UGC-DU power tussle: Where is our system heading?
Abhay Anand, 08 Jul 2014, #DU

A majority of  students seem  to be against implementation of FYUP


The present spat between Delhi University (DU) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) is embroiled in ‘protests’, ‘strike’, ‘official order’, ‘resignations’, ‘allegations’, and ‘roll back’. The three higher education bodies in the centre of controversy are DU, UGC and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Is all this a result of politicizing of education or because of commercialization of education?

There are allegations that the present controversy is a result of pressure exerted by American and some European nations that see India as a huge education market, with the tacit blessings of the previous dispensation.

 

But the bigger questions is the way DU was being asked to roll back FYUP. Some term it as an infringement on the university’s autonomy. But the fact is that UGC, the apex regulatory body is being totally ignored, throwing a question mark on what role it should play.   

FYUP has been mired in controversy since Prof. Dinesh Singh, the  Vice Chancellor of   the university, announced the programme in 2011. 

 

The programme, a first of its kind in the country, caught everyone’s attention from day one. People who were in favour of FYUP were saying that this programme offers flexibility, options and is a revolutionary move, which will change the higher education system of the country and bring it to international levels. Those against it termed it as the worst thing to happen to the country’s higher education system.

 

DU went ahead and implemented the programme for its undergraduate courses in 2013. 

 

Under FYUP, the students were eligible for a four-year honours degree. If they wished to, they could leave at the end of two years with a Diploma or at the end of three years with a Bachelor’s Degree (without honours).

 

However, the row over the FYUP and recent spat between the apex regulatory body and one of the prominent central universities only shows the mess Indian higher education is in presently, with no long-term vision or detailed discussion before implementing any scheme. The student community, the most affected lot, was never at the centre of it. The future of almost ‘one lakh’ students is at stake owing to the ongoing controversy.

Prof. JAK TareenProf. JAK Tareen,

Vice Chancellor,

BSAR University

 

The UGC which is expected to give a broader vision of change has fallen prey to pressures of a small group of teachers and students at Delhi who have politicized and mislead the nation on the issue

DU Vs. UGC

The UGC, in a letter to the University in May 2013 had more or less agreed with the FYUP and said that it would do a review of the programme. The recent move of the Commission is a complete U-turn from its position in which it  asked the varsity to roll back FYUP as it is against the National Policy of Education i.e. 10+2+3.

The role of UGC is under question because it kept quiet for almost a year when the programme was first launched and has woken up suddenly.

 

Politicizing the issue

Some experts are also of the view that duration of three or four years is not the major issue - the major issue is the programmes of UPA versus NDA. The Congress-led UPA government was in power when DU implemented the FYUP. At that time too Prof. Ved Prakash was the Chairman of the UGC but the regulator did not raise its voice against it.

Merits of FYUP

  • It is in line with international system of education

  • Students will be better prepared for competitive environment

  • As FYUP courses are more of skill and job oriented, it offers better future for students

  • FYUP has flexibility, if a student’s leaves the course after three years he or she will still get a degree

Demerits of FYUP

  • Students will have study an extra year under FYUP to complete their under-graduation

  • Student will have to study 11 subjects as the foundation course, which is a total waste of time

  • Students will have spend not just time but also money to study an extra year

  • The DU is already facing shortage of 4,000 faculties and adding an extra year will further aggravate the problem

On the other hand the BJP-led NDA, in power at the centre now, in its General Elections manifesto had promised to scrap the FYUP. So it has been pressing to scrap it. And now the UGC is also raising various demerits of FYUP.  

 

Prof Aditya Narayan Mishra, Chairperson, Academics for Action & Development, the body that supports FYUP has called the UGC’s recent move as an infringement on the autonomy of DU. “Those who are happy with the scrapping of FYUP with UGC’s intervention and MHRD, may end up  damaging the autonomous fabric of the DU and higher education permanently,” he said.

 

The VC’s behavior is also a reason for the long-drawn controversy as various students’ and teachers’ body have been claiming that they have not been kept in the loop since the FYUP’s  inception.

 

Nandita Nayaran, President of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) said, “Rollback of FYUP is a victory of teachers and students of the University. Now, the admissions will happen as per the previous arrangement. The FYUP launched by the VC was totally illegal.” But, if things are happening under political pressure, then it once again points to the politicizing of higher education in the country.  

 

Students-and-parents

Students and parents have a harrowing time as admission to DU gets delayed. This could adversely affect the students’ academic plans

Present conundrum  

For over a week leading to admissions, the DU-affiliated colleges were puzzled as to what steps are to be taken, while the varsity was first adamant on continuing with FYUP. The whole continuation and rollback drama continued for a week and was finally scrapped. During this whole period the university did not issue any official communication to students or colleges leading to chaos  and panic among them. It was the UGC, which has been issuing circulars asking colleges to restrain from admitting students under the FYUP.

The VC kept mum over the issue for over a week and it was rumoured that he had resigned, which was later denied.  However, Prof Singh finally broke his silence after pressure from all sides and announced FYUP rollback. The VC said, “It is of paramount importance to protect the interests of students by ensuring start of admissions process. In line with UGC directive, the University has decided to roll back the FYUP.”

 

A section of teachers and DU officials say that the autonomy of DU is being snatched away by politicians through MHRD and the UGC.

 

Where do students go?

The drama did worry the students who were seeking admissions this year. For the 64,000+ students who took admissions last year the future is still uncertain. They have completed one year under the FYUP and courses they completed have more or less no relevance and they need to finish  rest of the requirements with in the next two years. 

With UGC scrapping the FYUP, they are worried that now they will have to complete their whole course in another two years. They are also worried as the first year was taken up by foundation courses and they may not be able to complete their course in time. Rashmi Singh, a student who had taken admission for 3-year programme in 2012-13, said that the students who have taken admissions in FYUP last year have very low level of knowledge in all the subjects. “There is total difference between what we are studying and what they are studying,” she said. Around 2.5 Lakh students and their parents have suffered because of the UGC-DU tussle.

 

Conclusion

This controversy has raised some important questions. What was the need to change the 3-year programme into four years without any review or study? Are the students only looking to get degrees in a minimum time-frame to be eligible for jobs? The DU Vice Chancellor  has been saying that with the launch of FYUP the demand for Indian graduates will increase in the international market. Does it mean that  higher education is only about getting jobs, not gaining any real knowledge?

The FYUP experiment has bared the Achilles heel of Indian higher education in which neither the MHRD has any concrete solution or roadmap for the betterment of the sector, nor the 60-year-old UGC has developed any mechanism for that.      

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