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UGC-DU clash: Academicians root for 4-year programmes

Support for the four-year undergraduate programme from many academic quarters grew stronger even as the UGC asked Delhi University to scrap the programme.

Academicians supporting the programme said UGC should not interfere with the autonomy of a university like DU and that it’s the prerogative of the university to take a call on the programme.

Educationists are of the view that these four-year programmes are relevant from a student’s perspective and that UGC and DU should resolve the issue amicably.

DU is not the only university to have introduced the four-year bachelors’ programme – Shiv Nadar University, Ashoka University, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and O P Jindal Global University also run four-year programmes.

“This programme will enable students to have a global orientation and there was a strong need to reform the earlier three-year programmes. But there needs to be a delicate balance between the autonomy of the university and academic views of the regulator. Students still have an exit option after three years. This has led to uncertainty among students and is not in their best interest,” said C Raj Kumar, vice-chancellor, O P Jindal Global University.

Kumar said a four-year course at the undergraduate level is the right move, since it helped the students have a better rigour and inter-disciplinary content in their courses.

“Personally, I think there should be autonomy on these matters to the universities. Why does the UGC need to interfere at the micro level? UGC can lay ground rules and basic hygiene factors for institutions. But whether a university should start a course or not is its prerogative. Anything that compromises the autonomy of universities is not welcome,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, head of education, KPMG.

Last week, UGC said DU should mandatorily get back to the three-year undergraduate course because FYUP violates the National Policy on Education, 1986 and the 10+2+3 structure.

A four-year undergraduate degree programme is based mostly on the American system.

Here, students study a bit of pure sciences, commerce and arts in the initial year, and then go on to graduate in a discipline. The final degree that students get is similar to the other three-year degrees, and is called a Bachelor in Science (BS) or Bachelor in Arts (BA).

Experts say students who want to pursue masters programmes abroad, especially in the US, will find the four-year course useful as they do not have to study an extra year in India to fulfil the eligibility criteria.

The director of an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) asked if Indian students can go to the US for a four-year under-graduate programme, why can’t there be such a programme in India? “Delhi University has introduced a good programme. They probably need to tweak the structure a bit to make it more effective. But it should stay,” he added.

In these institutes, a four-year programme is a combination of classroom learning, fieldwork and discussions. Summer internships are also a part of the four-year programme, which usually has a foundation course.

While in the other institutions the students have the option of completing the course in three-and-a-half years if they perform exceptionally well, at DU there are three exit points. Students can drop out of the course after either two or three years of study. On completion of two years, they will get a diploma certificate. A three-year stint will earn them a bachelor’s degree.

After four years, students will get a bachelor’s degree with honours or a B Tech degree. Also, if those who dropped out want to come back and complete the four-year programme, they would be allowed to do so within 10 years of leaving mid-way.

Some experts, however, have another view. R K Mittal, director (special projects) at BITS Pilani, said: “In order to bring uniformity among all first degree programmes, it is important that all of them should be of the same duration and have a uniform nomenclature. My personal view is that the mere change of duration of a degree without change in the nomenclature or its name is not appropriate.”

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