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Press Trust of India|Jun 3, 2023
NEW DELHI: Despite having all “ground-work” in place, Mahatma Gandhi Central University has been waiting for two years to implement provisions of the National Education Policy 2020.
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It can introduce four-year undergraduate programmes (FYUP), multidisciplinary learning, and multiple entries and exits – all NEP 2020 recommendations – only once it amends its ordinances. But central university vice-chancellors are required to approve such amendments before implementation and the university in Bihar’s Motihari district hasn’t had a permanent VC since 2018 when its first VC, Arvind Agrawal, was removed from the position for allegedly fudging his academic records. In 2019, Sanjeev Kumar Sharma was appointed as the VC for residual period after removal of Agrawal. While Sharma completed the tenure, since then, the university is being run by an interim VCs whose powers are limited and do not extend to making policy decisions.
“We have not been in a position to make policy decisions. For policies like multiple entry and exit, we have done all the ground work but since we do not have a permanent vice chancellor [they haven’t been implemented] …. As soon as a VC is appointed, it will not take more than two-three weeks to implement the changes, depending on the speed of decision making of the head,” explained the university’s NEP coordinator, Asheesh Shrivastava.
Almost two years after the launch of NEP 2020, central universities – institutions directly under the ministry of education which framed the policy – are in various stages of implementing the sweeping reforms it recommended. The major changes the NEP seeks to bring include allowing students to store credits in Academic Bank of Credits; pursue four-year undergraduate programmes and then take admission directly into PhD; and enter and exit programmes at different points.
The higher education regulator, University Grants Commission (UGC), is tracking the progress which was discussed in a February meeting between UGC chairman M Jagadesh Kumar, and VCs and NEP 2020 coordinators.
Of the 45 central universities that participated most have either fully implemented or are in final stages of bringing changes directed by the UGC over the last two years. However, some have been hobbled by lack of infrastructure, funds and permanent vice-chancellors, along with technical glitches and other issues.
At Mahatma Gandhi Central University, reforms like dual degree programmes and multidisciplinary courses are also stalled. “Multidisciplinary education has a bearing on curriculum. When Sanjeev [Sharma] was in office, he allowed us to invite external members to our respective board of studies so that multidisciplinary education could be added to the curriculum. Now we need to present to the academic council and then require a VC’s approval,” Shrivastava explained.
At the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), shortage of funds has delayed smooth implementation. Suhel Mustajab, NEP coordinator at AMU, said that they have informed UGC about the shortage of funds and staff in earlier meetings.
“When there are drastic changes like FYUP and other changes that NEP suggests, it requires a lot of funding. For the last one year, several institutions like us have asked for the resources. We got some questions in the parliament on what sort of funds are being organised for the NEP implementation by the government but as of now we have not received any funds,” Mustajab explained.
Also Read| UGC Policy: Dual degrees like BSc-MBA; college merger, autonomy; multidisciplinary clusters
A key issue raised by several university representatives was the Aadhar card authentication problem many students are facing while generating a unique identity number in the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC). According to Kumar, ABC unique IDs will be mandatory for admission in central universities in the upcoming academic year.
One of the first reforms introduced under NEP 2020, ABC is a virtual database of credits that will store academic credits earned by each student individually. The virtual account will facilitate credit transfer of students, allowing them to move across streams and higher education institutions with ease.
Representatives of Central University of Kashmir, Central University of Karnataka, Guru Ghasidas University, Assam University, Central University of Gujarat, University of Allahabad and others said the authentication issue has slowed the progress in ABC student login generation.
Central University of Tamil Nadu, which started ABC registration last year, has been able to register 70 percent students on the ABC platform while the rest faced problems, the VC shared during the meeting.
ABC registrations by February 2023
Banaras Hindu University
English and Foreign Languages University
Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University
Maulana Azad National Urdu University
Some university heads said students were unable to register because their Aadhaar is not linked to mobile phones. “Most students have their parents’ phone number on their ID or there are issues with name spellings. For instance, a student’s name on an Aadhar card is different from the official records which shows an error during authentication. These issues have been reported to the UGC in prior meetings and again in February and we have been told the issue will be resolved soon,” a central university official told Careers360 asking not to be named.
The ABC will be critical for implementing policies like dual-degree, joint-degree, and twinning programmes requiring students to attend multiple institutions. Even credits earned through courses on the government e-learning platform, SWAYAM, will be stored in the ABC. The national digital university announced in the 2022 budget will also be operational from July 2023. The university will launch with select certificate and diploma courses, Kumar announced.
Other central institutions have registered between 2,000 and 61,000 students, depending on the size of their student population. Jawaharlal Nehru University will begin the process from March 2023
Also Read| UGC releases draft guidelines on credit system, entrepreneurship, skill-based learning
The UGC has also made it mandatory for universities to integrate internships with FYUP. Central University of Jharkhand has brought in industry partners. “From last year, the board of studies of each programme has partnered with relevant industry partners to know the skills requirements. This way we are trying to keep the course curriculum relevant and enable our students to get the right exposure,” said Manoj Kumar, registrar. “The undergraduate programmes have been moved to the new campus while the rest are operating from the old one. In the upcoming months the university will be entirely shifted to a new campus facilitating implementation of NEP policies.”
Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University has introduced practical and experiential learning components on which students can earn up to 32 credits. Central University of Kerala has introduced a six-credit internship at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Plus, it has introduced a mandatory mentorship programme including one-on-one assessment of students’ skills, problems and overall academic performance, the university’s NEP coordinator shared at the meeting.
The Central University of Andhra Pradesh (CUAP) has started an internship programme in collaboration with the union ministry of cooperation. “This year, 53 students from the university…were sent to different states like Gujarat, Telangana, Kerala, Odisha and other states as part of internship,” said SA Kori, VC of CUAP at the meeting.
However, integrating internships has not been easy for all. “We have two internship embedded programmes but in the revised undergraduate programmes, we are trying to integrate internships. However, finding internships in the humanities domain has become a challenge,” EFLU’s NEP coordinator informed the UGC chairman.
For a “robust mechanism for the promotion of research and development”, the UGC in February asked colleges to establish research and development cells in their institutions
Following the directions, Maulana Azad National Urdu University has established an RDC which is currently supporting research. The Central Universities of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat have also established research and development cells in recent years. The last has submitted 14 research proposals to various funding agencies.
Correction & Clarification: An earlier version of the story said Sanjeev Sharma was an interim VC. He was not. He was appointed for the rest of Agarwal's tenure.
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