- The debate over whether a 4-year undergraduate programme is a blessing or a burden for students continues to divide experts. Some argue that it offers a more comprehensive education, widening the prospects of studying abroad, while others believe that it may pose a challenge to learning outcomes. Ultimately, the verdict remains a matter of perspective and individual goals…
Following the guidelines of the National Education Policy (NEP) 150 universities across the country have so far implemented a four-year undergraduate programme in the academic session 2023-24. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), 300 more educational institutes will launch it in the forthcoming academic session.
With the implementation of this four-year programme, students will get a UG ‘Honours’ degree with research specialisation and the duration of their post graduate (PG) course will be 1 year instead of the existing 2-year structure.
However, this is optional. Going by the provisions of NEP, this 4-year programme allows students to choose between a 3-year UG degree or a 4-year ‘Honours’ degree. According to the new UGC guideline, students will be offered an ‘Honours’ degree only after completing four years instead of three years. During the 4-year programme, students will have to opt for a research project.
According to the UGC, the curriculum and credit structure of this undergraduate programme align with global standards. An inherent benefit of achieving international parity in education is the expanded prospects for Indian students seeking higher education opportunities in American and Western universities. This convergence with global benchmarks not only enhances educational quality but also opens doors for Indian students to access a broader spectrum of educational avenues abroad.
News agency IANS has quoted renowned educationist CS Kandpal saying, “FYUP will help those students who are interested in getting admission in many famous universities of America. But there is a need to teach such skills in the programme so that employment can be increased. Such skills will also be very helpful for students studying abroad. These skills may include communication, adaptability, foreign language, and self-awareness.”
Experts agree that this NEP UG programme could be the golden ticket for Indian students to grab seats in prestigious global universities. In an exclusive interview with TOI Education, Dr. Imankalyan Lahiri, Professor, Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, says, “From the international perspective, it is beneficial because most foreign universities offer a 4-year UG course.
However, there are quite a few causes of concern surrounding the impact and implementation of this new structure. “It has been implemented in many universities including Jadavpur. Many of the universities are facing problems because they do not have the manpower required for proper implementation. This programme has many sub-sections like value-added and skill-based courses. If institutes want to offer these courses, they need to have proper departments in the university,” adds Professor Lahiri.
Another area of concern is the fact that in the newly-introduced undergraduate programme structure, students get only one year for post-graduation. Drawing our attention to this, Saswata Bhattacharya, Associate Professor, English, Deshbandhu College, DU, says, “Earlier, students were allowed to pursue a PG programme or higher education after pursuing a 3-year Honours degree. But now, in order to pursue an MA or an MSc., they need to complete this 4-year course. The 4th year component is about research methodology and research work. These are the papers which erstwhile were a part of our MPhil curriculum, not even MA.”
“In this framework, the post graduation course becomes a 1-year programme. A 1-year course would be divided into 2 semesters and cannot have more than eight to 10 papers max. So far, for a PG course, we had about 12-16 (minimum) papers. In such a scenario, students don’t get to do a full-length MA. I, as an individual, who’ve been teaching in Delhi University for more than one and a half decade and been a student too, can vouch for the fact that at least till MA level, a full-length two-year course is a must. Students who have just been introduced to a specialised discipline and studying it for two to three years, are not in a position to go for serious research work. Plus, a two year M.Phil programme after a two-year MA has been an excellent platform for research exposure for students, preparing them adequately for a PhD,” he adds.
According to him, the four-year structure may be beneficial to only a miniscule percentage of students because very few go abroad to study Masters. “Mostly, students would go abroad for a PhD or a Post Doctoral programme. Earlier also, brilliant students would go on scholarships and if required, universities would allow them to do a Masters equivalent programme for a year to compensate for a one year lack in their entire academic training,” he says.
In terms of implementation, availability of infrastructure and resources with the required skill sets can be a serious challenge. “Once an institute runs a 4-year-programme, it will require added classroom and infrastructural facilities. A college or university has to rebuild this infrastructure. Additional infrastructure grant then is a mandatory requirement,” says Professor Bhattacharya.
He also observes that with additional skill enhancement courses being added as compulsory papers, there has been a considerable reduction in the ‘Honours’ coursework. “It seems like there’s a shift in focus from research-based higher education to skill-based training,” adds Professor Bhattacharya.
Talking about the skill-based courses, Dr. Krishnakumar, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Sri Venkateswara College, DU, says, “There are certain UG courses which are very rigorous. I don’t know what these skill-enhancement subjects would mean for students who have signed up for highly rigorous courses. However, for those who have enrolled in relatively easier subjects a course on basic IT skills would definitely be of good use. In DU, there are value added courses like Fit India, Yoga and the likes. Many students are choosing these subjects. But I am not sure whether they are doing so because they are expecting to get some sort of value out of them or because the assessment here is really liberal.”
He believes that the outcome of the NEP-proposed 4-year-programme and its value-added courses depends on the way they are implemented. “It has been implemented by 150 universities in different parts of the country and the result will differ across different universities depending on the content. We would have to wait before reaching a conclusive opinion about the impact,” adds Dr. Krishnakumar.
While there are many pros and cons of the implementation of a four-year undergraduate programme, there is no denying that it will be beneficial for students aiming to study abroad and equip them with skill-based knowledge, necessary for today’s evolving job market. However, proper infrastructure and resources are required to make sure that it serves the purpose that it intends to.