This is regarding The Indian Express editorial on the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) controversy (‘Four-year dead end’, June 23). While it is difficult to disagree with its condemnation of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) move on the FYUP, it is disappointing to read it hailing the FYUP as a transformatory educational exercise. It seems the IE team has not taken the trouble to go through the content of the programme. Nor has it examined its basic structure. It is so illogical, disjointed, shabby and trivialising in its approach that to call it comparable in any manner to the US’s undergraduate programmes is nothing less than bizarre.
The UGC has been unprincipled in its response all along. Last year, weeks before the initiation of the FYUP and well ahead of admissions to it, we appealed to the ministry of human resource development and the UGC to intervene in accordance with its act. We were told that the UGC had no role to play as the university was an autonomous body and had complete freedom to decide upon its course structure and duration. One needs to point out that it is the duty of the UGC to ensure that the degrees offered by different universities are comparable in quality.
Why were we opposed to it? For several reasons. One, the basic structure was never discussed at the faculty level and processes were violated. Two, the structure in itself is academically flawed. It proposes three types of certificates: diploma, bachelor and bachelor (honours). While logically you should have three different curriculum designs to address the needs of the respective programmes, the FYUP sought to do it through a single curriculum, which is just not possible. Effectively, the diploma and simple bachelor degree are nothing but fractured pieces of the honours programme.
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The foundation courses (FC) being celebrated as an innovation are so trivial and thoughtless that students feel humiliated at being asked to study them. Gautam Bhan has written a long critique of them in the Economic and Political Weekly, also available on Kafila. It makes it very clear that the FYUP has failed to understand the philosophy behind the FC as practised in US universities. No self-respecting university that takes academics seriously would agree to a change of this nature and scale in barely two months, without even allowing the teaching community to participate in it.
Apart from this, we expect a newspaper like the IE to examine the internal life of Delhi University closely. For the last three and half years, we have been living in emergency-like conditions. Threats, abuses, victimisation (deduction of salary for participation in demonstrations or protests, denial of promotion for being critical of the FYUP) crass regionalism, casteism, corruption and bribing of students by inflating their grades are some of the tactics. The only bookshop on campus has been shuttered. We are not given permission to hold meetings or seminars. Mediocrity rules. DU has been so badly damaged that it requires a real visionary and healer to rescue it from its present state.
The writer is a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi