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Promises and Perils of FYUP: An Appeal to Students and Citizens: Sunny Kumar

May 30, 2013

This is a guest post by SUNNY KUMAR At the current moment, Delhi University is caught in a tremendous crisis. On the one hand, the DU administration is hurriedly forcing through the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). On the other hand, students, teachers, intellectuals and all those concerned with education are opposing it. The DU administration has declared that all students taking admission in DU will enter a four year honours degree. Within this FYUP scheme, if students wish they can leave at the end of two years with a Diploma or at the end of three with a Bachelor degree (without honours). It is only at the end of four years that they can leave with a Bachelor (Hons) degree. Teachers and academics have raised many valid objections about the way in which this tectonic shift is being imposed on DU. Here, we will not belabour many of the arguments that have been made effectively elsewhere. Instead, we will mainly address the Vice Chancellor’s two central claims – of greater employability and flexibility – being made in defence of the FYUP.

To understand the new scheme better, let us look at what will be taught under FYUP.

Will the FYUP, with the above course content and its multiple exit options truly make students more employable? Will it help them get better jobs or give them extra advantage in choosing future academic options? Let us look at some of the facts:

(1) The students who obtain a Two Year Diploma will study only 8 papers from their core/ main discipline. The remaining 20 courses will be compulsory, extremely basic, mostly school-level (the foundation courses). Such a two-year diploma would offer no specialization since the student will have studied only 8 papers from the core discipline. Would such a DU Diploma have any value in the job market when contrasted with specialized diplomas (such as NIIT diplomas in computer languages and programming)? No, because the DU diploma offers no focus on a core discipline at all unlike diplomas offered elsewhere. So, in contrast to the claims of providing ‘more employment’, a diploma-holder from DU will actually be at a disadvantage when compared to a specialised diploma holder from another institute.

(2) If the student chooses to complete the three year Bachelor degree, s/he will merely study 14 main discipline courses. The remaining 28 courses will be an wild assortment of applied courses, subsidiary courses, cultural activities, and school-level foundation courses. We know, that from the +2 level in school itself, students have already begun to specialize by choosing their streams. What will they gain by repeating in college, the basics of each subject (which they have already been taught in school up to class 10)? Further, when compared with students from other universities who acquire an Honours degree in the same number of years; how will they stand a chance, let alone an edge in the job market? It is also obvious that when compared to the old three year programme course, they will not get a comparable amount of knowledge in their core discipline. While students under the old three year programme could enter a Masters programme in any of their core subjects, how will the DU students with inadequate specialization be able to pursue a Masters without completing their fourth year?

Number of Courses under each area

 

Diploma and degree

Foundation

Courses

(compulsory commonsensical courses)

Discipline I

(Core subject / ‘major’)

Discipline II

(Second subject / ‘minor’)

Applied Courses

Integrating Mind, Body Heart / Cultural Activities Courses

Two Year Diploma

11

08

02

03

04

Three Year Bachelor  degree

11

14

04

05

06

Four  Year Bachelor (Hons) degree

11

20

06

05

08

(3) The student who completes all four years and obtains a Bachelor (Hons) degree will have to do 50 courses – of which only 20 will be from his/her core discipline. The remaining 30 courses will be applied courses, cultural activities, subsidiary courses and school-level foundation courses.

In spite of having spent both time and money on an extra year, these students will have less knowledge of their core discipline than earlier students who had acquired an Honours Degree in three years where 75% of the courses were from the core discipline! Not only are they spending an extra year with no evident academic advantage, it is also not clear what job opportunities will open up exclusively for them.

Subsequently, if a student wishes to do an MA, DU has decided (although the decision has not yet been implemented) to let them do a “one-year MA” on the basis of ‘credit transfers’ of the 4th year of FYUP. The real issue of concern here is, even if the DU Administration recognises ‘credit equivalence’ between the 4th year of Bachelor (Hons) and the 1st year of MA, we need to ask whether such technical ‘credit point equivalence’ from the undergraduate programme can actually be the substitute of the quality of Post- Graduate class room teaching and learning that a student will acquire in course of a 2 years full-fledged Masters programme? Will higher education be measured only by the time and ‘credit points’, or by the quality of the content of what is taught? Another concern is, if the student has to pursue an MA from another university, s/he will still have to study for full two years anyway to get an MA, because the UGC does not have any system of ‘equivalence’ in place to suit the specificity of FYUP students.

