What’s the harm in pursuing two degree courses simultaneously?
Experts divided on UGC’s order. Some say students’ knowledge base will be expanded, others feel academic standards will get dilutedUpdated: Mar 04, 2016, 15:56 IST
A recent notification by the University Grants Commission (UGC) has left Komal Sharma (name changed on request) worried and confused. She had enrolled for two courses – an MA in economics at a Central university and another master’s in a distance learning institute last year. She wanted to add value to her CV and save an academic year by pursuing two degrees.
However, UGC, in its January 2016 order, said it “does not endorse the idea of allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously.” The education regulator directed universities to conduct programmes according to the First Degree and Master’s Degree Regulations 2003 and also follow norms prescribed by the statutory councils, wherever applicable. “I am not sure how this will impact my qualifications or job prospects,” says Sharma.
Students take up to or more degree programme at one time for added qualifications and improved CVs. Whether they should be allowed remains a much-debated issue. Some experts say pursuing two degrees together helps students in many ways. Their knowledge base is expanded and multidisciplinary education, a must for all-round development of young minds, is encouraged. Others say it may not be feasible with practical challenges like the choice-based credit system, different modes of evaluation, faculty-student ratio etc. Professor Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor (incharge), Indira Gandhi National Open University, says, “Universities in India are more focussed on knowledge-based education. In such a situation, allowing students to pursue two degrees together may not serve the purpose of gaining meaningful education. The focus should be on skill-based education and the human resource development ministry along with other institutions and universities is working towards this. The National Skills Qualifications Framework is a step in this direction that aims to organise all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. Allowing students to go for short-term courses in part-time/distance learning mode is a good idea.”
According to MM Ansari, former member, UGC, “University degrees are getting increasingly delinked from jobs. Why should students chase degrees that do not enhance their social and economic status? In fact, course content of every degree programme is planned in such a way that students can master the theoretical and practical components. Learning requirements and time frame for doing justice with the process of teaching and learning are duly kept in mind. We can’t, therefore, allow two or more degrees simultaneously at the cost of diluting standard of education.” Interestingly, UGC had accepted a proposal to allow students to take up two degree programmes together in 2013. An expert committee of the commission had recommended in 2012 that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional degree simultaneously under open or distance education mode.
An expert committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Professor Furqan Qamar to look into the issue.
The committee suggested that a student enrolled in a degree programme under regular mode may be allowed to pursue a maximum of one additional degree programme simultaneously under open/distance mode from the same or a different university. However, two degree programmes under regular mode may not be allowed simultaneously as it may create logistic, administrative and academic problems.
Another suggestion was to allow students pursuing a degree programme under regular mode to pursue a maximum of one certificate/diploma/advanced diploma/PG diploma programme simultaneously either in regular or open and distance mode in the same university or from other institutions. UGC, at a meeting on July 31, 2013, had decided to accept the panel’s recommendations on allowing additional degree programmes.
“I endorse the committee’s recommendations as these were made in view of the changing higher education scenario,” says Professor Iqbal Ahmad, who was a member of the committee.
The Distance Education Council in June 2012 had said that two degree programmes could not be pursued simultaneously.