DU scraps FYUP but why did UGC wake up about its ‘flaw’ so late?

DU had earlier sent a proposal to UGC on amending FYUP but commission rejected it

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | June 27, 2014



The Delhi University has decided to roll back the controversial four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). Giving in to the demand of the University Grant Commission (UGC) on Friday (June 27), the university accepted to roll back the course.

In a letter to the commission, the varsity said the admission process for 2014-15 academic session would start soon and will based on the three-year programme.

DU, though, did not give in easily. Earlier, it had sent a proposal to the UGC on amending the FYUP but the commission rejected it outright. 

The university’s much-discussed and maligned four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP), first introduced at an academic congress held in September 2012 and implemented in DU last year, had met its Waterloo with even less consultation and more speed than when it was introduced.

As the varsity decides to scrap the programme, the controversy around FYUP comes down. But it does bring the attention to several other questions. The focus has been now shifted from the pro- and anti-FYUP groups to a bigger stage – the fight between the university and the UGC. It has also triggered the debate over DU’s autonomy.

The four-year programme was passed through the academic and executive council of the university, the highest decision making bodies responsible for the maintenance of standards of instruction, education and examination with the university. Many stakeholders, including teachers and students, protest against the unconstitutional way of implementing the course. The UGC remains quiet and do not act. But suddenly, after the new government takeover, it feels the programme, already running for a year, is unconstitutional and illegal and it should be scrapped.

But if FYUP was that wrong, why did the UGC wake up to the discrepancies in the implementation suddenly – a good one year since its implementation?

Was it just to prove loyalty for the current ruling party, which, too, was in a hurry to deliver on its election promise of doing away with the four-year programme?

Does the UGC have any autonomy or it is acting as an extended arm of the HRD ministry?

Was it under the pressure from the minister to act?

Should it also not be responsible for the mess that has been created?

And will this not send a warning to other V-Cs – that they, too, have no autonomy to experiment or innovate?

Nandita Narayan, president of the Delhi University teachers’ association (DUTA), who has fought against the four-year course, blamed UGC equally for the “mess”. She told Governance Now: “It (UGC) kept quiet when we approached them last year – it failed to play its role. If it had acted at the right time, the whole mess would not have been created.”

Narayan also alleged that the UGC chairman, Ved Prakash, was “hand in glove” with the then minister, Kapil Sibal.

DU vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh had told the media last year that experience with corporate entities coming to DU for recruitment had highlighted pitfalls of the existing education system. He believed that with 11 foundation courses in subjects such as information technology, governance and citizenship, science and life, history and culture, as well as language papers, student would be able to acquire communication and analytical skills.

So if FYUP was actually a step towards bringing in reforms in the higher education sector – as Dinesh Singh and many other academics have pointed out – why did it prove to be a lost opportunity? Why did Singh upgrade the system apparently in a hurry and, even more apparently, without much of a plan?

Prof Sukhadeo Thorat, a former UGC chairman, also took the UGC to task – though softly, contending that while the commission has no business in meddling with DU’s affairs that are “constitutional” and “legal”, the protests and facts that emerged over the last one year might have prompted it to do so.

Thorat said: “If there is any difference of opinion on any policy related to education, it affects the nation as a whole. The UGC does not interfere in course content and it just specifies the degree. Under its rule, a graduation degree has to be a minimum of three years; there is no maximum limit defined. So there was nothing illegal about it (DU’s four-year programme).

“But in the last one year, a lot of issues were brought to their (UGC’s) notice and the commission felt it is not right to bring change in the national policy framework (10+2+3 education system) for just one central university.”

The action, however, “may have been delayed” on UGC’s part, he added.

Thorat also said the commission’s action to scrap FYUP will in no way harm Delhi University’s autonomy.

Upset with this whole controversy, former DU V-C, Singh’s predecessor Prof Deepak Pental, said the UGC’s decision has questioned the way in which “reforms” are brought in. According to him, implementation of the FYUP would have proved critical in the long run to improve the higher education sector.

“It (the vicious DU-UGC scrap) has become a political football (field) rather than looking at students’ interests,” Pental said. “The four-year course was first mooted by the knowledge commission and science academies. They said the whole world is doing it, so should we. But rather than bringing in a good curriculum in the interest of students we are making it an ego issue.”

Pental said there are several issues involved and there should have been more talks with academics before scrapping the programme. “Teachers are opposing (FYUP) because they want to continue working the way they have been. We are going back in time by scrapping this. Reform at the higher education sector is required at present.” 

Thorat, too, emphasised on the wider debate issue, saying any issue concerned with the education sector must be developed with consensus. But FYUP, which had a rough beginning and faced a lot of opposition, did not have any such consensus, he added.

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