4) Flexibility?

In every course, more than 50% of the courses that students have to compulsorily study are outside the core area of the students’ interest. How can such a programme be called ‘flexible’?!

Thus on all counts, the claims that FYUP will bring greater academic rigour, flexibility and employment, do not have any credible basis. DU’s Vice-Chancellor claims that a currently, a large part of the student body ‘drops out’ without finishing their education and getting their degree. In the proposed FYUP, students have the option to exit at the end of two and three years, with a Diploma and a Bachelor degree. However, what the VC is hiding is the danger that soon the job-market may treat the 2year/ 3year certificates coming out of a 4 year programme as ‘drop out’ degrees. Isn’t it a real possibility that the students, who have ‘chosen’ to exit at two and three years, will be seen in the job-market as those who were unable to or did not possess the competence to complete the Four Year Programme? In the name of employability and quality, this method of providing Multiple Exit Points is just another way of institutionalising ‘drop-outs’. No student will actually be better off even in the job market from these multiple exit points.

On the contrary, in a situation where a common student has to spend annually Rs. 1-1.5 lakh annually to fend for college fees and other living costs of rent, food and transport, 4 year will place an increased financial burden for the additional year. Needless to say, this will further discourage students who are already economically and socially disadvantaged (particularly the SC/ST/ OBC/PH/Minorities/Women students) to carry on with the Honours programme and force them to settle for the ‘drop-out’ degrees.

Erosion of Teaching-Learning

1) Training in Academic Writing: Under the previous three year programme, all students had to write three assignments and one project per paper, allowing them to develop greater analytical and research skills. In the new FYUP, students will not be required to submit even one written assignment; instead, they will have one group class presentation per course. In such a situation, how is any student going to be able to develop abilities in analysis or research?

2) The total number of teaching weeks have been reduced from 16 to 14. Where in the old system, per unit there would be 2 classes a week as well as tutorials, in the new scheme there will be only 1 class per unit per week. Further, so much teaching time will now be wasted in the fruitless compulsory ‘foundation courses’ which could have been better spent on the core discipline. How can any student specialise in any discipline if s/he spends more time on unwanted compulsory courses rather than necessary main courses?

Until now, Delhi University was known throughout the country for its rigorous, affordable, and high- quality education. The FYUP which will replace DU’s earlier programmes is entirely lacking in academic quality and rigour, and unsuitable for employment and further studies as well. Recently, DU has been conducting ‘Open House’ sessions for new entrants: but student and parents have all seen the

administration’s total refusal to answer any questions on the FYUP. The administration has gone so far as to say ‘there are other universities in the city – please join them’. At a moment when students have so many doubts and queries – the DU administration is not answering them, because it has no answers. We must all recognise that education is not commodity like a TV or a refrigerator. A bad consumer good may cause some monetary loss but still it can be replaced. We cannot replace a bad education acquired by spending years and money – it becomes an irreplaceable burden which cannot be compensated for!

Friends, universities in a developing country like ours are duty-bound to educate students with due rigour, enhance their critical thinking ability and also help erase the various social and economic inequities that exist in our society. The FYUP fails on all these counts. Instead, it seeks to dismantle a premier university and reframes its programmes to reinforce existing social and economic divisions by depriving students of their educational rights for better jobs and academic future. That a publicly funded, central university is being permitted to be so irresponsible is both deeply saddening and shameful.

We ask all citizens concerned about education, equality and democracy to seriously consider what purpose will be served by the disastrous anti-student, anti-academic ‘reforms’ initiated under the FYUP in Delhi University. Our University, Our Future! Affordable education! Quality! Social Inclusion! Equality!

