EC member Abha Dev Habib writes again to the UGC

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

6 May 2013

Sub: Urging UGC to intervene to stop implementation of Four-Year Undergraduate Programme from July 2013

Dear Prof. Prakash,

University of Delhi is in the midst of implementation of a major restructuring of undergraduate studies. Three year UG programmes are being replaced by a Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) with multiple exit points. The FYUP has received much criticism from the faculty members within the University and from educators and concerned citizens across the country. Many pertinent issues have been raised which need to be addressed. Since I had last written to you (letter dated 1 May 2013), I have learnt that because of your intervention, University of Delhi has proposed changes in the nomenclature of the degrees under FYUP and that the Two Year Degree (proposed as Associate Baccalaureate) has been changed to a Diploma as per UGC requirements for grant of the first degree.

The most important issue, which stems from the fact that University of Delhi is a Central University, is that any radical change of this nature has to be debated at the national level. We are in the 10+2+3 scheme under a National Policy and students come to Delhi University for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies. It is with the vision to provide parity and equal opportunity to all that the National Policy on Education stipulated a common Educational structure of (10+2+3). As increase in the span of undergraduate studies has financial implications both for the Government and for students, it is important that a change of this magnitude is brought through inclusive debate and a new policy, if any, be adopted through deliberations in the Parliament

Besides this, many basic issues have been raised on the implications of the FYUP for quality and equity and UGC’s role becomes essential on the following counts:

1. 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 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 in Higher Education. The Supreme Court judgment on 11 February 2005 in the Writ Petition (Civil) 19 of 2004 (Prof. Yashpal & Anr. vs State of Chhatisgarh & Ors.) upholds this overriding mandate to the UGC (paragraph 17 and 30 of the judgment) relating to the coordination and maintenance of standards.

The rules framed for the UGC to carry out the Constitutional mandate also provide a mechanism for not allowing any university to take hasty and perverse decisions which will affect students. The rules do not undermine university autonomy but provide a mechanism whereby a university is required to thoroughly examine all aspects and ramifications of its decisions with care and patience and address serious concerns before introduction of any major change.

2. Courses under FYUP are new courses of study

FYUP with multiple exit points is a completely new structure of 4 years duration. The structure passed in the 24 December 2012 meeting of the Academic Council and subsequently in the Executive Council held on 26 December 2012 moves away from the Three-year programmes on the following counts:

  • a) It changes the span of the Honours programme (4 years) and introduces the concept of multiple exit points.
  • b) It includes 11 mandatory Foundation Courses for all students irrespective of their streams.
  • c) It integrates B.Sc Programme, B.A programme, B.Com (Pass) and the Honours programmes into one common framework.
  • d) The nomenclatures of papers indicating the specific areas they deal with in most discipline have been changed and the sequencing of papers has also been changed to accommodate three different kinds of courses of studies for the three separate degrees.
  • e) It introduces two mandatory modules of Integrating Mind, Body and Heart.
  • f) The DU administration tells us that Sports and Cultural Activities (which constitute six modules in the FYUP structure) will be given credits.
  • g) A press Statement issued by the Registrar on 24.12.2012 to report the decision of the Academic Council describes the proposed programme as “a new revolutionary programme”.
  • Given these completely new features, FYUP comes as an overhaul of the existing degree programmes at Delhi University. The courses under FYUP are new irrespective of whether some papers of some disciplines are reproduced. The Delhi University cannot escape the provisions of the Gazette Notification by claiming that the courses of study are not new courses but revision of the existing ones by merely changing the nomenclature of the Degrees back to the existing ones and introducing a new Diploma.

3. FYUP and Issues pertaining to Standards of Education

Teachers at Delhi University are exercised about the ramification of FYUP for the teaching-learning process, quality of education and inclusion policy. We list here briefly various aspects of FYUP which need to be investigated:

