Sunday, August 31, 2014

UGC's War on FYUP - VII: Some Observations

  1. The very first thing to note is the shameful silence of the science academies which championed the cause of a four year bachelors program in the sciences; their position paper was a precursor to the IISc's FYUP (and also Bangalore University where it has been in suspension since 2013) which started in August 2011, the same year IIT-K converted its five-year Integrated MSc program into a 4-year BS program.

    The Academies didn't defend, even partially, the FYUP at Delhi University. I can understand, sort of, their silence because DU's FYUP was not just for the sciences, but for all areas of study including commerce and the "arts subjects". But I just cannot understand their quiet aloofness after UGC came after IISc and now, the IITs.

  2. The statements of support from Prof. C.N.R. Rao and Dr. Anil Kakodkar have been timely. But their framing leaves much to be desired: "why are you doing this," they seem to say to UGC, "to our premier institutions?" It's as if it's okay for the UGC to do this to other institutions. As influential leaders, they could have stood solidly behind all our institutions of higher ed, and demanded autonomy for all of them.

  3. It has become fashionable among the influencers to support the creation of new types of institutions such as IIESTs and IISERs as well as starting new IITs, NITs and IIMs. An assumption which drives this trend is that our universities are so badly doomed that reforming "the system" is not even worth the effort.

    But, this mindset ignores the fact that an overwhelming majority (more than 95%, going by a recent talk by President Pranab Mukherjee) of our students study in our universities and their affiliated colleges. It is important for our scientific elite to support them in their struggle against irrational regulations.

  4. One of the strongest critiques of Indian higher ed policies of the 1950s was that the then government chose national labs (basically, the CSIR labs) over universities for science funding. This choice had the effect of pretty much decimating university research, and helped make many of them just examination-conducting bodies.

    Our current enthusiasm for creating IIXs can only have a similar debilitating effect on our universities, and may end up solidifying a two-tier system in which some get elite and expensive education while a vast majority go to increasingly impoverished universities.

    We should be aiming for a system where our good universities have the same exalted status as the IITs, and others know what they need to do to achieve that status. It is in our own long-term interest that our policies keep us moving toward this goal.

    I'm afraid our policies are dragging us in the opposite direction.


  1. gautam barua said...

    In all articles, posts etc. on the topic, I lost the reason why Delhi Univ's FYUP was objected to by the UGC. Was it based on the list of degrees as per section 22(3) of the UGC Act( the latest of which you have tagged in your new post)? It cannot be, because there only the "minimum" duration of a programme is mentioned, which presumably implies that anything longer will be acceptable. I remember there was some mention of the National Education Policy 1986. But can the UGC use this without incorporating it in some Rule? Is there some UGC Rule which states that the first degree has to be of three years? I could not find any.
    Even if through some rule / directive the UGC can "order" DU and other Univs, how can it do so to IITs and others to whom the UGC Act does not apply (see my blog post on this topic at If IIT Kanpur changes the name of its four year degree to B.Sc from B.S will it "take care of the problem"? Of course then IITK can give a 4 year B.Sc degree but IISc has to give a four year BSc(research) and DU none at all!
    I agree with you that requests / commands to "leave the IITs alone" is not the right way to approach the problem. The problem, as I see it is the need to have rules for the "bad" but since there is no objective way to distinguish the good from the bad, the "good" too must "suffer".

  2. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    Also, I don't see why the UGC asks for discontinuation of a programme, rather than asking for an appropriate renaming of the programme. This is ridiculous.

    Secondly, when everyone from the President to the HRD Minister is dismayed by the fact that we are nowhere in the world rankings, why don't they hold UGC's accountable for this? It is after all UGC's job to maintain standards.

  3. Unknown said...

    Unrelated but given past posts this may interest you

  4. 123 said...

    IMHO, the only way to improve the quality of universities in India is by government withdrawing completely from higher ed and focussing solely on improving the quality/quantity of school ed. Even the government funding for the state universities should not be by default. It should be bare minimum, conditional and commensurate with the quality of their teachers and students. let the universities compete with each other for limited funds and come up with innovative methods to raise funds to compensate for the cut in government contribution. And let those that cannot compete die a natural death.

  5. Dheeraj Sanghi said...

    At the time of UGC asking DU to scrap FYUP, the media had a mention of a letter that MHRD had written to UGC. Apparently under the UGC Act, the government can direct UGC to implement certain things in the "national interest." Under this clause, MHRD had asked UGC to stop those bachelors programs in non-professional courses where the minimum duration is more than 3 years. So, apparently, it was not UGC decision but MHRD decision. However, this connection has not been written about in media after that, so it may be a figment of someone's imagination. But irrespective of whose decision it was, it was really the nuisance value of UGC which was at play. Obviously, DU's FYUP did not violate even the so-called national policy of 10+2+3, since the minimum duration remained 3 years. It was only for the honors program, it was four years. UGC does not have to be rational. It directly wrote to affiliated colleges that their funding will stop if they did not start doing admissions in the 3 year program. Of course, this was crazy since colleges can not do admission in a program that is not approved by the university, and even if UGC has any legal say in the matter, it has that say only over universities and it must reach out to colleges only through the university. But UGC does not care about the law. And no college dare take UGC to court. That gives UGC a huge nuisance value.

    And that is why, the only people who can fight UGC are people from IITs and other such institutions. And it is extremely sad that most such people are only bothered about proving that somehow UGC Act is not applicable to IITs, while it is applicable to all other universities.