After days of uncertainty and protests, Delhi University has scrapped the FYUP. Shikha Sharma, Aditi Vatsa & Apurva find out how and why the university rolled back its most ambitious reform so far
The siege of Delhi University has ended. It witnessed demonstrations and intrigue that the premier university had not seen since the days of the anti-Mandal movement. The campaign lasted 10 days and the four-year undergraduate programme is now history.
On one side, championing reforms, stood Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh and his lieutenants. And on the roads, outside Singh’s office and Faculty of Arts, camped student bodies, teachers and politicians demanding the older system. The latter were aided by the University Grants Commission and the tacit backing of a new government at the Centre. As a former Academic Council (AC) member put it, the only thing that had changed in the one year since FYUP was implemented was the Central government. “Only one person has changed during this entire controversy — the Minister of Human Resource Development,” he said.
Incidentally, in 2013, FYUP had received complete backing from UGC Chairperson Ved Prakash, who did a volte-face days after the new government was sworn in. “The regulatory authority has become incapable of commanding any respect. The executive head has systematically destroyed his own institution,” said another DU professor.
The chaos could not have started at a worse time — on the eve of admissions. Lakhs of students from across the country flocked to Delhi, toppers with phenomenal grades looked askance till Friday when DU and Singh caved in and acceded to the UGC’s demands.
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As the curtains come down on the first attempt in decades to drag DU — kicking and screaming — into the 21st century, The Sunday Express looks at the abortive FYUP saga and whether it was doomed since its very inception.
BEGINNING OF END
There were voices of dissent at the very beginning. It was in the AC meeting on December 24, 2012 that the course was passed by the statutory body, amid six elected members giving their dissent. If six teachers raised objections to the passing of the four year course in the AC, several others staged demonstrations outside the V-C’s office even while the meeting was underway.
The next few months saw protests gathering momentum. Even student groups, which had not been convinced with the arguments of the anti-FYUP campaign earlier, jumped in. “Some teachers’ and students’ organisations had been protesting against the four year course since December 2012. Since we had not seen the course structure or content, we did not join them. It was in May 2013 when we got details of the courses, days before it was to be discussed in the Academic and Executive Councils, that we realised its implications,” said Sunny Kumar, All India Students’ Association Delhi State Secretary.
The protests fell on deaf ears, as the DU administration retreated into a shell. It was perhaps here that the beginning of the end took shape.
“Efforts were made to discuss the FYUP with the DU administration. Apart from various political groups of teachers and students, a group of eminent intellectuals also raised concerns about the course with the university administration,” said a member of the AC who had given his dissent.
Teachers, mostly from the BJP-backed teachers’ group — National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), who did not oppose the FYUP in statutory body meetings — also joined the protests. Citing reasons like poor course content, alleged dissatisfaction among students and teachers, NDTF members maintained that they might not have dissented when the course was being passed, but they had suggested modifications. “Even last year, when the programme was being implemented in haste, we gave suggestions on how the DU should take it easy, and first have the necessary infrastructure and right number of teachers in place to start a programme of this capacity. But everything happened in such a haste that we didn’t even have time to organise ourselves properly to raise our voices,” Ajay Bhagi from the NDTF, and a member of DU’s AC, said.
Under the previous Congress government, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal had mooted the idea of abandoning the three-year course and move to a four-year system in line with global standards, particularly the US.
However, the rumblings of change in DU began in 2008 with the announcement of the semester system under V-C Deepak Pental. It was also met with dissent and protests. Unlike Singh, sources said, Pental initially engaged with the opposition. “There were problems with the semester system, but in the statutory body meetings, the V-C would listen to what others had to say and tried to bring everyone on board,” a DU professor said. This valuable lesson was perhaps lost on Singh.
“From December 2012 to April 2013, we tried to approach the university. We did not want any external intervention. We thought the matter could be sorted within the university. But we were completely shut out. We spent three and a half months respecting autonomy. Any staff council that tried to raised objections was shunted. Every possible avenue for discussions was blocked or denied,” a senior professor said.
Under the four-year programme, students were expected to study 11 compulsory foundation courses, ranging from mathematics to Indian history to business entrepreneurship to environment and public health.
Citing high dropout rate of undergraduate students, the DU administration had worked three exit points with the belief that students will get a diploma or a bachelors’ degree if they plan to drop out before the completion of four years.
The opposition to the course was based on the content and manner in which it was implemented.
