UGC brings DU row to a head in admission season

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  • Published 23.06.14

New Delhi, June 22: The University Grants Commission today asked Delhi University to scrap its four-year undergraduate programme by tomorrow, threatening to stop grants if it didn’t.

It also cited a law that allows the commission — the higher education regulator — to de-recognise the university’s degrees.

Coming two days before admissions are to start for the upcoming academic session, the directive has injected a degree of uncertainty into the process and may add to the confusion among the one lakh-odd admission seekers.

In a letter to the registrar of the university and the principals of all its 64 affiliated colleges, commission secretary Jaspal Singh Sandhu has asked them to roll back the four-year programme, introduced last year, within 24 hours.

He said the college admissions scheduled from Tuesday could then enrol students in three-year undergraduate courses. The commission also wants the students admitted last year to switch to the three-year format.

A copy of the letter, which caps a weeklong battle of nerves between the commission and the university, has been uploaded on the commission website.

The university has not reacted officially but a senior official said on condition of anonymity that it might not be possible to implement the commission’s “intimidating order” within the deadline.

He said the four-year programme had been introduced through an ordinance following clearances from the university’s academic council and executive council, which alone can scrap the programme now.

It would be difficult to convene a meeting of these two councils — whose members include government representatives and outside academics — at such short notice, he said.

St. Stephen’s College principal Valson Thampu told The Telegraph his college would not oppose a return to the three-year system.

The college has decided to defer the final admissions, including fee payments, until the university and the commission sort the matter out. But it will continue with the selection process.

The other colleges affiliated to the university were to bring out their first cut-off lists on Monday, but that has now become uncertain.

Reaction among the students enrolled in the four-year programme was mixed. “We have already spent a year under the four-year programme. At this stage, a change would not be ideal,” said a student who didn’t want to be named.

Another student, Shantam Saini of Hindu College, said revocation of the four-year programme would bring him “huge relief”. He said he felt the foundation courses — whose inclusion has necessitated the addition of a year to the undergraduate programme — were redundant.

“Whatever we have studied in school we are again studying in college thanks to the foundation courses. The one year’s additional education is not necessary,” he said.

Funds axe

Sandhu’s letter asked the university to report its compliance by Monday. “Any deviation or contravention of this order shall be viewed seriously by UGC and may attract actions under the UGC Act including withdrawal of grants facilities to colleges,” it said.

A senior commission official told this newspaper the regulator had the powers to declare invalid any degree granted by a university that had violated the UGC’s directive.

Delhi University and its colleges depend heavily on the commission’s grants to meet their expenses.

In 2013-14, the “non-plan” grants (towards salaries, pensions and maintenance) for Delhi University and its colleges were Rs 429 crore and Rs 625 crore, respectively.

This apart, the “plan” allocations (towards developmental projects) for the university and its colleges for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) are Rs 300 crore and Rs 101 crore, respectively.

A sum of Rs 591 crore has been allocated to the university for the expansion of its facilities to accommodate the 27 per cent Other Backward Classes quota. Of this, Rs 404 crore has been released. The allocation for the colleges is Rs 1,319 crore, of which Rs 779 crore has been released.

On Friday, the commission had asked the university to scrap the four-year programme. Yesterday, the university’s academic council decided to write back to the commission to reconsider the directive.

After the media reported the council decision, the commission issued its directive, pre-empting the move.

During UPA rule, the commission had supported the four-year programme, which was opposed by the BJP. Now the commission says the programme is illegal because it violates the national education policy of having a 10+2+3 system, and because it was introduced without following procedure.

The university denies the programme is illegal. Former Delhi University Teachers’ Association president Aditya N. Mishra, who has been supporting the university authorities on the matter, said the commission had exceeded its brief to please its political masters.

“The BJP had said in its manifesto for the Delhi Assembly elections that it would scrap the four-year programme. The commission is doing it on behalf of the Narendra Modi government,” Mishra alleged.

Supporters of the programme point out that the US, too, has a four-year undergraduate programme. When Indian graduates seek further studies in American universities, they have to do a one-year bridge course.

Pakistan and China, too, have started four-year undergraduate courses in most of their universities.

In Britain, the undergraduate programme is of three years but the schooling is of 13 years, one year more than India’s. So Indian students seeking admission to master’s programmes in the leading British universities too have to do a bridge course.