Critique of the 4-year graduation structure

Passed by the AC and EC on 24.12.12.

Below is a list of initial points towards a critique of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme with Multiple Degree Option that is supposed to be introduced from July 2013. More points are likely to emerge, particularly when the proposal is scrutinised from the point of view of specific disciplines. We appeal to you to add your comments / suggestions in the box at the bottom of the page so that the critique can be made more comprehensive.

The proposal was prepared by a secret task force (that did not include even a single member from several major disciplines) hand-picked by the VC and sprung on teachers in the AC meeting held during the vacations on a restricted holiday and festival. The document has not even been seen by most professors in the departments or colleges, leave alone scrutinised and debated. Restructuring of courses cannot be imposed in a top-down manner. The Committees of Courses are entrusted with the task of proposing restructuring of courses vide Regulation 16-A.4, this should be followed then by deliberations in the Faculties. The Faculties 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.

This half-baked scheme, if imposed on the University, will destroy it or whatever is left of it completely.

Major Concerns

  1. A shift from 3-year graduation programme to a 4- year is a much larger issue than the shift from annual to semester. We are in 10+2+3 scheme under the National Policy of Education. It is not for a Central University to shift to 4-year graduation programme in isolation. Such a change should be arrived at only after due deliberations at the national level. It can be/ should be brought about only if the Government (both Central and State Governments) promise money for infrastructure development in the public funded colleges and universities and create more posts. Without investment, this change is bound to be at the cost of quality which currently stands severely damaged as the colleges and University till date have not been able to cope up with OBC expansion. Introduction of fourth year is a very crucial matter for the nation as it requires students and parents to spend money towards Higher Education for an extra year. The out-station students who study in Delhi end up spending Rs 7000- 10,000 per month towards rent and food apart from the fees.

    This shift shall also create anomalies for students coming from other Universities to do Post-graduation in DU and vice versa.

    We wish to highlight that 4-year graduation is not our organic need. Our students have done very well in academics and research both within and outside the country. The VC’s vision paper circulated to the AC members did not present any national survey or report arguing for four year graduation programme with multiple exit points.

  1. A large University like ours, which caters to 1.5 lakh students in regular courses and 4 lakh students in SOL, cannot be experimented upon every two years. The University administration has failed to respond to the problems which semester system has resulted in. It was important for the University administration to initiate review of semesterization, instead they are rushing yet another reform which essentially uses semester system.

  1. The multiple exit points, which give a false sense of option, will create real dropouts. The only filter which will actually function is the affordability. The National Knowledge Commission report (2009) which forms basis of all the Education Bills also recommends that 20% of institutional expenditure should come from student fees. We have recently witnessed 80% fee hike in IITs. With accelerated inflation, the multiple exit points are likely to result in the elimination of students belonging to the weaker and underpriviledged sections of society. As far as the option to come back is concerned, it is important to acknowledge that in a structured society like ours, this option will not work for most – especially SCs/STs/OBCs and women.

    It is also important to investigate the employability of those who will quit early with a lesser degree. The first exit-point mars the credibility and value of such a programme as the University has decided to offer an “associate degree” (equivalent of a diploma) to the students exiting at this point without any employable or critical skills. The Vice-Chancellor has callously claimed that this associate degree will make such students eligible to teach in primary schools, a claim that has been vociferously and logically refuted by the Faculty of Education which already offers a good-quality B.El.Ed. course in the University. The Women’s colleges which operate on the outskirts of Delhi fear that most parents will allow their daughters to attend college only for two years in such a graduation programme.

  1. 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.

On the structure

  1. A student has to do a total of 42 credit courses in the four years of which as many as 11 are compulsory ‘foundation’ courses in various disciplines, such as ‘Building Mathematical Ability’, ‘Science and Life’, ‘Psychology’. Since these foundation courses are all compulsory for all students irrespective of the streams (Arts, Science, Commerce) they come from, they must necessarily be of a fairly rudimentary standard. Thus more than one-fourth of the overall course content will be occupied by these school level courses. Essentially, therefore, it can be said that the extra fourth year added to the existing three year undergraduate honours programme, is basically taken up by these foundation courses. Does this justify the extra time taken and expense borne by a student (in terms of both fees and living expenses, especially for outstation students) to acquire an undergraduate degree?

  1. The USP of Delhi University has always been its rigorous Honours courses, in which students do an in-depth study of a particular discipline, and thereby develop intellectual rigour, learning to think independently and creatively. Our honours graduates have been able to hold their own in top-ranked institutions all over the world. One of the basic principles adopted formally in past Academic Council meetings while bringing in interdisciplinary courses was that the main discipline will form at least two-thirds of the total content, so that the focus is not diluted. In the four year structure being sought to be implemented, the main discipline is allotted only 20 of the 42 credit courses, making the weightage less than half of the total. This, in itself, is a huge dilution of the Honours course.

