Will four-year undergraduate courses make a comeback? Discussions on
Delhi University’s experiment with a four-year undergraduate programme five years ago proved to be controversial.education Updated: Mar 16, 2018 07:21 IST
Students across the country may have to spend four years in college to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in line with a potentially controversial proposal the committee drafting a National Education Policy (NEP) is set to make to the human resource development (HRD) ministry in its report, Hindustan Times has learnt.
Senior HRD ministry officials discussed the proposal at length in a meeting, three people familiar with the matter said. The committee on NEP has studied the issue comprehensively and reached a consensus on the issue, which will need approval by the ministry, the people said on condition of anonymity.
“Engineering students spend four years to do their graduation, which gives them ample time to do project work and undergo internships or training too. It is being proposed that across the country universities should also offer four-year undergraduate programmes so that there is more time for other activities s necessary for the overall growth (of students),” said one of the three people familiar with the issue.
Delhi University’s experiment with a four-year undergraduate programme five years ago proved to be controversial. The institution increased the duration of the three-year Bachelor’s degree programme by one year in 2013, but withdrew it the following year after protests by students a section of teachers and a face-off with the University Grants Commission.
The university restored the three-year format soon after the then human resource development (HRD) minister, Smriti Irani, said the university must not “sacrifice the interest of the students at the altar of prestige.”
The four-year programme was introduced by then Delhi University vice chairman Dinesh Singh , who argued that the existing curriculum was not necessarily placing students in touch with real-life issues and that they were finding it difficult to find jobs. Students resisted the concept. “Sometimes they make it three years. Sometimes four years. There is no consistency,” said Kunal Sehrawat, vice president of the Delhi University Students Union.
The HRD ministry has formed a committee under K Kasturirangan, former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to draft the NEP. The eight-member committee is expected to submit its report by March 31. Kasturirangan declined comment.
“As the syllabus will be spread across four years it will give ample time for students to undergo training which will prepare them for jobs in the future too,” said the second person, a senior HRD ministry official.
HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said no proposal had been received yet.
The people familiar with the issue said a four-year undergraduate course, if approved by the ministry, will only be for new university entrants and not those already enrolled in three-year programmes. “The report of the committee is yet to be received by the government. We will examine the proposal if made, with open mind and after hearing all stakeholders,” R Subramanyam, secretary, higher education, HRD ministry.
Dinesh Singh, who faced flak for the hurried manner in which the four-year format was introduced by Delhi University when he was vice-chancellor, welcomed the proposal.
“Better late than never. I am happy to see that wisdom has prevailed. I have always been a votary of a creative platform for learning that allows a student time and space to find her true calling in life. It is not so much the number of years as it is about freedom and time to think combined with the use of hands that is needed in our undergraduate programmes. Such knowledge in action encourages enterprise and creativity,” he said.
“I am confident that if implemented properly with due regard for not overburdening students with theoretical knowledge ,it will alter the mindsets of the young towards productive and creative enterprises. In the short time that we ran such a programme at Delhi University, undergraduates began to do research, create startups and became entrepreneurs”.
Some other key proposals in the NEP are likely to include giving students greater flexibility in choosing technical and humanities subjects (for instance, they can pick chemistry and music). “The committee is looking at introducing more courses on humanities/social sciences in technical education. And to ensure flexibility in course nomenclature, credit transfer, online courses, MOOCs, eligibility, migration and recognition of prior learning,” added the HRD ministry official.