The University Grants Commission has been at the centre of the controversy around Delhi University four year undergraduate programme (FYUP). UGC member Professor MM Ansari tells HT why there was a need to be worried. Excerpts:
The FYUP has been finally rolled back. Was it such a bad idea?
DU had tried to modernise its undergraduate degree programme on the pattern of a few universities in India and abroad. It was launched quickly to address issues such as shortage of skilled persons, establish closer linkages with the job market and to integrate the Indian higher education systems with the global practices. I don’t think it was a bad idea. But there were deficiencies pointed out which were ignored due to political and administrative support provided to DU by the HRD ministry and UGC.
So the decision to roll back too is more about politics than academics?
During Delhi elections, political parties made promises to scrap the FYUP. And the HRD ministry has delivered on this promise. The entire controversy has been fuelled by political consideration and interference of parties in power. And, the regulator, the UGC, has been used as a political pawn by different government regimes. This demonstrates how politicisation of university campus led to dropping the FYUP.
And the UGC played along with the HRD ministry?
It must be noted that UGC has acted at the behest of HRD ministry, which used its emergency powers to direct UGC under Section 20(1) of the UGC Act to ask DU to scrap FYUP. The UGC secretariat complied with MHRD diktat as a good post office does, without taking the full Commission in confidence. The legality of this action of UGC may be disputed.
This appears to raise questions of autonomy of institutions?
The UGC Act of 1956 is still operative, which empowers HRD ministry to issue directions to UGC. There are umpteen cases where this clause has been used for political reasons despite promises to re-structure the UGC. Until this happens, university as well as UGC autonomy would remain a mirage.
This controversy sets a dangerous precedent for 700 universities and 40,000 colleges, whose academic leaders may not muster courage, to carry out educational reforms, needed to improve the responsiveness of educational institutions to manpower requirements of the knowledge intensive economy and the society.