  1. In the proposal passed by the AC/EC, a weekly “presentation by students” is mentioned. Given the size of classes and length of a semester, a student would be able to get at most 5-7 minutes for a “presentation” and without any time for discussion, making the entire exercise a farce. The proposal does mention that “Tutorial/Practical will continue wherever applicable” but neither the size of the tutorial/practical groups nor the frequency of holding them is specified. Tutorials are the backbone of our Honours system, which enable our students to get individual attention. Rather than ensuring that tutorials are held by improving infrastructure, the University may be planning to replace them with the “presentations” in the lecture classes. As for practicals, there can be no Science without them. It has to be ensured that these are held with reasonable frequency and in relatively small groups commensurate with the equipment and space available.

  1. The existing BA/B.Sc. (programme), which was an integrated course giving equal weightage to at least three disciplines will be replaced by a three year course in which students will be permitted to study only two disciplines in the most lop-sided manner viz. fourteen courses from the first disciple and four from the second! Thus if anyone wants to study an equal amount of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, they cannot. They can only do two out of the three and that too with overriding emphasis on one. They will of course do the 11 compulsory foundation courses, and 5 application courses. In all, their academic discipline courses will be only 14 out of 38 courses.

  1. The workload for students, which had become intolerably heavy in the current semester system with four papers per semester, will be increased by more than 50% in the four year structure with as many as six credit courses and one non-credit course per semester. With teachers just rushing through syllabi, students have no time to read or understand any subject, and end up mugging blindly for exams. Students from weaker sections are getting wiped out despite the regular inflation of marks by the University administration to cover up their dismal performance. Even the best students are not getting the opportunity to learn to think independently and creatively, a prerequisite for doing any kind of intellectual work, including research.

    The exam system is in a state of chaos, with examinees being marked absent, marksheets reading 102/100, confidentiality given up, special chances to take unfinished exams withdrawn, revaluation under threat of withdrawal. There is no redressal for students with grievances. All this will become much worse with the new increased burden.

  1. The proposed 4-year graduation programme offers only a single format – with no distinction between Honours and B.A. programme/B.Sc programme/ B.Com. In the 4-year, the number of years spent and therefore, number of papers shall decide the degree. Till now, various streams catered to different needs of the students – the coursework and structures of the Honours and General programmes were completely different.

    How the BA programme/ B.Sc programme seats will be converted into disciplines is also a matter of great concern. We have been told that admissions will be done on the basis of the first(main)discipline. Since there will be no separation of Honours and Programme students, it will be difficult to decide at which level the subject matter should be pitched. Currently, the training of Honours students is more in-depth and rigorous, whereas the exposure to the integrated programme students is more application oriented, as it is for example for Engineering students. In the combined classes both would suffer. Students from weaker sections/ sports persons etc who found it easier to cope with the BA Programme rather than Honours would be in severe difficulties.

  1. With the combined single discipline oriented admissions, certain colleges with “brand value” would get a surfeit of Honours students who continue till the fourth year, whereas, there would be some colleges in which the fourth year would be practically wiped out. These would create severe disparities between colleges. The demographic profile of each college, which is currently a mix of many types, would also suffer, affecting our heterogeneous and diverse character. The exit points after two years and three years would encourage students from economically weaker sections, SCs, STs, OBCs and women, to drop out.

  1. It was announced in the AC that the usual practice of holding general body meetings of subject teachers to form groups for preparing syllabi would not be followed. Instead, the VC has been authorised to have the courses made and sent to the Committees of Courses. We are extremely sceptical about the quality of such courses, which we will be forced to teach in July.

On Workload and Infrastructure

  1. There are inbuilt fluctuations in workload, and uncertainties imposed by the exit points after two years and three years. The market forces shall decide whether the students will prefer to leave or continue.

  2. This instability will be further enhanced by the manner of distribution of the foundation courses across semesters, since some subjects will be taught in the odd semesters and some in the even ones.

  3. This will make contractual appointments on a large scale a permanent feature, result in the flight of talent from the teaching profession and lead to further severe decline in the quality of education imparted.

  1. Even in the current three year system, there is severe shortage of space and infrastructure. No improvement was done in the wake of the 50% expansion of seats to accommodate OBC students. There is no commitment from the UGC to fund infrastructure or appointments necessary for the four year structure to be put in place.

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One thought on “Critique of the 4-year graduation structure

  1. Education which is a professional degree course and is called upon to do major transformation has been chosen for dilution of standards in the proposed structure. Trs are already struggling with inadequate low quality education inputs. The NCTE was formed by an act of parliament to improve quality of teacher education. With no space for practicum in the present structure and no discussion with the university departments how can the teacher education quality be improved.

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