When human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani was asked to speak on the standoff between Delhi University (DU) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) over the former’s four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP), the minister refused to comment on the matter, urging the media to not compel her to “breach constitutional propriety.” Questions were raised on whether the UGC had the authority to issue a diktat asking DU to scrap the FYUP and whether the ministry would intervene.
Interestingly, it was the Central government which had exercised powers vested in it under section 20(l) of the UGC Act, 1956, and issued directions on June 20, 2014 to the UGC to ensure the implementation of the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, specifically in respect of the educational structure. “It was to further ensure that no university or institution of higher education violates the academic structure of 10+2+3 in respect of undergraduate programmes in general higher education, and further directed the Commission to issue necessary directive to the University of Delhi to adhere to NPE 1986 and also take all such measures as deemed necessary to ensure implementation of the NPE, 1986,” states the UGC order.
According to MM Ansari, UGC member, “UGC’s secretariat has acted at the behest of MHRD, which has used emergency powers to direct UGC u/s 20(1) of the UGC Act to ask DU to scrap FYUP. The UGC has complied with MHRD dictate, as a good post office does, without taking the full commission in confidence. The legality of this action of UGC may be disputed. While UGC’s secretariat may justify its stand of acting fast on MHRD’s direction, without seeking endorsement of full commission, DU’s vice chancellor has no powers which enable him to ignore statutory bodies of the university, namely Academic and Executive Councils, on matters of approvals of various courses, such as the ones in question. It is to be seen during the ensuing days as to how DU’s VC will get undone what the proponents of FYUP in the university claim to have legally accomplished.”
As a responsible institution, DU attempted to modernise its undergraduate degree programme on the pattern of a few universities in India and abroad. “The FYUP was conceived and launched in a short span of time so as to quickly address issues such as shortage of skilled persons, establish closer linkages with the job market and to integrate the Indian higher education systems and structure with the global practices. The intentions of DU, the objectives of the FYUP and the integrity of the proponents of the programme cannot be questioned on academic grounds. There are, however, unanswered questions pertaining to the elements and contents of the course as well as processes that have been followed in design and development of FYUP. These could be rectified over time,” says Ansari.
The DU VC, according to Ansari, is responsible for providing academic leadership as well as ensuring effective administration of the university. “He is expected to function autonomously but he has not been allowed to do so by the HRD ministry and UGC. The VC was under immense internal and external pressure and threatened of stoppage of government funding support. His authority has been undermined and VC has been humiliated. This has never happened in the past,” he says.
Abha Dev Habib, member of the DU executive council, holds DU responsible for the FYUP mess. “I hold the university responsible as it refused to address the issues even as the students enrolled in FYUP expressed their discontentment with its poor content and structure. The university, instead of engaging with the issues, focused on marketing FYUP through distribution of laptops and marks inflation. The university refused dialogue with collective bodies, DUTA and DUSU. This attitude of the DU VC was an extension of the manner in which FYUP and semesterisation were bulldozed without debate and discussion and through subversion of statutory bodies. Both semesterisation and FYUP were pushed by the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal. Last year, before the launch of FYUP, we raised issues of violation of the NPE, lack of infrastructure, additional financial burden on students, a faulty structure which offered same curriculum for three different degrees and the ill-thought 12 compulsory foundation courses. As the VC refused to engage with the issues, we approached other agencies responsible towards the university even last year and sent representations to UGC, the HRD minister, and the visitor. But in the name of autonomy, autocracy was allowed,” says Habib. Suppression of debate and hasty implementation cannot produce excellence, she adds.
Ansari says that certain deficiencies can easily be found in every programme, including FYUP, which require continuous efforts to revise the courses contents, its teaching and evaluation systems. “It does not, however, mean that the entire programme should be scrapped at the whims of non-teaching teachers and the students who are affiliated to various political parties,” he adds.
Experts believe that the entire FYUP controversy sets out a dangerous precedent for 700 universities and 40,000 colleges in India. “In fact, certain structural deficiencies of FYUP, the way it fits with the NPE and the process of approvals by various statutory bodies of DU, including the then government at the Centre, were duly pointed out both inside the DU, the UGC and outside, too. No one, however, paid due attention to the basic objections to FYUP due to political and administrative support provided to DU by the MHRD and the UGC, which cooperated and functioned in tandem. The deficiencies of FYUP were ignored,” adds Ansari.
The UGC has complied with MHRD dictate, as a good post office does, without taking the full commission in confidence. The legality of this action of UGC may be disputed
While UGC’s secretariat may justify its stand of acting fast on MHRD’s direction, without seeking endorsement of full commission, DU’s VC has no powers which enable him to ignore the statutory bodies of the university, namely Academic and Executive Councils, on course approvals
Will scrapping FYUP help?
First-year students of Delhi University have mixed views; while some say it was an ambitious programme, others believe it was introduced in haste
The FYUP was an ambitious programme. The best part about it was that it enabled students to choose a minor subject (DC2). These kinds of choices were never given to students before
With so much of confusion prevailing for weeks, the UGC’s decision to roll back FYUP brings relief to most aspirants. However, there is no clarity on the fate of students who had taken admission under FYUP
Tanya Vashist, Bharati College
I joined the Delhi University’s FYUP because many universities abroad demand 16 years of schooling and with the FYUP, this criterion was easily fulfilled. It was also an easy gateway for those opting for the GRE
In our first year of FYUP, we have mostly revised the old concepts and learnt nothing new. The course was introduced in haste without proper research, infrastructure and trained faculty. Thankfully, our juniors will be saved this ordeal
Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Khalsa College
Though the FYUP was a failed attempt at replication of the American model of education, I strongly feel restructuring and revising the curriculum and course structure would have been a way better step rather than outright rejection of the programme
Compiled by Mehar Jossan