Prardhana Chillarige, 21, a mass media graduate, 21, pursued her undergraduate degree at UPG College, Vile Parle, but a separate two-year course in photography at another institute, since the university rules did not allow her to take courses outside of the syllabus. The mass media course, she says, was superficial.
Now, however, with a new University Grants Commission directive announced on November 13, students like Chillarige can pursue their passion along with their academic interests, with a new credit transfer system in place.
To be launched from June 2015, the system will allow students to choose elective subjects, in addition to core courses. Each subject will account for a certain number of credits — and these credits can be transferred between all universities controlled by the UGC. Therefore, students who move cities or institutes while still pursuing an undergraduate degree can simply start where they left off.
Students who exit the course mid-way can also come back with their earned credits still valid, and finish the rest of the required credits at their pace to earn a degree.
While the University of Mumbai (MU) has had a credit system in place for three years now, it has only converted marks into grades and started a continuous evaluation process. While the system is formally called the ‘choice-based credit system’, students were still mandated to study subjects of a particular stream; with this new UGC system, students have the freedom to choose inter-disciplinary electives.
“The option to choose an elective subject with the core course would have been very helpful,” says Chillarige. “I could have pursued photography instead of another subject that I will not end up using.”
“With the UGC’s credit transfer system, Indian education is about to get a facelift, because we can finally pay more attention to practical learning,” says TP Madhu Nair, dean of commerce at MU.
How it will work
Each student has to study a core, foundation and elective course (See box: The Rules). Students can also take additional courses and acquire more than the required credits, says the UGC notification.
To bring all universities under the UGC at par, universities have been asked to adopt a uniform 10-point grading system, where a 10-point grade denotes ‘outstanding’ achievement, and a 9-point grade means an A+.
Even so, experts say that practical implementation will be difficult, as seen with the several technical difficulties in executing the MU credit system. While MU officials intended to introduce subject choices as well, they found the logistics difficult to manage.
“When MU introduced the same concept, the marking system, lack of infrastructure and a not-uniform syllabus were the greatest problems we faced,” says Nair.
For instance, if a student came from a southern state came to MU to study, he would have to deal with seven subjects instead of four. Also, accommodating students from various colleges and arranging for faculty even when there are just two students opting for a particular elective were hurdles.
With little clarity from the UGC thus far, experts worry that there may be similar issues implementing the new system. Former vice-chancellor of MU, Snehalata Deshmukh, says that a co-ordination committee comprising all university administrators should first be formed to reach a common ground.
Nair adds that two most crucial points to handle will be student attendance and calculating fees. “For instance, if a student is graduating in commerce from college A, and chooses to study photography at college B, how will the fees and attendance be calculated?” he asks.
According to Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s College, it will be nearly impossible to maintain uniformity of the course content and methods of teaching. “The credit system could work wonderfully with a class strength of between 20 to 30 students. With 120 students in class, close monitoring of student work and ongoing evaluation becomes tedious,” she says.
“MU first needs to sort out problems with admissions and results, and can then chalk out a plan to implement the new system effectively,” says Yashashree Uchil, a Class 10 student. Terming it a herculean task, education counsellor Shilpa Pathak says that to teachers should help devise a training programme for themselves, to create a uniform syllabus and teaching strategy.
The choice-based credit transfer system provides a ‘cafeteria’ approach — Students can take courses of their choice, learn at their own pace, take additional credits and acquire more than the required credits.
Types of courses
Core course: Compulsory courses that are in the discipline of the major
Elective course: Can be chosen from a pool of papers, related or unrelated.
It may be:
* Enabling an exposure to some other discipline/ domain
* Nurturing student’s proficiency/ skill
* An elective may be generic elective focusing on those courses which
* Add generic proficiency to the students.
* It may be discipline centric or may be chosen from an unrelated discipline.
The foundation courses may be of two kinds: compulsory foundation and elective foundation.
‘Compulsory Foundation’ courses are the courses based upon the content that leads to knowledge enhancement.
(Source: UGC notification issued on November 12)
'The Mumbai University has been experimenting with electives, within engineering. eventually, with the UGC system, we could consider transferring credits abroad too' - MA Khan, registrar, University of Mumbai