EC Member Abha Dev Habib urges UGC’s intervention to stop FYUP

Prof. Ved Prakash,
Chairman,
University Grants Commission,
New Delhi

1 May 2013

Sub: Introduction of new degrees and new courses for the degrees at Delhi University

Dear Prof. Prakash,

This is to bring to your notice the untenability and the undesirability of the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) which is proposed to be introduced in the University of Delhi from the academic session 2013-14. The fact that one University is shifting to a four year programme for award of an undergraduate Honours degree itself creates a disparity and disharmony within higher education and in the education-employment design inherent in the national policy of 10+2+3 system. This will have adverse implications for students admitted to Delhi University (DU) at the undergraduate level and also for students wishing to enter DU for post-graduate studies. Many serious questions regarding the specifics of the FYUP with regard to its suitability as an academic programme, lack of harmony with the school education system and post-graduate education apart from absence of flexibility, absence of choices for students and undermining of employability need to be examined with care before allowing a drastic structural change to be thrust on students making life-choices. The Constitutional mandate on the Parliament toward co-ordination and maintenance standards in higher education for which the UGC has been established requires your attention to all details and ramifications and a nation-wide debate to be reasonably certain about the wisdom underlying such a restructuring.

The proposal to switch to the FYUP programme was placed for the first time before the Academic Council on 24.12.2012. A structure to that effect was circulated only in the evening of 21.12.2012. For a body that had no time prior to this date to deliberate any proposal related to a four year programme, the on the spot decision of such a magnitude is a cause for concern and scrutiny. More so, since even before the Academic Council had deliberated the matter, the Executive Council had already been convened for 26.12.2012 only to give immediate approval without any question regarding infrastructural feasibility and requirements let alone the academic design proposed. No stocktaking of infrastructure was done which was particularly necessary in the context of massive shortage of space that colleges are already facing in the current three year system after 54% expansion in intake following reservation for OBC students. No report on requirements for additional teachers in view of the further 33% increase in the number of students in each college was placed. These lapses emphasise how undue haste leads to a failure to apply mind even to some basic issues.

Further, the Academic Council also adopted a common structure that is rigid compared to the current system. Choices available to students with regard to disciplines as well as optional / elective papers within a discipline have been practically removed. The claim that the proposed programme provides opportunities to students to explore and find their “inner calling” has no basis in the proposed structure. The claim of greater flexibility and learner-centricity for the programme cannot be sustained. In fact, there is regression on both counts. For, example, while the seats for non-Honours streams are being merged and re-appropriated by various disciplines, no upper limit on the size of lecture class has been discussed. This failure renders the claim of learner-centricity and greater student-teacher interaction by converting one lecture class per week to students’ presentations baseless. Similarly, 4 applied papers in the second and third year without clarity about the rigour is merely an ill-thought attempt to symbolically vocationalise which may not enhance employability and at the same time divert from rigorous education.

The 11 foundations courses based more or less on 11 different disciplines which are to be common and compulsory for all students, irrespective of the streams they have pursued at the +2 level – Arts, Science or Commerce – , would have to be taught at school level. Such a large set of common compulsory papers has serious implications for learning experience and outcomes. Since no university of any standard in the world practices this, implementation of such an idea should await further thought. When the 10+2+3 scheme was adopted as national policy, depending on the infrastructural possibilities schools offered education either up to Class X or up to Class XII.

A serious academic decision should have been preceded by open, transparent and thoughtful deliberations by the academic community. It should be noted that due observance of the statutory provisions of DU would have required the Academic Council to have sent its proposal for discussion and opinion to the Faculties as has been envisaged in Statute 10 and for the Faculties, in turn, to the Committees of Courses as envisaged in Ordinance XIV-B(6) read with Regulation 16-A(4). Moreover, since the FYUP is to be carried out mostly in colleges, the Staff Councils of Colleges, which under the University Ordinances are vested with the responsibility of organising teaching, should have been consulted both about the feasibility and appropriateness of the programme. Avoidance of debate and scrutiny and the reluctance to respond to uncomfortable questions is not an academically acceptable method of decision making by the Academic Council which is entrusted with the maintenance of standards.

The adverse consequences of one university in isolation deviating from the nation-wide scheme of 10+2+3 without even bothering to simultaneously take a view of its existing 2 year PG structure, which too is the national practice, would be further compounded by a completely non-academic approach towards framing of courses of studies for the degrees and formulation of syllabi of papers for these courses. A letter by the Dean of Colleges to the Heads of Departments written on 5 March 2013 directed each department to frame courses and produce syllabi for about 30 papers within 15 days. The letter also demanded that the fundamental principles and ideas of each discipline paper be interdisciplinary/ trans-disciplinary. Even those who have been arguing for interdisciplinary or trans-disciplinary approaches in higher education would be astounded by such a demand of every discipline paper. The manner in which various committees of courses have framed courses of studies and the Faculties have adopted those without members having an opportunity for even a cursory glance, large volumes having been presented on the table and not prior to the meetings, suggests abdication of any responsibility toward academic standards in the University. We value academic autonomy of the University but not the autonomy to rubber-stamp without having the time to examine what they are approving. The matter, therefore, is serious and in the interest of students and academics must not ignored.

In this context, the role of the UGC becomes paramount in protecting the future of students. In accordance with the mandate given to the UGC with respect to Entry 66 to List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, the UGC has the responsibility toward co-ordination and maintenance of standards in higher education. Section 22(3) of the Act makes it mandatory for the University to admit students to degrees which are specified by the UGC. The Associate Baccalaureate, Baccalaureate and Baccalaureate with Honours are yet to be specified as degrees in any Gazette Notification. The UGC has the responsibility to examine and ensure that no disparities adversely affecting standards of education or students admitted to FYUP or students wishing to enter Delhi University at PG level would occur.
The UGC regulation of 2003 relating to grant of first degree prohibits grant of the first degree to a student before completion of three years. The proposed degree of Associate Baccalaureate after two years of education is not permissible till such time as the regulation is changed.

Even if the nomenclatures of the degrees were to be specified by the UGC, the University of Delhi cannot offer new courses of studies for these degrees since the Gazette Notification No. F.1-52/97 dated 31 January 2004 requires the University to have approached the UGC six months prior to starting the degree programme and after having the courses of studies duly approved through the statutory bodies. The process of framing courses of studies is still not completed while students would be admissions are due to begin from 5 June 2013. The period of six months has been stipulated as the minimum period so that the UGC can examine the aspects of co-ordination and maintenance of standards.

We therefore urge immediate intervention by the UGC since the requirement of sufficient time period provided in the regulations cannot be met by University of Delhi before the start of the next academic session. The University of Delhi should be asked to end the uncertainties and inform the public, specifically the thousands of young students who are to make crucial life-choices, that the proposed four-year undergraduate programme will not start in the coming academic session.

We further urge that a national debate on the matter be initiated and, pending a reasonably sound conclusion, hasty ill thought decisions should not be allowed to be implemented.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

Abha Dev Habib
Member, Executive Council,
University of Delhi

Enclosed:
1. A note containing relevant clauses (1) from the DU Act, Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations, (2) from the UGC Act, Regulations and Gazette Notifications and (3) two paragraphs from an order by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the role of the UGC.

Copy to: Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju, Minister, HRD

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