Sunday, June 29, 2014

Experiments in Higher Ed

As you all know by now, Delhi University has succumbed to the UGC diktat and agreed to bury FYUP, its "flagship" program [See the posts by Rahul Siddharthan, Dheeraj Sanghi and Saroj Giri, and the links within them].

For all its merits, and the support of our science academies, the FYUP at DU never managed to get the support of the people of Delhi.

It is possible that FYUP is not suitable for everyone, and it might have found broader support if it was offered as an option for those who were interested in staying in college for an extra year. In other words, FYUP as an incremental change (or, as an experiment) might have worked better than its introduction as the default option for everyone.

I was, and continue to be, unpersuaded by arguments that complained about the 'haste' with which the FYUP was implemented. Since I see the FYUP as an experiment -- and it will necessarily be a different experiment at each university -- I have always held the view that it is better to take the plunge and implement it. To the extent that an institution has the right processes in place to take care of problems and make mid-course corrections, hasty implementation becomes less of a concern.

This country has unleashed several large scale experiments in the last decade: I am referring here to the creation of IISERs, IITs, NITs, and Central Universities. These institutions are being built from scratch. Each is going about organizing its governance structures and developing its academic programs in its own unique way. In these cases too, critics focused on the lack of preparation and hasty implementation. But people -- and I mean here the broader public -- seem to be fine with the idea that the success of such experiments can be assessed only over a period of years (if not decades).

Since I approach FYUP as an experiment (and let's face it, it's a lot less radical than starting a new institution from scratch), I find it perplexing that the people of Delhi oppose it so vehemently.

So, what is the difference between these two kinds of experiments -- FYUP at DU and creating new institutions all across the country? What makes the public see the former as largely unacceptable and the latter as very desirable?


  1. Madhavan Chalat said...

    It probably boils down to communication. As far as the IISERs, IITs,CUs are concerned, in the eyes of the wider public, they are replications of the older, successful models (the IISc, older IITs and CUs). Laymen may not concern themselves with the fact that the newer institutes are being built from the scratch and may have a character entirely different from their inspirations. But the FYUP is a complete divergence from the traditional, and may I add time tested, system. The proponents of FYUP,IMO, have failed to effectively communicate its advantages to the public.