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Parents to IISc: defy order on 4yr course

New Delhi, Aug. 7: Students’ parents have urged the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to assert its academic autonomy and defy the University Grants Commission directive to scrap its four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science programme.

Several parents whose children have just joined the BS programme called senior teachers and sent emails to the institution today, expressing concern about the implications the higher education regulator’s directive held for their children.

“This is horrible; our politicians are playing with our children’s careers,” said Sanjay Agarwal, a Calcuttan whose son chose the BS, turning down seats at an IIT and institutions in London and Singapore, after passing Class XII from Calcutta’s St James School.

“Why are politicians telling our academic institutions what and how to teach our students?”

The BS course has since 2011 been accepting about 120 students who have to qualify with high marks in a national fellowship exam called the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana or the IIT entrance exam or the All-India Pre-Medical Test.

“What the UGC is doing is most unfair to the students,” said Bangalorean H. Dhundiraj Hebbar, father of a student who turned down an offer from IIT Chennai to pursue the BS, hailed widely as a model course in undergraduate science education.

An authoritative source who requested anonymity told The Telegraph that the IISc had only yesterday received the commission’s letter, dated August 4, asking it to junk the four-year course for a three-year one. The source said the institute today wrote back asking the regulator to reconsider.

Commission chairperson Ved Prakash did not respond to repeated calls to his mobile phone. Commission secretary Jaspal Singh Sandhu said he had no idea whether any such directive had been sent to the Bangalore institute.

“I do not know if any direction has gone. I have not received any letter from the IISc. I do not know if the chairman has received any communication,” Sandhu said.

As a premier research institute, the IISc has a special reputation. It receives funds directly from the human resource development (HRD) ministry. The commission’s action has annoyed scientists and academics.

P.M. Bhargava, former director of the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology, said the regulator had no business interfering in the institute’s affairs.

“The UGC would not have done this without being instructed by the HRD ministry. This BS course is an excellent programme,” Bhargava said.

Agarwal, the Calcuttan, said a group of parents of IISc students was considering setting up a forum that would seek to protect their children’s interests.

“Such an order cannot be imposed retrospectively. Students have already joined, expecting a four-year course,” Agarwal said. “If need be, we’ll approach the Supreme Court.”

Mahesh Yadav, a Jaipur-based parent, said: “We’ll fight this. We were told the IISc is a four-year course, it has to remain that.”

Earlier, on a prod from the new government, the regulator had forced a reluctant Delhi University to abolish its four-year undergraduate programme and revert to the old three-year one.

It had said the four-year programme violated the 10+2+3 system suggested by the National Policy on Education, 1986, for the general streams.

Aditya Narayan Mishra, a faculty leader in Delhi University who had then held a dharna in protest against the commission’s directive, today accused the regulator and the government of traversing a retrograde path.

“They are trying to destroy beautiful institutions. The government is trying to control all higher educational institutions,” Mishra said.