At Delhi University, the Four Year Undergraduate Programme had completed only its first year when the UGC scrapped it, allowing that batch to be absorbed into the traditional three-year course. At Pune’s Symbiosis International University and Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science, the FYUP courses have already admitted their first final-year batches. The uncertainty about what happens to them is worrying students and authorities on both campuses.
Last week, HRD Minister Smriti Irani told the Lok Sabha that the UGC has ordered the scrapping of FYUP at both these institutes as well as Shiv Nadar University, Noida, besides asking four others for details about such courses they have.
Symbiosis has admitted 400 students since 2011 into its FYUP for liberal arts, with the fourth batch of 100 due to start its course when the the UGC notice came. “We have been getting a lot of phone calls and mails from anxious parents. We will make sure that whatever the final decision, the students’ future will not be affected,” said Anita Patankar, director of Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts.
“We have called an urgent meeting of the academic council and the board of management, after which a decision will be taken on the future course of action. I hope we get an opportunity to present our case,” said Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director of Symbiosis Society and the university’s vice chancellor.
IISc’s FYUP, also introduced in 2011, is for BS degrees. Giridhar Madras, professor of chemical engineering, worried about future graduates. “If the graduating student wants to join as a faculty at an university — he won’t be shortlisted without a ‘UGC recognised degree’,” he blogged.
Sanketh Sharma, an IISc student since 2012, is unsure if the BS degree he gets will make him eligible for further studies or if he will need to start from scratch. “I just hopes this does not turn out into a long-drawn battle. The course had run smoothly all these years.”
At Symbiosis, Veer Pratap Vikram Singh, a final-year student majoring in media studies and minoring in international relations, is hopeful the crisis will blow over. “I have put in four years of my life into this course. If it is derecognised, it will affect my job opportunities in India.”
Hope and indignation
Molecular biophysicist Prof. P Balaram, who was IISc director when it introduced FYUP in 2011, said the programme does not violate any UGC norm. “I suppose the IISc will showcase documents that validates the need of the course, hold discussions and hopefully, appreciating the goodness of the course at large, UGC might allow it,” he said.
Symbiosis’s Dr Yeravdekar and Patankar cited a US parallel, with such courses running there since the 1800s. “This course is especially beneficial for students who could not or did not want to go abroad to study liberal arts,” Patankar said. She said FYUP allows for cross-disciplinary studies. “Our students can major both in biology and business, or philosophy and genetics.” The course covers 18 compulsory subjects and eight electives, with specialisation in a major and a minor subjects.
The father of an IISc student said, “It was the FYUP pattern that attracted my daughter and many others. Why is UGC blockading the future of research aspirants? Research institutes follow the global trend, and must be allowed to function accordingly. They should ignore such directions unless they see merit in it.”
Former IISc director C N Ramachandra Rao is livid at the way the institute was informed. “IISc is one of the reputable institutions of the world. It was unthinkable the manner in which the esteemed institute was merely served a circular to comply with,” he said.
“Instead of taking a year out of the programme, offer an extra year to FYUP graduates along with a masters degree.” He cited the example of a five-year, dual-degree programme (BS-MS) at Indian Institute of Science and Research in Pune. “Why not give the same opportunity to IISc?”
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