Are you an aspiring economist with a keen interest in history? Or do you aim to be a mathematician but cannot keep away from media studies? At Delhi University (DU), a few undergraduate students will soon have the opportunity to design their own curriculum and choose from a plethora of courses from various DU colleges, thanks to the varsity’s proposed meta college.
This means that the current structure of mandatory and optional courses would make way for a tailored programme as per a student’s interests, but will it really work in a multiple college system like DU? HT Education spoke to senior academicians to gauge their responses on the feasibility of this move.
Why it will work
According to Shyam Menon, vice chancellor, Ambedkar University, Delhi: “In a city-like situation where you have many institutions in the neighbourhood and an arrangement for students to pick up credits with the help of distinguished faculty, the concept of a meta college is a positive development. This also means that we are moving towards a less rigid and more open kind of a set-up.”
Menon feels another reason for this system to work is the willingness of today’s undergraduate Indian student to learn more.
The challenges ahead
Having said that, there’s also a need for cautious optimism, says Sudhanshu Bhushan, professor and head, department of higher and professional education, National University of Educational Planning and Administration. “Giving a student greater choice in terms of selecting the subjects for study is a good idea but only in theory.
Challenges such as having the necessary IT infrastructure, adequate teachers to teach different disciplines and number of seats need to be addressed. If such a concept is implemented, there will be more students wanting to study at top colleges. Also, transferring of credits will be another hurdle,” says Bhushan.
According to Philip G Altbach, Monan University professor and director, Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College, it’s still unclear whether the student will have complete control over his or her curriculum. “What about any coherence of courses? How would colleges regulate how many students there are in classes? In the US, with its well-established course-credit system, it is sometimes possible to transfer credits from one college or university to another, but generally under strict supervision from the institution to ensure that the courses are relevant and of appropriate quality. There are now some ‘aggregators’ of courses that are offering degrees based on numbers of credits. These are generally considered very low quality and have little recognition,” says Altbach.
One can take cue from foreign institutions, suggests Bhushan. “Something like MITx, the online learning initiative of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in which a portfolio of MIT courses are offered through an online interactive learning platform, may help address these challenges. A strong resource base that has course material, online laboratories and allows individual assessment of a student’s work will be required,” he adds. The idea should be to allow students and teachers to access and share teaching material, academic publications, research work, virtual experiments etc.
Part of a bigger plan
* The proposed DU meta college is part of the meta universities initiative of the HRD ministry
* Meta universities represent second-generation universities that are free from physical boundary conditions and are able to operate in virtual space
* Their ultimate aim is to promote cross-university education enabling students to pursue two courses simultaneously at DU, Jamia Millia Islamia or JNU
* The Meta university will use the platform of the already established National Knowledge Network to create a model where the internet will provide the communication infrastructure, while a network of universities will offer courses in various disciplines