EC member Abha Dev Habib urges UGC to intervene

Professor Ved Prakash,
Chairman,
University Grants Commission,
New Delhi

16 May 2013

Subject: Request for urgent intervention and response
on the issue of implementation of FYUP

Dear Professor Ved Prakash,

I thank you for having given us a patient hearing on the various aspects and ramifications of the proposed four year undergraduate programme in the University of Delhi. We had drawn your attention to the following issues In the course of the discussion and in my written representations dated 2 May 2013 and 6 May 2003:

  1. That the University of Delhi switching to a four year programme in isolation creates a disparity. The students admitted to the undergraduate courses in the University would be at a disadvantage and take longer to complete post-graduate studies elsewhere in the country. In fact, the Authorities of the University who took the decision have not even considered the structure of the post-graduate programme and in haste, in an ad hoc manner restructured the undergraduate programme. Therefore, a nation-wide debate leading to a coherent policy must take place before a university of this size is permitted to go ahead.
  2. That no inspection of the infrastructural facilities and their adequacy to meet the 54% expansion in intake which has already occurred has been made and no report on additional requirement to accommodate an extra batch has been considered while taking the decision to switch to a four year programme.
  3. That over 4000 permanent teaching positions have not been filled and an ambitious programme that claims innovations in pedagogy and new structures would be severely compromised as teachers are going to change frequently when they find employment elsewhere. Both the flight of talent from the teaching profession and frequent changes of teachers have serious negative implications for the fate of the students.
  4. That the rigid structure into which the four year programme with multiple degree/exit options has been fitted is antithetical to equity and excellence for the following reason:
    (a) A student is admitted to the discipline (DC-I) in which she is to major. The structure of the four year programme adopted in the University of Delhi requires her to study 18 papers of the discipline and two research papers to complete the Honours degree. Invariably, DC-I courses have exactly 18 papers structured and sequenced in a manner appropriate for an Honours programme. In no case do the DC-I courses offer any choice of papers in the first three years. As a consequence, those exiting at the end of two or three years would not have any exposure to major areas of the discipline. This would render education in the major discipline incomplete, not rounded and bereft of coherence. Sequencing papers to meet the distinctly different needs of the diploma or three year degree programme would severely dilute the rigour of the Honours programme which have already suffered in terms of standards because of lack of / reduction in options / electives within the discipline papers. The incoherence of objectives is thus inherent to the structure with its multiple exit points and poses a threat to standards.
    (b) That the stipulation of a large number of common compulsory papers in the name of foundation courses and language skills of the same rigour for students who have specialised in separate areas at the +2 level is consuming a whole year’s time in reproducing school education. That such a system of large number of compulsory foundation courses of common rigour is not practiced in any in institution of repute. It seriously compromises the academic content of the courses of study for the diploma and degrees. This effect is crippling for those exiting at the end of two / three years since a year’s time lost on ill-conceived foundation courses is lost out of the first two years.
    (c) Each student is to do 2 discipline-based applied courses in the second year and two more in the third year. Apart from the fact that those leaving at the end of two years would have studied very little of the major discipline and hardly much vocational skill. Those leaving earlier as a consequence are not employable due to severe deficiencies in academic competency while even four applied courses do not compare with vocational education. Those for disadvantaged background will be further disadvantaged.
    (d) Moreover, when each department framed discipline-based applied courses many departments framed them keeping students who are pursuing the relevant discipline as the major discipline. No guidelines were provided by the Academic Council when it adopted the structure. Some departments have framed 4 applied courses for all students irrespective of the discipline they are to major in. Some departments such as Economics department has shifted its additional honours courses, that did not fit in the 18 papers, to the applied courses. After courses were framed, the Academic Council took a decision in the meeting of 7 May 2013 that a student can mix and match the applied courses. This choice is facile as well as confusing for students without any concrete reference points to guide them.
    (e) The Academic Council had approved a structure requiring a student to 2 papers of a minor discipline (DC-II) in the second year, two more in third year and another two in the fourth year. Again it was not stipulated whether a student is to study all the six DC-II papers from the same discipline or may choose more than one minor discipline. Mostly, departments have structured and sequenced six papers in a manner that it may not be possible for a student not to be able to cope with 2 papers of one discipline in the third year without having done the two papers of the same discipline in the second year.
  5. The restructuring of the undergraduate programme without simultaneously considering post-graduate programme is a highly questionable exercise. Apart from the co-ordination problem across universities, the structure of the post-graduate education is going to be determined after a fait accompli is presented. In fact, the Vice-Chancellor has been talking to the media without the statutory bodies applying their minds that it would be a credit based system of a kind that would require about one year time for DU students who have studied for four years and about two years for others. If it is to be accepted, the post-graduate programme would suffer in terms of academic content and rigour since the four year undergraduate programme has not added any more discipline content apart from two research papers. This re-emphasises the need for a harmonised and coherent vision to be arrived at before ad hoc and hasty implementation of any part begins.
  6. It has also been brought to your notice that the Faculties and Committees of courses were not allowed to give their opinion on the need for a four year programme, the structure in which the courses have to be framed and the infirmities in the structure which cannot meet the requirements of the courses of study for three separate programmes. That even after taking a hurried a decision on 24 December 2012 to switch to four years, the Committees of Courses were told very late only on 5 March 2013 with hardly any time for application mind to frame large number of courses. Further, the time frame of 15 days given to them to frame DC-I, DC-II and Apllied Courses and the dubious guidelines as to how they were to frame courses has vitiated the course design.
  7. That the extension of the Honours Programme by one year would add to the pressure to exit earlier on all students from socially and economically disadvantaged sections. The rigid structure, eleven compulsory Foundation Courses, and undue weightage on project work shall put these students in a disadvantageous position. The model shall work against the idea of equity.

The role of the UGC in discharging the responsibility entrusted with it, vide the University Grants Commission Act, under the Constitutional mandate of ‘co-ordination and maintenance of standards’ is central. The UGC has the power to inspect the infrastructural facilities, availability of teachers of required quality before allowing these new courses framed for a wholly new programme. The UGC has the power to determine and ascertain the nature and volume of the course of study apart from infrastructural facilities. I had indicated that the Gazette Notification No. F.1-52/97 (CPP-II) dated 31.1.2004 is one of the instrumentalities to achieve these objectives. Notwithstanding particular rules, the role of the UGC here is overriding. Quoting the opinion of the Hon’ble Supreme Court: “In order to achieve the aforesaid objectives, the role of UGC comes at the threshold. The course of study, its nature and volume, has to be ascertained and determined before the commencement of academic session. Proper standard of teaching cannot be achieved unless there are adequate infrastructural facilities in the campus like classrooms, libraries, laboratories, well-equipped teaching staff of requisite caliber and a proper student-teacher ratio. For this purpose, the Central Government has made a number of Rules in exercise of powers conferred by Section 25 of UGC Act and the Commission has also made Regulations in exercise of power conferred by Section 26 of the UGC Act”. (Writ Petition (civil) 19 of 2004, Prof. Yashpal & Anr. vs State of Chhattisgarh & Ors.)

The University of Delhi is hurriedly going ahead with announcing the admission process for the new programme and the admission forms will be issued from 5 June 2013. I would request you for an urgent reply as to whether the UGC has carried out the necessary scrutiny and come to a view on the veracity of my representations. It seems that the UGC has not yet examined all requirements for the new programmes and how they are going to be met; neither has it examined all the ramifications of the programme. I hence plead for immediately holding back the introduction till such issues are debated and some considered opinion emerges.

Thanking you,
With regards,

Dr. Abha Dev Habib
Member, Executive Council

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