“Most of us did not even contest the four years. A four-year degree might be a good idea. None of us said that reform was not needed, that the earlier system did not have any flaws,” a sociology teacher said. Naysayers cited problems with the format — its content and “façade of choice”. As opposed to the university administration which believed that the FYUP was providing students with more choices, those against it said that choice was being taken away from students. With an additional year of study and a series of compulsory papers, apart from the main discipline, a section of teachers felt that the FYUP was trying to achieve a dated philosophy — cover a lacuna in the school education system. “It was not a 3+1 programme, it became a 1+3 programme. It was not adding value to the top, but at the bottom. A streaming takes place after Class X and the FYUP was trying to de-stream after Class XII,” said Debashish Mookerjee, English professor at Ramjas College.
A section of teachers and students also believed that the courses were not designed properly. “Most people looked at the course as being ‘dumbed down’. It was felt that there was an attempt to dilute their discipline,” Mookerjee added.
A former DU administrator admitted, “The foundation courses were not properly made”. Putting the blame on the government for not backing the university “openly” during its implementation, he asked, “Where was the UGC when the course was implemented? It has turned into a political tamasha.”
CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE
In the middle of all this drama, students under the FYUP became the worst victims. While FYUP students are currently considering the ‘value’ of studying a programme that has already been rolled back, those set to enrol into the varsity are wondering what to expect this admission season. “FYUP is project based, and requires totally different infrastructure and teaching methodology compared to the three-year undergraduate degree. But the university will have the same number of teachers and infrastructure. How will the university accommodate two entirely different courses of study?” questioned Swati Rawat, a student.
With the rollback of FYUP, fate of students enrolled in BTech and BMS courses is also unclear, with nothing concrete having been said about the two courses.
Meanwhile, students have expressed relief over the beginning of admissions, but some have expressed sadness for not being able to study under the four-year programme.
“The world over, the four-year programme has value. Now, if my son wants to go abroad, he will have to study an extra year or do a post-graduation course before,” said Jhafar Binyamin from Kerala, whose son has secured 99 percent marks and wants to study at the Shri Ram College of Commerce.
FOR & AGAINST
Dinesh Singh (Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University, 2010-present)
The Delhi University Vice-Chancellor championed the four-year programme and, in December 2012, the Academic Council of Delhi University sanctioned it amid vast opposition from several associations of students and teachers. A professor of mathematics at St Stephen’s College, Singh also served as Director of South Campus before becoming the V-C. He refuted claims that FYUP was modelled after the American system, and maintained that the programme was ‘different from what currently exists in India’.
V-C’s CORE TEAM
Sudhish Pachauri, (Pro Vice- Chancellor)
Umesh Rai (Director, South Campus)
Alka Sharma (Registrar, Delhi University)
Malashri Lal (Dean of Colleges)
The four members who make up the V-C’s core team were instrumental in devising the course structure and curriculum, assisting Dinesh Singh in conceptualising FYUP and giving it a form and shape. A 61-member task force was subsequently created by the V-C to prepare a framework for setting up the course.
Kapil Sibal (Union HRD Minister, 2009-12)
Sibal pushed the idea of moving away from a three-year degree to a four-year undergraduate course in order to make it more relevant to ‘the changing needs of society and to propel India to the position of a leading knowledge power’. It was vociferously supported by then Minister of State for HRD Shashi Tharoor and the next HRD minister, M M Pallam Raju. It was also pointed out that the unstated motivation for ‘reforming the structure of the prevalent three-year degree course was to establish equivalence with the junior colleges of the US’.
Ved Prakash (Chairman, UGC)
After barely having any objections in the days of the UPA regime when FYUP was introduced, and even lauding V-C for reforming the university as late as February, the UGC Chairman seems to have changed his position about the benefits of the programme with the change in the political regime at the Centre, choosing to communicate to the university in the language of threats, diktats and ultimatum in the past two weeks. The UGC took a U-turn from its earlier stand in June, stating the course was against the National Policy on Education (10+2+3).
Nandita Narain (President, Duta)
The face of the anti-FYUP protest, Narain has been fighting for rolling back the course since its introduction. Professor of mathematics at St Stephen’s, she managed to unite groups with different ideologies to fight for the common cause of rolling back the four year programme. “The programme was always against the National Policy on Education of 10+2+3, and was implemented without taking the necessary approvals. It was ill-conceptualised and passed in haste by a vice-chancellor who had been running the university like a fiefdom. Rollback of the programme is a victory of the student-teacher movement that had been fighting in the interest of the university,” she said.
Smriti Irani (Union HRD Minister)
She may have not spoken much in public about the four year undergraduate programme, except for making a cryptic assurance about ‘protecting students’ interests’, but the many directives issued by the UGC to DU leave no doubt about the involvement of MHRD in pushing for the rollback. The BJP, in its Delhi polls manifesto, had promised to roll back FYUP, and the university’s decision to roll back the course is now being viewed as the party fulfilling one of its poll promises. “We are thankful to Smriti Irani for putting enough pressure on the UGC to affect rollback of the four year undergraduate programme,” said Saket Bahuguna, general secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad.