UGC Draft Framework Would be Disastrous for Research, Say Academics

Tie-Ups Between Indian And Foreign Universities Simplified

After much speculation, University Grants Commission (UGC), the regulatory authority for central universities in the country, released its draft curriculum framework for four-year undergraduate programmes and the stakeholders can submit their comments till April 4, 2022. The final framework will be put in place to be taught at educational institutions in accordance with the New Education Policy (NEP).

The draft framework suggests that the colleges and universities will move away from three-year undergraduate courses to four-year undergraduate programmes with multiple exit points. The students will be awarded with a certificate, diploma, degree, and degree with honors if they successfully complete two semesters, four semesters, six semesters, and eight semesters, respectively.

The draft document suggests that the universities will offer common and introductory courses in the first three semesters to students in humanities, sciences, and social sciences. At the end of the third semester, the students need to choose two minors and one major in the disciplinary or inter-disciplinary field of study. Students may pursue further research in their major subject. While the framework remains unfinalized, universities like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have already given their assent to the four-year undergraduate programme.

Additionally, students passing four-year undergraduate programmes with CGPA of 7.5 will be eligible for admissions in Ph.D. courses. The draft suggesting amendments to the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedures for Award of Ph.D. Degree) Regulations, 2016 maintains that 60% of seats will be reserved to students qualifying for the National Eligibility Test/ Junior Research Fellowships (NET/JRF). NET is the qualifying examination for teaching in higher education institutes. The top 10% of those qualifying NET are awarded Junior Research Fellowship to pursue their research interests in each subject specified by the UGC.

Concerned over many provisions, academicians maintain that the draft framework dilutes the quality of research by doing away with the two-year master’s program. The UGC has already scrapped the M.Phil programme from the current academic session. Now, students would be able to pursue Ph.D. after the four-year bachelor’s programme.

Abha Dev Habib, a former Executive Council Member, told NewsClick that the new draft framework not only does away with master’s in arts and sciences courses but also dilutes the undergraduate programme itself.

The vast majority of students in higher education are undergraduates. According to the 2019-20 AISHE report, undergraduates constitute 3.06 crores out of a total of 3.85 crores. The FYUP scheme that is being proposed is going to simplify UG studies for this vast majority. Despite opposition, DU is currently preparing syllabi for an FYUP framework of 176 credits. We are horrified to note that we are not even able to save two-thirds of the course content as the number of hours of study has been reduced as opposed to the current system of three-year Choice Based Credit System of 148 credits. Honours degree will get diluted and teachers will face job loss.

She said,

She added that the students are made to spend 1.5 years of academics in learning common modules. It does not serve any purpose, according to her. She said that if the framework suggests that all students need to learn mathematics, the module would replicate the structure of curriculum of class X. Those who have already learned it will find it a frustrating repetition, and those who did not learn it came to universities to pursue other subjects. Why would parents be willing to spend their money on a course structure where much of the subjects have already been taught in schools, she asked. “It is asking teachers to evaluate students on Yoga practices. It is preposterous to say that doing yoga will bring you good marks. The officials fail to understand that it is a specialization that is celebrated across the world, not commons,” Habib said.

The structure of FYUP suggested by the National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) of a 3-years degree of 120 credits and a 4-years degree of 160 credits will cause extreme dilution of degrees for students and job loss for teachers. The idea of spending 3 semesters on modules that will be common to all students is an extremely faulty idea and was one of the major reasons for students to rally against the FYUP model at DU imposed in 2013. After schooling, which ends with intense study of certain subjects of choice only, wasting the time of students in higher education through diluted common modules for all streams diffuses the attention of students. Common modules for all students mean that these will be not even of the level of class XI and XII.

She added,

As a result, FYUP means that cost of education and years to earn a full UG degree will go up while there is no gain in learning and engagement with subjects in depth. To allow students to directly enroll in Ph.D. after such an FYUP means a big dilution of higher education. The current three-year UG plus two-year PG is more robust and rigorous than the framework of higher education imposed by NEP 2020,” Habib stated.

Talking about financial implications, she emphasized, “Where is the money for any expansion of existing infrastructure and capacities to host students for the fourth year? Think about colleges and universities across the country. No government has promised any money. In a country where many more should be brought into the fold of education, any expansion should be about giving admission to more students rather than hosting the same set for a longer period.”

Rohit, Assistant Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a core member of the JNU Teachers’ Association, said that doing away with the master’s programme will create a huge void in the sense that the students will have hardly any motivation for research. He said the UGC wants to bring in the American model of education where a student can go for a Ph.D. after qualifying in the GRE test. However, a minuscule population there goes for research where the applicant is rigorously evaluated. In India, the UGC did away with M.Phil because it cited several issues with it. But then students had master’s Subjects where they too could test themselves if they really wanted to pursue higher research, he said. In undergraduate courses, students are taught as per textbook method whereas Ph.D. students look at their field of study critically, Rohit added.

Speaking to NewsClick, Rohit said,” It will be difficult for both students as well as teachers. They will hardly get any training for research in the undergraduate honours programme. Can you train a passing undergraduate student about writing synopsis and thesis, doing field research, preparing questionnaires, etc. in such a short time? Frankly speaking, we are worried about mass drop-outs in research.”

The proposed structure is also worrying students over the future course of research. Alok Kumar, who recently passed his M.Phil in Linguistics from JNU, said that the new system is giving them easy options to quit rather than motivating them to engage further. Talking to NewsClick, he said that the students from poor parts of the country would find it difficult to afford their studies in expensive urban campuses. He said, “Doing away master simply means that the student will be entirely dependent on guides for research. Where is his intervention in research? Secondly, the easy option will move away from students from poor states from higher education. How will the issues of these areas will be dealt with? Will a student from urban and plush areas be interested in drinking water scarcity in different parts of the country?

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