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DU four-year course set for re-look

New Delhi, June 5: The government is likely to review the four-year undergraduate programme Delhi University introduced last year before deciding its stand on the new system that requires students to study an extra year to get an honours degree.

Sources said the human resource development ministry might ask higher education regulator UGC to examine the controversial programme’s future implications and come up with suggestions.

The possible rethink on continuing with the four-year course, the sources said, followed concerns voiced by some Delhi University (DU) teachers who met Smriti Irani, the new HRD minister, last week.

Former HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju, who had all along maintained that the university was an autonomous body and should decide on academic matters, supported the idea of reviewing the programme by the ministry.

“The ministry has the right to review,” Pallam Raju, who had set up a committee to review the programme, said. “If the outcome of the programme is not in the desired direction, the ministry can review and suggest a correction.”

What has fuelled speculation about the programme’s future is the report of an expert panel the UGC had set up. The report suggested “there should be more thinking” because of the programme’s nation-wide implication for the higher education sector.

The panel also asked the UGC to publish a white paper after a study and debate on the four-year programme (FYUP), which has drawn criticism from different quarters as it entails a significant departure from the conventional three-year degree course.

A teachers’ association of the university and various student bodies said the new system was anti-poor as it meant funding an extra year of study.

A Delhi University teacher said it might not be easy to scrap the four-year course. While one batch of students enrolled last year, the admission process for graduation courses under the new system for 2014-15 has started this week in 70-odd colleges under the university.

The programme had been introduced last year after debates in the university’s academic and executive councils that followed a series of discussions with teachers and staff, the DU teacher said.

But doubts over the programme’s future arose after the BJP-led NDA came to power. In its manifesto for the Delhi Assembly elections last year, the BJP had said it would scrap the programme.

Sources said the HRD minister might meet President Pranab Mukherjee who can intervene as the visitor of the university. They said Mukherjee, as the institution’s supreme authority, could also reverse the change.

The HRD minister refused to comment on any issues regarding the university.

University authorities say the FYUP, which includes 11 foundation courses (FC) apart from the core discipline subjects, was aimed at strengthening the educational base of students, keeping in mind the contemporary challenges the country faces, and improving their employability.

The foundation courses are centred on issues like economic development, energy, urbanisation, infrastructure, sanitation, environment, public health and food security.

Students of all streams have to study the foundation courses in the first and second years, when they have fewer papers on the subjects of their choice. The students get to study their core subjects from the second year. They can quit after three years with a general graduation degree.

According to a survey in Miranda House and Shri Ram College of Commerce, nearly 90 per cent of the students found the FC compulsory papers repetitive.