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Did DU veer off- course?

Can DU change its programmes without UGC permission? Legal experts have conflicting views, writes Jeevan Prakash Sharma.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2014 15:47 IST
Jeevan Prakash Sharma

Will the University Grants Commission (UGC) manage to get Delhi University (DU) to scrap its four year undergraduate programme (FYUP) quickly to enable thousands of students to get on with their studies? Legal complications could delay matters. Section 30 of the Delhi University Act gives the university full autonomy in making ordinances on admission of students, course of studies, etc. Section 31 empowers DU’s executive council (EC) to amend, repeal and bring in new ordinances related to Section 30. If the EC repealed the three-year act last year, how can it admit students to that programme again? On the UGC Act, experts say it empowers UGC to just define minimum standards of instruction and regulate the maintenance of standards and the co-ordination of work or facilities in universities. Nothing beyond that.

Lawyers in favour of the UGC move, say that as the commission funds DU – it has the right to take a decision on bearing the expenses of an additional year. Also, since it has the mandate to coordinate work between universities, how can the UGC manage one university with FYUP and others offering the three-year course?

Pro-DU legal experts say the university has full autonomy in deciding matters related to “the course of study to be laid down for all degrees, diploma and certificates of the University.” Other experts argue that a legal provision which empowers UGC to regulate the maintenance of standards and the coordination of work or facilities in universities give the commission the upper hand when it comes to questioning changes in the undergraduate programme.

“DU is a Central university set up under The Delhi University Act, 1922. If you look at Section 30, it’s quite clear that the university has full autonomy in making ordinances on issues such as (a) the admission of students to the University and their enrolment as such; (b) the course of study to be laid down for all degree, diploma and certificates of the University; (c) the degree, diplomas, certificates and other academic distinctions to be awarded by the University, the qualification for the same and the means to be taken relating to the granting and obtaining of the same; (e) the fees to be charged for courses of study in the University etc,” says a senior counsel of the Supreme Court who doesn’t want to be named.

Referring to Section 31, the counsel says it empowers the executive council (EC) of DU to amend, repeal and bring in new ordinances related to Section 30. Exercising its power under these sections, the EC last year repealed the three-year undergraduate programme and introduced the FYUP. Now since the three-year programme was already repealed last year under the act, how can DU admit students to the old programme? The EC will have to repeal FYUP and issue another ordinance for the three-year-programme. This will jeopardise the interests of 60,000 students who took admission last year under FYUP.


Many legal experts agree that DU has not violated the UGC Act of 1956. Section 26 (1) (f) and (g) of the Act gives only regulatory powers to the UGC for “defining the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of any degree by any University; and regulating the maintenance of standards and the coordination of work or facilities in universities.”

Further, according to Section 8.1 of the UGC (The Minimum Standards of Instructions for the Grant of the First Degree through Formal education) regulations, 2003, “No student shall be eligible for the award of the first degree unless he/she has successfully completed a programme, of not less than three years duration…”

“The FYUP is of four years and not less than three years so there is no violation of UGC regulation here too,” says a legal officer from DU. Many lawyers, however, say that the mandate of UGC in financial grant as well as coordination of work or facilities in universities empowers it to question and scrap DU’s FYUP. Krishna Mahajan, former legal advisor to Kirori Mal College and Ramjas College, says “The UGC gives grant to colleges for a three-year programme. If one more year is added by DU to the programme, who will bear the extra financial burden?”

Where will the money come from? Unless you ask UGC, how can you extend the duration?”

“Also, if UGC has the power to regulate the maintenance of standards and the co-ordination of work or facilities in universities, it can question how there will be coordination between various universities when one has FYUP while others have three- year programmes,” says Mahajan. Former additional solicitor general and senior counsel, Sidharth Luthra, highlights Section 22 of the UGC Act and says, “As long as degrees are notified under this section, a university need not go back to the UGC for change of curriculum. For certain courses such as law, there will be other regulators which prescribe course content (such as Bar Council of India for law, All India Council for Technical Education for technical course and Medical Council of India for medical course) and those requirements also have to be complied with.” However it’s important to note that DU’s FYUP does not involve change of curriculum. It is the change of degree programme which, according to Luthra, should have been notified with the UGC before it was launched.

Too late to roll back FYUP?

Students continue to debate as there are reports of UGC asking Delhi University to rethink its four-year degree course introduced in 2013

Richa Arora,Mata Sundari College
I believe that with the admission process already underway, it is too late to roll back FYUP. The foundation courses provide holistic knowledge to improve our skills and build our knowledge on a number of subjects

Deeksha Dhingra, SRCC
I strongly support the rolling back of FYUP. We have been treated as guinea pigs with irrelevant subjects. I joined DU in the hope of doing BCom from a good university but the FYUP is flawed and falls short of our expectations

Vaishali,PGDAV college
I haven’t learnt anything new in the foundation courses that are an integral part of FYUP. We lack trained faculty to carry out FYUP effectively. The absence of proper discussions and debates indicate that it’s time the FYUP got scrapped

Ojasvie Arora,Motilal Nehru College
FYUP is an ambitious programme and shouldn’t be scrapped as it pays close attention to research and field work. A student gets ample opportunities to groom himself and emerge as an all-rounder

Anugrah Gopinath,Sri Venkateswara College
Though there is a lot of confusion for the current batch, I believe that doing away with FYUP will help curtail the damage done to the first batch. Officials must come up with a curriculum that ensures a three year programme is as fruitful as what the FYUP is made out to be

Compiled by Mehar Jossan