The new leadership of the University Grants Commission (UGC) appears to be in a (re)productive and progressive political rearing mode, as seen from her first baby becoming a midwife for a six-pack delivery. How the baby is delivered – naturally or by caesarean section – depends on the ecosystem and its future growth on the nutritious food that decision makers must give it. Nonetheless, the six-pack baby is due soon and her nutrition is mixed. Here’s why.
The UGC recently announced a series of policy reforms that put in place different stages of the New Education Policy (NEP) for higher education to reach its new destination. A big six seems to hold a lot of promise that can steer the political path into uncharted territory leading to the desired destination. First, the proposed National Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF) is an attempt to provide defined guidance for all forms of qualifications based on essential learnings associated with defined learning outcomes and demonstrated achievement.
With different levels ranging from 5 to 10 across certificate, diploma and degree options, the NHEQF must ensure perfect alignment with existing regulations on the Academic Credit Bank (ABC) and the National Skills Qualifications Framework with regard to concerns the number of credits, the nomenclature and the modularity options are concerned for a smooth implementation.
The second of the six-pack consists of the UGC guidelines for the transformation of higher education institutions (HEIs) into multidisciplinary institutions. This is another important step in the NEP highway and requires a structural change in the regulatory architecture that can ensure a multidisciplinary character in HEIs and a solid institutional infrastructure. The contours of the proposed guidelines are well refined and care should be taken to ensure that the route is not slippery and allows all HEIs to undertake the journey and not just ‘usual traffic’.
The third and fourth packs provide the ideal mid-course of the NEP Buffet that triggers research and experiential learning on campus. The guidelines proposed for the creation of the research and development unit initiate the idea of setting up an institutional ecosystem for research and development in all types of higher education institutions. However, it must be supported by R&D programs that touch on all types of SEEs and not just the “usual list”. The proposed minimum standards and procedures for awarding the doctorate and the non-doctoral requirement for industry experts to participate as faculty of practice have in them the much needed impetus to foster different forms of research on campus. The two-way explosion of the R&D cell and a strong on-campus PhD program can leave inedible research footprints in every campus landscape.
The public call for comments on the amendment to the existing regulations on the open and distance learning program is a much-needed boost to the ODL mechanism. The current status of ODL has undergone significant progress from its chaotic state a few years ago and the proposed changes can only improve it. The emergence of EdTech players with transformational platforms and transactional pollination is poised to parachute ODL to new heights. Here again, the ODL must not lead to the creation of internal oligopolies but to a perfectly competitive market space involving platforms, establishments and learners.
The sixth and most important one-liner in this six-pack is the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) offered for admissions into central universities. Although it conforms to the NEP charter, it should be phased in a gradual manner starting with all private and reputable universities in addition to the central universities.
There must also be provisions to include high school performance and not neglect it altogether in order to prevent the possible proliferation of the ‘coaching factory’ model of schooling. UGC should also mandate private and reputable universities to adopt JEE, CLAT, etc. like CUET without interfering in their admissions process. This will address the painful symptoms of students facing Multiple Entrance Examination Syndrome. Without this, application deadlines will only become revenue streams for institutions taking full advantage of student anxiety.
The six-packed baby is getting ready in UGC’s political womb, requiring the participation of all stakeholders in its birth and UGC’s nutritious support for its growth. Let’s get ready to welcome UGC’s six-pack baby.
Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Renowned University