  • a) The specific framework proposed by the Academic Council involves fitting into a common and inflexible framework three different courses of studies with distinctly different requirements for three separate degrees of different duration. The difficulties for designing courses of studies for three separate degrees of different scope, requirements and target groups within a common framework which will suit all needs and ensure coherence of the academic programme for each of the degrees are immense. The task is nearly impossible to achieve unless each discipline offers several papers with distinctly different coverage and rigour for the same areas/topics as options/electives in such a way that coherent choices can be made by students exiting at any point of time to be equipped with a meaningful understanding in the chosen discipline. However, the structure of the FYUP does not provide choices within the disciplines at all. That makes the task of designing courses of acceptable standards for the three degrees of different duration impossible. Papers of requisite rigour sequenced for a student who wishes to complete four years would be unsuitable for students who leave earlier since they would have pursued only a few papers and not gained a sufficiently holistic view of the discipline. If papers of any discipline courses are designed to offer such a view of a discipline to those who wish to exit early they may be unsuitable and of lower standard for those who wish to complete the four years.
  • b) Foundation Courses 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. These foundation courses are all compulsory for all students irrespective of the streams (Arts, Science, Commerce) they come from. Though the syllabi for these Foundation Courses is not known, the apprehension is that they will be of school level as these are compulsory papers. Thus more than one-fourth of the overall course content will be occupied by these school level courses. It is important to investigate if we would be able to retain the interest of the students by offering these dumbed-down courses.
  • It is completely unknown as to which Departments have been given responsibility of framing syllabi for the Foundation Courses. A letter to the colleges by the Dean of Colleges written on 25 April 2013 invites teachers to attend orientation programmes. This is for the first time that the DU administration has spelt out which Departments will share these Foundation Courses. Even those branches of knowledge/departments which are supposed to teach and examine the Foundation courses have not been given the task to frame the syllabi. These courses have thus not been examined by any Committee of Courses or Faculty. They will be directly placed before Academic Council for approval.
  • c) Any change at the UG level has to be in harmony with school education. Whereas students are allowed to move towards specific streams after class X, it seems completely irrational to make eleven Foundation Courses mandatory. To offer the same course to all, without providing bridge courses for those who have not followed a particular discipline till class XII, will prove to be discriminatory. The fact that there is no choice will act as barrier for students.
  • d) Delhi University caters to more than one and a half lakhs students in the regular courses and almost four lakhs students in the School of Open Learning. The students of the School of Open Learning, who were part of the mainstream till the semesterisation of the regular courses, already find their options reduced; this will be increased significantly with the 4-year programme in regular courses. It is mandatory for the University to offer the same courses in SOL and this stands violated for last three years (since semesterization). Clause 7 (d) in the New Policy on Distance Learning in Higher Education Sector circulated by the MHRD stipulates:
  • The universities/institutions shall only offer such programmes through distance mode which are on offer on their campuses through conventional mode.
  • e) The changes in the degree programmes at the undergraduate have to be in consonance with the Postgraduate programme. The proposal of FYUP does not outline the shape and structure of the postgraduate programmes. The structure of the UG programme should not be decided independent of the postgraduate programmes. It is once again through media reports we hear that the PG courses for our Honours students will be for one year (this once again demonstrates the manner in which decisions are being taken). It is also important to underline that if the PG courses were to be reduced to one year, this will severely affect the quality of (3+2) education at DU, this is because the FYUP courses have barely retained what is being currently taught at the UG level. The extra year in FYUP is effectively being spent on the Foundation Courses.
  • f) 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. This exposes the callous attitude of the DU administration towards academic standards and excellence. The syllabi of many of these courses have not been scrutinized by CoC, agenda papers were not circulated before the Faculty meetings, so that decisions.were taken without application of mind at all levels.
  • g) A switch to a four year programme from the existing three year programmes would have infrastructural and logistical requirements. For the same intake of students each year, the total number of students would increase by one-third requiring each college to provide proportionately more physical infrastructure in terms of rooms for lecture classes, tutorials and practicals, extra library space and facilities and sports facilities. The Academic Council has not provided any data / report on the basis of taking stock of existing infrastructure, following 54% expansion in intake in the recent years on account of OBC reservation. It did not estimate the additional requirements on these counts that a four year programme would require and consequently neither verified the feasibility of a four year programme nor the time frame required to augment infrastructural and logistical support. The Academic Council did not consider the additional requirement of teachers and did not seek from the UGC or any other agency additional teaching positions. These issues would have been the first ones even a non-academic body would have taken into account.
    A letter of the Registrar dated 16 April 2013 asks colleges to frame guidelines for Admission, Examination and Time Table for the Academic year 2013-14 keeping in mind the following:
    (i) Colleges shall work within the limit of faculty already sanctioned i. e. the faculty existing before the implementation of OBC reservation plus the number of additional faculty sanctioned to the College by the UGC under OBC expansion.
    (ii) Availability of infrastructure i. e. class rooms, labs etc. in the college.
    This letter makes it clear that the administration is not exercised about the expansion of infrastructure or requirement of teachers in order to maintain academic standards.
  • h) Multiple Exit Points Even at the existing rates, one extra year in an alien expensive city will mean cutting access to higher education for many. The rate of drop-outs will increase as we will be legitimising it. The multiple exit points (at two, three and four years) will ensure that only the privileged (not only socially but economically also) will reach the last stage of getting a Honours degree while students from marginalised and underprivileged backgrounds will be forced to exit with a lower degree. Women students from economically backward backgrounds, ST, SC, and OBC students and those from rural backgrounds will be most affected. This will create more inequalities instead of addressing issues of social justice.
    In many courses, especially the highly competitive ones, it would be difficult for students to return after a gap to successfully cope with the demands of a Hons. Degree and hence, the claim that this would help students belonging to SC/ST is a myth.

We, therefore, urge the UGC to intervene urgently and stop the implementation of the FYUP from July 2013.

With regards,
Yours sincerely

Abha Dev Habib
Member, Executive Council,
University of Delhi

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