed through saying pass/clapping in favor, and that invited members also took part in the process of voting.

Signed by:

Sheo Dutt
Renu Bala
Rakesh Kumar
Nikhil Jain
Amitava Chakraborty

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