The Four-Year Undergrad Program is Illegal

Published: June 25, 2014 16:10 IST
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(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

The last few days have seen heated debates in the media about the Delhi University's controversial Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). What began with the University Grants Commission's advisory followed by directives to the Delhi University to revert to the three year undergraduate programme  has become a battle between the two autonomous institutions.

What exactly is the core issue at stake? Is it the autonomy of Delhi University? Or is it the future of thousands of students? For more clarity, it is imperative to sift the facts from fiction.

The facts are unambiguous. Between September 2011 and December 2012, Delhi University took various decisions to amend  existing ordinances, presumably for introducing the FYUP, a pet project of  then Education Minister Kapil Sibal and Delhi University Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh. However, a careful reading of Delhi University's Amendments to Ordinances dated 26th December 2012 reveals that of the 44 courses, only two courses are marked as four- year programmes for a total of just 80 students. The said programmes are B.Tech / BS Innovation with Maths and IT (on Page-3) and B.Tech Humanities (on Page 49). Shockingly, Delhi University decided to implement the four-year undergraduate programme for all courses instead of only two courses of 40 seats each that are mentioned in the Amendment to the Ordinances!

As part of due process, the ordinances also require approval by the Visitor of the University, the Hon'ble President of India. There is no record to show that these ordinances were sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and  then  placed before the President of India for approval. Yet Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh was quoted in the media as saying that these ordinances had the approval of the President of India.

Evidently, Delhi University's FYUP is an illegal course. It has no validity or recognition by the UGC. The Vice Chancellor and University cannot tout autonomy as a defence for incorrect decisions.

Beyond legalities, the implementation process of the FYUP has also been severely criticised. Consultation with concerned stake-holders including students and teachers was virtually absent before its launch. The course content left much to be desired. Dreams of a progressive international standard programme were deftly sold but not backed by ample preparation. While countries like Japan took several years in preparation before making the changeover to the FYUP, Delhi University achieved this feat in a matter of months!

This is a case of high handedness by Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh of Delhi University. In the name of autonomy, he first chose to ignore the stakeholders before implementing the FYUP. Even as he claims autonomy for himself, the Vice Chancellor has not yet permitted 57 colleges to begin their admission process (57 out of 64 colleges who have given their compliance to the UGC to revert to the 3 year undergraduate programme). Autonomy cannot be used as the privilege of a Vice Chancellor to perpetrate autocracy.

Ignoring all this, the Congress party expectedly decided to politicize the controversy. Despite the Minster for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani not intervening in the issue between two autonomous bodies,  prominent leaders of the Congress Party, sought to allege exactly this.

What they have chosen to ignore is that both the Congress-UPA Ministers of HRD, Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr Pallam Raju, failed to address the concerns raised on the FYUP by various stakeholders, academicians and most important of all, parliamentarians.

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