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UGC ‘U-turn’ leaves DU in a churn

- Decision to review 4-year course deepens divisions
Students on way to submit forms for admission to Delhi University in early June

New Delhi, June 16: Higher education regulator University Grants Commission’s decision to seek a review of Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme, started last year, has deepened the divisions on the campus.

While university officials privately slammed the regulator’s “U-turn”, the university teachers’ association, always opposed to the four-year course, demanded vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh’s resignation for “deliberately running an illegal course and jeopardising the future of thousands of students”.

On Friday, the regulator decided the programme was “illegal” and needed to be reviewed, commission sources said.

Although the commission is an advisory body, the university may not be able to ignore a directive from it as the Union human resource development ministry, which supported the four-year programme during UPA rule, seems to favour a rethink now.

The BJP manifesto for the Delhi polls had promised to work towards the programme’s rollback and, like the majority in the teachers’ association, the students’ bodies affiliated to the BJP and the Congress too are opposed to the four-year courses.

The university has not reacted officially since it has not yet received any communication from the regulator. But senior university officials cited how the commission had till now supported the programme, and questioned its latest argument that the programme was illegal partly because it violated the national education policy of having a 10+2+3 system.

(The commission had cited two other points: the programme was introduced without amending the Delhi University Act and without seeking the regulator’s permission six months in advance, as required.)

“If it is illegal, why had the commission not objected to it for the past one year? How come it woke up to such illegality after 54,000 students had completed a year’s education?” a varsity official said.

He argued that the four-year BSc course at the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, and the four-year undergraduate programmes at Ambedkar University in Delhi and Shiv Nadar University in Noida too should then be deemed illegal.

“Did the commission ever bother to examine the four-year programme at IISc Bangalore, which is a centrally funded institution,” he asked.

He said commission chairperson Ved Prakash had, at an event in Delhi University on February 14 this year, described the four-year programme as “excellent”. Efforts to seek a comment from Ved Prakash did not succeed.

Former president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association, Aditya N. Mishra, said the commission’s latest decision amounted to “bulldozing the autonomy of the university”, which was empowered to design its courses and curricula.

“In the developed countries, students enrol in master’s programmes after 16 years of education. But in India, it’s 15 years. The four-year programme sought to correct this,” Mishra said.

Pakistan and China too have introduced four-year undergraduate programmes.

Delhi university recently calculated the workload teachers would face under the four-year programme and began recruiting new teachers. The commission’s latest move would stall the appointment process, Mishra feared.

On May 3 last year, then human resource development minister M.M. Pallam Raju had told the Rajya Sabha that the four-year programme aimed at imparting knowledge that cuts across the domains of traditional courses as well as providing skills training and inculcating a sense of value.

“It requires students of all disciplines to undertake certain mandatory (foundational) courses to meet the needs and challenges of modern society and the nation. Itů blends practical application with high-end knowledge, facilitating the students either to seek jobs, to become entrepreneurs or to undertake research,” Raju had said.

Raju last week told The Telegraph that the ministry had the right to examine whether the programme was achieving the desired results and suggest corrections.

The teachers’ association has demanded action against the commission chairperson for failing to take steps to prevent the “illegality”. It plans to step up its campaign by marshalling support from Delhi MPs and other political leaders across parties.

Educationist and RSS member Dina Nath Batra said the university must listen to stakeholders like teachers and students.

“Since the students and teachers are against it, and since it violates the national policy of education, it should not be implemented,” Batra said. He said he would write to the government to scrap the four-year programme.

The teachers’ association has suggested that the students enrolled in the four-year programme, who have studied only the foundational courses so far, now study their core subjects and be given the choice of graduating in three years. Alternatively, if they want, they can complete the rest of the foundational courses in the fourth year.