Deeply alarmed at the content and structure of the FYUP and the roughshod manner it is being implemented, several noted academics, writers and intellectuals publicly expressed their concern. Five eminent scholars – scientist Yash Pal, historian Romila Thapar, author U R Ananthamurthy, poet and former chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpeyi and critic Namvar Singh has made a powerful appeal to the government and President of India, who is also the Visitor of the Delhi University:

“We are distressed to hear that despite protests by senior scholars and public intellectuals, the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) and the UGC have decided to maintain distance from the conflict afflicting in DU… In our view, this decision is tantamount to abdication of responsibility. Autonomy does not give licence to any institution, let alone a university, to treat the education of young people in a cavalier fashion…

The four-year course that DU is determined to implement goes beyond the National Policy on Education (1986) as it violates the 10+2+3 structure mandated by the policy. DU cannot be allowed to proceed with its new course without revision of the national policy and adequate discussion that such a revision would require..” They urged the govt to intervene and “save the lives of lakhs of young men and women from being manipulated through an ill-conceived educational experiment.”

Sunny Kumar is a PhD student at the Department of History, Delhi University

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2013 2:36 AM

    It actually makes sense to have 4 years degree for the students at DU similar to other countries where ARTS and Engineering schools have 4 year curriculum. If you want to pursue Masters after your bachelors now both disciplines would have gone through the same number of years. I also want to point out that if you apply for Higher education in US you need 16 years of school study and with 3 years of existing DU structure, it forces the students to do a Masters degree in India first and then a second Masters. The new course proposal makes is fair and students can choose between 3 years or 4 years degree and can set their career path.

  2. Sunalini Kumar permalink*
    June 1, 2013 8:17 AM

    Dear MC, there is a qualitative difference between the three year and four year degree in the proposed programme. After three years you will get BA without honours, and after four years you will get a BA with honours. Whereas earlier you could get a BA with honours after just three years. The new programme is in fact a downgrade of the three-year degree, which most students would have been prepared to study at college, and continue to study at all other universities in India. Now, for the sake of a tiny minority of students in India who may wish to apply to America (one country among many in the world), the entire student population of DU will have to do an extra year to get an honours degree or specialise in their subject? Does it make sense, to use your words?

  3. suresh permalink
    June 3, 2013 10:58 PM

    The four-year course that DU is determined to implement goes beyond the National Policy on Education (1986) as it violates the 10+2+3 structure mandated by the policy. DU cannot be allowed to proceed with its new course without revision of the national policy and adequate discussion that such a revision would require..”

    If this is true, how come Bangalore University has a four year BS programme? It is a different point that it is now being ‘suspended.’ How come IISc have a four year programme? Are these programmes also illegal? If so, why haven’t we heard anything about them?

    While I am not particularly pleased with what Delhi University has done, I am not pleased with the appeal for intervention by the government either. Autonomy means nothing unless it includes the right to make mistakes — painful as they may be. If the government is going to intervene everytime an institution is seen to be making “mistakes”, then why talk about autonomy at all? I don’t often agree with Shashi Tharoor but on this, I think he’s absolutely right.

    It is worth noting that once you justify intervention in this case, you are opening the door to interventions of the type that you might dislike. Does anyone remember what Murli Manohar Joshi did: introducing courses in Astrology and the like?

    I fully understand I will not have pay the “price” for the current policy — I don’t teach at DU and I am not a student either. But I still think that the best way of addressing this issue is from within DU instead of appealing for intervention from the UGC, MHRD or the President of India.

  4. Sunalini Kumar permalink*
    June 4, 2013 8:31 AM

    Suresh, the IISc is a research institution, not a university, so the implications are somewhat different. I don’t know about the details of Bangalore university, but really, there is a simple way to check the veracity of Sunny’s claim – just read the text of the National Policy on Education. There is a violation, clear and simple. Why and how can be debated.
    As for autonomy, I find your assumption that the four-year degree at DU was itself an autonomous move, emanating purely from the office of the VC, without any pressure or ‘directive’ from the HRD ministry…well, touchingly naive. In the real world, political pressures operate all the time. In India, the world is doubly real. Hence, appealing to the ministry is not violative of autonomy, but in fact restorative, since what we are asking for is to put the opinion of the university teachers and future students back into the decision-making process.

