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Beginner’s guide to the credit system

education Updated: May 16, 2011 14:34 IST
Rahat Bano
Rahat Bano
Hindustan Times
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Heard about the credit system that more and more higher education institutions are expected to adopt? What is it and what will it mean to learners? Here’s what you need to know.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked universities and colleges to carry out academic reforms, including introduction of the semester system and choice-based credit-system, “with a switchover to continuous internal evaluation and reducing the written examination component, credit transfer, and credit accumulation,” says a UGC report on ‘Higher education in India - Strategies and schemes during eleventh plan period (2007-2012) for universities and colleges’.

However, there is no uniformity in the credit systems currently followed by some institutions in India.

Whatever the variations may be, basically a credit corresponds to a particular amount of study or learning time. A student needs to earn a set number of credits to receive his/her certificate, diploma or degree. For those familiar with the ‘paper’ system, it is like this: a paper is sliced into units, units into subunits and subunits into credits, says the UGC report.

At least theoretically, the choice-based credit system can empower students with greater choice and flexibility.
In Chennai’s autonomous Loyola College, a credit is a numerical expression of class hours, self-study time as well as extra-curricular work completed. A Loyola undergraduate needs to garner 140 credits over three years to get his/her bachelor’s degree. For a major core course, three credits mean the student has to attend three to four hours of classes for the course and spend three hours studying for it in the library and at home. If it’s an allied subject, the student gets two credits for attending three to four hours of classes and only one credit in the case of a foundation course. A master’s candidate must secure 90 credits over two years.

In addition to academic work, Loyola students must take part in ECA too. “Undergraduate students must work for 150 hours per year in any club or society for which they get three credits. In their second year, they must spend 150 hours in outreach activities, such as teaching or cleaning in the slums,” says G Ramamurthy, vice principal.
In Ambedkar University, Delhi, (AUD), a credit is a unit of teaching or contact hour with students, explains Sumangla Damodaran, associate professor, School of Development Studies. It is “roughly one hour of class lecture or tutorial.” So, a four-credit course is a full course with four-five credit hours per week in a semester. A student needs 96 credits for his/her BA degree and 64 credits for an MA. AUD doesn’t hand out credits for ECA but gives two for a four- to six-week internship completed by MA development studies students.

The Western system is tougher. In the ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System), one credit is generally equivalent to 25 to 30 hours of work. One academic year consists of student workload worth 1500 to 1800 hours. Credits denote “sets of learning outcomes”.

The UGC wants a ‘unique’ choice-based credit system. This means greater choice for a student, allowing him/her to pick courses from unrelated departments (such as life sciences and political science) from the same institution or even another, and in the case of working people, complete a programme in flexi-mode.

It can bring about “enhanced learning opportunities, ability to match students’ scholastic needs and aspirations, inter-institution transferability of students, part-completion of an academic programme in the institution of enrolment and part-completion in a specialised (and recognised) institution, improvement in educational quality and excellence, flexibility for working students to complete the programme over an extended period of time, standardisation and comparability of educational programmes across the country, etc,” says the UGC report.