NEP: Four-Year UG Courses May Return to Delhi University in 2021
Delhi University’s committee on NEP has been discussing a proposal to reintroduce four-year UG programmes from 2021.
Half a decade after the University of Delhi was forced to abandon its controversial Four-Year Undergraduate Programme, students enrolling at the prestigious central varsity in the coming academic session may have the option of pursuing a multi-disciplinary four-year undergraduate degree, which they can quit at the end of the first, second or the third year, sources in the know of the matter have told The Quint.
A key feature of the National Education Policy, 2020, the four-year degree programme with multiple exit points, is being discussed by a committee comprising varsity officials and teachers, which has been tasked to suggest ways in which the new policy can be implemented.
A note circulated before the committee, which The Quint has seen, reveals that students at the varsity may take courses involving ‘hobbies’ and ‘ethics or culture’ in the first and fourth semester, respectively.
The suggestion, however, has drawn criticism from the Democratic Teachers’ Front, which has accused DU of pushing ahead with NEP without debate, while also asserting that the four-year programme would be a “unmitigated disaster” both for the students and the varsity.
But before we discuss the contents of the note and reasons behind its staunch opposition, let’s first understand why this suggestion is being discussed in the first place.
What does the NEP say about the four-year UG programme?
NEP, which lays a great deal of focus on making Higher Education Institutions flexible and multidisciplinary, provides for three- or four-year undergraduate programmes, while giving more preference to the longer Bachelor's programme.
“The undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications, e.g., a certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field, including vocational and professional areas, or a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor ’s degree after a 3-year programme.”NEP 2020
Does the NEP allow students to take a break and come back?
Addressing the media at the release of the policy document on 29 July 2020, Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare had announced the formation of an Academic Bank of Credit.
Under this, the credits earned by students at the end of every even semester or academic year, would be stored in a DigiLocker.
This would allow the student to take a break, say at the end of second year and “return within a time stipulated by the New Higher Education Commission” and join the third year.
Under existing rules, a student has to start afresh from the first semester if she leaves the degree course mid-way.
So what has DU’s NEP committee proposed?
It must be remembered that the following is just a proposal and a final decision will be taken later.
SEMESTER I : According to the note, the university is planning to introduce a new course named ‘Hobby’ in the first semester, which will carry 2 credits. It will be accompanied by two core Major courses with six credits each, one Minor, one Language I and one Generic Skills course for six, four and two credits, respectively. Students will earn a total of 26 credits at the end of the first semester.
SEMESTER II: This will comprise two Core Major courses, each carrying six credits. Apart from this, one minor, one Environment and one Generic Sills course will carry six, four and two marks each. Students will earn a total of 24 credits at the end of the second semester.
By the end of the first year, students would earn 50 academic credits and will be awarded a ‘certificate’ as mentioned in the NEP 2020.
SEMESTER III: Two Core Major subjects with six credits each, followed by one Minor, Language II, and one Skills course with six and four credits, respectively.
SEMESTER IV: This comprises a new course named ‘Ethics/Culture, which carries two academic credits. Apart from this, two Core Major courses will carry six credits each while one minor and one Skills course will carry six and four credits each.
At the end of the second year, students will earn 50 academic credits and as mentioned in NEP, will be awarded a ‘Diploma’.
What happens in the third year?
In the fifth and sixth semester, students get to focus on major and minor subjects. For example, in the fifth semester, students would take up three core major courses (six credits each) and one minor course carrying six credits. The same applies to the sixth semester.
By the end of the third year, students would earn 50 academic credits. However, it is not clear if students will be given a degree at the end of third year or asked to continue till four years.
Why add an extra year?
Apart from suggesting that an extra year be added, the committee is discussing the possibility of dividing the fourth year into two types. While one would be regular year, the other would focus heavily on research.
For example, under the regular four-year, students would write a dissertation for a Minor course in semester seven, along with a dissertation on a Major subject in semester eight. This is in addition, to two Major DSEs and one Minor course in both the semesters.
However, since NEP 2020 says that the four-year programme leading to a degree “may also lead to a degree ‘with Research’ if the student completes a rigorous research project in their major area(s) of study”. DU’s committee has suggested the option of a thesis or an internship in semester seven and eight, under the research category.
Interestingly, NEP 2020 mentions that “students at all HEIs will be provided with opportunities for internships with local industry, businesses, artists, crafts persons, etc., as well as research internships with faculty and researchers at their own or other HEIs/research institutions.”
Why are some professors opposing the move?
In a statement, the Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) said that the NEP is being “steamrolled in universities”, despite protests from teachers and parents.
A four-year UG programme, the front maintained, would not only prolong the course by diluting subjects but would also mount a great amount of stress on an “already crumbling infrastructure.”
“For the students, the NEP is an unmitigated disaster: they are faced with the ‘multiple exit options’, which gives an illusion of choice through an installment model of learning. Such exit options encourage and institutionalize the system of drop-outs, especially among students coming from socially and economically underprivileged sections, particularly women.”
Pointing out to the scrapping of the Final Year Undergraduate Programme, which was scrapped just a year after being introduced, the DTF said that it was unfortunate that DU had not learnt its lesson from “colossal failure of the past”.
Apart from this, two Academic Council members said that since DU is an autonomous institution, the decision of whether NEP should be implemented and to what extent should have been taken by members of the council.
When will these measures be implemented and how?
DU Registrar Vikas Gupta told The Quint that the NEP committee is only looking at ways in which it can be implemented. Once the recommendations have been finalised, they will be presented before the Academic Council land the Standing Committee.
When asked for an estimate by when these measures would be implemented, Gupta said that “the university is trying its best to implement some of the recommendations, without making too many changes, by the next academic academic session.”
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