Will a uniform credit system work?

  • Gauri Kohli, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 03, 2014 11:55 IST

Moving from one city or institution to another while pursuing a degree or resuming a programme after a break with earned credits could become a smoother process, according to the latest guidelines by the University Grants Commission (UGC). A UGC notification for all universities, issued on November 12, stated that a new credit transfer system would be in place from the next academic year. This would ensure seamless mobility of students from one higher education institution to the other.

What the guidelines propose

The credits earned by the student would be easily transferred from one institution to the other. Currently, students are evaluated using the conventional system of marks or grades or both. Marks would be converted to grades and used across institutions. Experts believe that this, at times, creates difficulties for the academia and the employers to infer the performance of the students graduating from different universities.

Under the new system, a choice-based credit system (CBCS) would allow students to choose from the prescribed courses (core, elective or minor or soft skill courses).
The CBCS would provide a ‘cafeteria’ type approach in which the students can take courses of their choice, learn at their own pace, take up additional courses and acquire more than the required credits. Thus, they can adopt an interdisciplinary approach to learning, state the guidelines.

Challenges aplenty in implementation

There are many challenges in the implementation of the UGC proposal. While the core challenges include different marking schemes, varying class sizes and fee, there are other practical difficulties as well.

According to MM Ansari, member, UGC, “First, the universities are governed by different Central and state acts and statutes, which do not follow uniform system of admissions and examinations, development of course contents. They also do not maintain uniform standards of teaching and research, he says.

Another challenge, adds Ansari, is that UGC directions are not binding on most of the institutions, which are under private management and do not receive any financial support for infrastructure development. “The UGC has no legal authority to de-recognise the institutions, which do not follow UGC regulations. Third, the Central and state governments have not evolved a policy framework for students’ and teachers’ mobility, by removing major irritants in the education system such as infrastructure for quality education and accreditation of institutions. For these reasons, the idea of CBCS, which was conceived years ago, has not been actualised,” says Ansari.

Sudhanshu Bhushan, professor and head, higher education, at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, has welcomed the regulation. “When the decision was taken during the 11th Plan to adopt a choice-based credit system in higher education, it should have been immediately followed by the regulation. At present, universities are following diverse practices through the respective ordinances on credit system. At this stage, following UGC guidelines would amount to changes in ordinance and would take quite some time. In fact, in some cases such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, the different grading pattern existed for long and also worked satisfactorily. Will it not be difficult for JNU to give up its long held credit pattern and follow the UGC guidelines?” asks Bhushan.

Also, choice of subjects in the proposed credit system is limited in colleges or universities. No such option can be made possible because no two academic institutes are similar and while one might have one department for a specific subject, with one or two faculty members, another might have more.

According to Bhushan, the advantage of the credit system is in the mobility of students. However, mobility in diverse quality higher education will be limited. There is also the likelihood of the “universities’ rigid rules obstructing the mobility in spite of introduction of the credit system. Under the fairness in assessment guidelines, internal assessment has not been considered. What about the present practices where internal assessment has worked? Will they replace internal by external assessment?” he asks.

What should students expect?

Students can take up core and additional courses of their own choice

Each semester will comprise 15-18 weeks of academic work

Semester grade point average is a measure of performance of work done by a student in a semester

Cumulative grade point average measures the cumulative performance of a student over semesters

‘India needs a choice-based credit system’

For students, experts and teachers, the UGC directive on the implementation of a choice-based credit system is promising and can make movement from one institution to the other smoother, provided it is followed in a well-organised manner.

“A common credit system is a great idea. It facilitates the much needed lateral mobility of students. Currently, accredited certifying institutions or boards may not have the capacity to train large numbers of students in all skills or competences,” says Shyam Menon, vice chancellor, Ambedkar University, Delhi.

According to MM Ansari, member, University Grants Commission, “The UGC has been striving hard to implement the concept of Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) to allow for greater flexibility and wider choices in the courses of study offered by different colleges and universities, which in effect would encourage student mobility across the institutions so as to enhance their potential for learning and earning.”

As per the guidelines, many of the institutions have already introduced the CBCS. The semester system accelerates the teaching-learning process and enables vertical and horizontal mobility in learning.

“The theoretic and practical approach of the core and elective courses is a good suggestion. It will also be a good idea to have such as system in our country which has a diverse higher education system,” says Akanksha Kohli, a commerce student at Delhi University.

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