With the introduction of the new four-year undergraduate honours degree programme (FYUP), the Delhi University is moving into an unfamiliar territory. A number of questions have been raised about the system and the rationale behind it, with certain groups lambasting it and some others supporting it. As the academic council meets on Tuesday to approve the syllabi, Delhi University's Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh gives the rationale behind the new programme and also counters various claims made by the detractors.
What is the rationale behind the four-year programme?
Let me explain this by giving an example. Four weeks ago, a reputed private company came to our campus to hire students. They interviewed around 100 students and found only three worthy of employment. Even in some of our best colleges, half the students in a class remain unemployed. Around 30% undergraduate students drop out from the university each year. The new programme aims to correct this.
When I became vice-chancellor two years ago, I spoke to around 3,000 undergraduate students from different colleges. The students said they were not happy with what they were studying.
So, an open Academic Congress was organised in September 2012 for wider consultation with teachers and every college was invited.
A clear-cut recommendation emerged that a new programme is needed that allows the time and flexibility to do what needs to be done. Then I set up a 61-member task force of elected teachers to deliberate on this which came up with a well-defined programme (the FYUP) after discussions over two months.
The new programme proposes three different exit options: after the second, third and fourth year. Are you trying to blend the community college system, the traditional three-year system and the more internationally-accepted four-year system into one? Aren't you trying to achieve too many objectives?
No, community college will teach the kind of foundation courses that we are offering. And just because it is a four-year degree, it does not mean that it is based on the American system. No four-year American degree is even close to what we will offer. Essentially, we are trying to combine hands-on skills with traditional theoretical knowledge in the new programme.
One of the aspects cited as an advantage of the FYUP is flexibility. But students will have to declare their majors at the time of admission. Isn't that rigid?
My personal view was that students must decide their major after doing the foundation courses. However, both the faculty and parents were not in agreement. I hope my successors will think about it.