    • suresh permalink
      June 4, 2013 1:12 PM

      1. I am an outsider so I am very likely naive – not surprising, is it? However,
      (a) If the DU initiative has taken place due to political interference, then an appeal to the politicians to end their own interference is also touchingly naive.
      (b) Why does the appeal of Yashpal, Romila Thapar et al accuse the MHRD of “abdication of responsibility for maintaining distance from the conflict”? This is what I was responding to in my comment. You cannot have the MHRD interfering and maintaining distance at the same time. What are they doing?

      2. I don’t know the distinction between a research institution and a university. Presumably there is a bureaucratic distinction but from the viewpoint of a prospective student, both are degree-granting institutions and I was taking that perspective.

      3. Bangalore University’s four year Bachelor of Science details are here [pdf file]. It is true that this does not replace the three year programme (as at DU) but I was only responding to the claim that the four year course as such is illegal.

  5. suresh permalink
    June 4, 2013 11:31 PM

    Sunalini,

    Can you point me to where the National Policy on Education explicitly rules out 4 year undergraduate courses? I ask because I am not able to locate any such injunction. I’ve looked at the document and it says

    The National System of Education envisages a common educational structure. The 10+2+3 structure has now been accepted in all parts of the country. Regarding the further break-up of the first 10 years efforts will be made to move towards an elementary system comprising 5 years of primary education and 3 years of upper primary, followed by 2 years of High School. Efforts will also be made to have the +2 stage accepted as a part of school education throughout the country.

    It is certainly true that NEP has a common educational structure in mind. It would certainly like the entire country to follow the 10+2+3 pattern. However, education is on the concurrent list and so the centre can’t exactly ram it down everyone’s throats. The adoption of this structure has to be voluntary – the last sentence of the quote shows this explicitly. If my understanding is right, it would explain Bangalore University’s 4-year B.S. programme and why there is no controversy about it.

    Of course, whether four year undergraduate programmes are desirable is a different question.

  6. Sunalini Kumar permalink*
    June 10, 2013 9:21 AM

    Suresh, I had no idea you consider yourself an “outsider”, given the confidence of your tone. Anyhow, let us humbly debate, me as a clearly misinformed insider, and you as a knowledgable outsider. Sunny didn’t use the term “illegal” for the FYUP. It is not illegal in the manner, say, stealing oranges from somebody’s cart is. But it is a “violation” of a “policy”. What we are saying is if the policy is being violated in the country’s premier universities, then we need national debate. And perhaps taking into account the actual stakeholders inside the system – students (all prospective, and hence perhaps may not see the shape of the beast yet) and teachers. Oh but teachers are all work-shirking demons. So let us get a bunch of bureaucrats together at the HRD ministry and the university and decide. That is exactly how it happens every time. About autonomy, which is the only other point you have made, I repeat, nothing is really autonomous. We have degrees of autonomy. And whose autonomy? Autonomy of the administrators, teachers or students? Each of these forms of autonomy has widely different implications. We as teachers want more autonomy, but if the administration doesn’t listen to us and takes away our autonomy, we will appeal to a power that can reduce the autonomy of the administrators. That power, by definition is the MHRD or the UGC. Will they work in our favour? Perhaps not, and we are not fools to imagine they have our best interests at heart. But will they, being answerable to the legislature, sometimes be constrained to put into place some consultative process? Yes, sometimes. So we try to appeal to the vestiges of democratic functioning against the clear evidence of bureaucratic overstepping.
    As for the rest of my position against the FYUP, you may look at my recent post called “welcome the two year undergraduate programme”. As for me, I’m done here.

  7. June 9, 2014 11:58 AM

    I my self a student of eco hons,du 1st year. I agree with all written above and also pissed of with dis system. In only one year i have lost the habit of studing. We only have to go to college for just name sake.. There is no knowledge we get there.. All we know bout d silly project we have to make to get d marks.. Its a total time waste.. I never get feeling of studing in a good university to increase my knowledge. I an really tensed bout my future . So i seriously beg ur government to change this system n give us back ur old pattern.

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