Delhi University: DU panel recommends leaving syllabus open to revision by VC

Delhi University: Teachers say allowing the VC to change syllabi will undermine DU committees, statutory bodies authorised to frame course content.


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DU Syllabus: The committee recommendations allow powers to the Vice Chancellor for modifying the syllabus(source: Wikimedia Commons)DU Syllabus: The committee recommendations allow powers to the Vice Chancellor for modifying the syllabus(source: Wikimedia Commons)

Atul Krishna | July 29, 2022 | 04:27 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Standing Committee on Academic Matters of Delhi University has recommended that all courses under DU’s new Undergraduate Curriculum Framework (UGCF) be left “open to modification, change in title or content” at any stage during the courses, the agenda for the DU Academic Council meeting revealed.

The committee also recommends that the Delhi University vice-chancellor “be authorised to make suitable modifications in these syllabi” and to “frame the guidelines for mode of instruction or assessment and examination”. It also says that the members of the standing committee can make suggestions for the “betterment” of the syllabus at any stage during the course.

The recommendations would make it possible for the vice chancellor to bring in modification to any course at any stage in the duration of the course. The recommendations will be discussed in the upcoming Academic Council meeting on August 3.

The recommendations state that: “All programmes of study and their bulletins of information/syllabi shall clearly carry the following statement: These courses of study are open to modification or change in title or content at any stage to these courses of study during the duration of this programme and of enrolment of the student”.

It also states that: “The Vice-Chancellor is authorised to make suitable modification / addition in these syllabi and to frame the guidelines for mode of instruction or assessment and examination”.

However, academics felt that the recommendations indicate that the university is not ready with the UGCF syllabi. They also argued that leaving DU syllabi open to revision by the VC at any point during the course “unacademic” and “unprecedented”.

DU Syllabus: ‘Admitting its incomplete’

“The university should admit that it is not ready with the syllabi. The departments have been able to make the syllabi till the second semester and the framework has been created, as we understand. But only when all the framework, coursework, syllabi are complete, one can understand what is happening to the degree as a whole and understand the value of the degree,” said Abha Dev-Habib, physics teacher at Miranda House and former elected member of Delhi University’s Executive Council..

“With the freedom that they are trying to give to the Vice Chancellor, the university is admitting that it is not ready for the four year undergraduate programme. It is admitting that it is a fluid situation and that we do not know the trajectory for the four years. They are admitting that syllabus and courses may change from time to time,” said Dev-habib.

The Delhi University Executive Council, the highest decision making body, had passed the draft UGCF in February. However, the framework, which aims to bring DU courses and syllabus in line with the National Education Policy (NEP), was met with criticism from teachers who argued it diluted existing courses. However, the vice-chancellor had denied this in an interview to Careers360.

Delhi University: ‘Uncertainty among students’

Academics said that the recommendations to change the syllabus during the course will create uncertainty among the students who have a right to know the syllabus before DU admission commences.

“Students are picking universities based on the course. As per our university rule on admission, the student should know what they are admitted for. It can be that the colleges change the optional papers that they are offering. But what is the syllabus? What are the core papers? What are the optional papers? All of this should be clear to the students by the time they take their admission,” said Dev-Habib.

DU: ‘Unacademic’ proposal

Teachers also argued that allowing the vice chancellor the authority to make changes in the syllabus will violate many statutory provisions of the Delhi University which requires the syllabi to be vetted and ratified by various committees, the Academic Council and the Executive Council.

“Giving the Vice chancellor the ability to make decisions on the syllabus is very unacademic. How can VC make these changes? Does VC know enough to make changes in history, politics, biology, medical sciences, zoology? This has no academic rationale in such a big university. This is not only a violation of the statutory provisions but this will bring havoc to the university,” said Rajesh Jha of the Academics for Action and Development and former member of the DU Executive Council.

They also said that policy-making and routine matters such as modifications to the syllabus never come under the emergency powers granted to the Vice Chancellor and that the notion itself is “unprecedented”.

“Once the new syllabus is approved by the Academic Council or Executive Council, you cannot tinker with that. The syllabus is made following an organic exercise. Each topic relates to another topic, each paper relates to another paper with a clear plan on what should be kept in the first year and what should be kept in the second year. You can’t just take some of these away in between as if that won’t affect anything,” said Rajesh Jha.

They also said that the recommendations aim to subvert the authority of Academic and Executive Councils.

“If you look at the DU Act, the authority is with the Executive Council and Academic Council. You are subverting the powers of the decision making body by saying that the officer can decide. You are saying that what is decided by a body of over 100 people does not mean anything,” said Dev-Habib.

When the draft UGCF was introduced by DU, teachers had criticised that the framework went through four different iterations before it was introduced in the current form. Teachers had also said that the framework was different from the one proposed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

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