Days after the change in government at the Centre and an escalating protest against Delhi University’s Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) by BJP’s student wing ABVP, the apex higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) Friday took a U-turn and decided to “review” the varsity’s move made one year ago.
The move to review FYUP comes when admission season is just set to open at the Delhi University.
At a meeting of the UGC in New Delhi today, it was decided that Delhi University be asked to review the implementation of the FYUP. Sources said that it was argued at the UGC meeting that FYUP violates the national policy of education that mandates a 10+2+3 format, that the change was not effected through an amendment to the Universities Act, that it did not come by through the Visitor’s approval — the President of India is the Visitor to all Central Universities — and that it was basically illegal.
While the Delhi BJP had in its manifesto called for scrapping the FYUP, a rollback of an academic programme in an autonomous central university is no easy task and will involve consultations with all academic bodies with the University.
The UGC move, however, is a major shot in the arm for the critics Said to have the support of HRD Minister Smriti Irani who has maintained that student interest will be protected, the UGC-ordered review also finds strength from the recommendation made by the S K Joshi committee recently.
Recently, the Joshi Committee, set up by UGC last year amid protests against the Delhi University’s decision to bring in the FYUP, said that the issue needs to be thoroughly and comprehensively reviewed by a different committee so that other universities mulling a similar change may be forewarned or better prepared. Based on the responses it got from DU, the Joshi committee had also felt that the issue had not been deliberated upon well enough.
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The review is a big setback to DU Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh who had pushed through the new academic programme amid strong resistance from large sections of the teaching community. Singh positioned FYUP as a switch to a modern higher education format that is in tune with global higher education formats and facilitates greater reform through student mobility, inter varsity credit transfer and semester system.
Singh and UGC Chairman Ved Prakash did not respond to calls or messages.
While Singh pushed through the FYUP getting support of the HRD ministry under two successive ministers Kapil Sibal and Pallam Raju, what has come into question is the role of the UGC.
The UGC last year supported the VC and the FYUP to the hilt saying that as per the Kothari Commission report, the duration of a programme may vary from varsity to varsity and also within the same varsity and so there was no problem with DU’s FYUP.
The UGC’s only concern was that the conventional nomenclature of degrees — Bachelor’s and Master’s — be adhered to instead of the ‘Baccalaureate’ that DU proposed. It also asked DU to ensure that the FYUP must be aligned to the Master’s programme in DU as well in other varsities.
Academics opposing the four-year programme claim that due and necessary consultation had not been conducted before such a major overhaul of DU’s flagship undergraduate programme and that no academic reason or principle has been cited for carrying out this exercise. They also argued that given the scale — 4 lakh students enrol in DU annually across some 80 colleges and 50 departments — the new format requires formulating 30 individual courses and 20 common courses and due process was subverted in a “reckless hurry” to usher in the new format.
Adding weight to the chorus rising against the way the new undergraduate programme is being pushed through were the likes of CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, activist Aruna Roy, Aam Aadmi Party’s Prashant Bhushan among others who have voiced their support for what is called the “Save DU” campaign.
There are others, however, who support the idea behind the FYUP but concede that there may have been some implementation issues in DU. The UGC move to review a programme that has been running for only a year and is yet to play out is also being seen as a negative precedent that could set behind university reforms.