The University Grants Commission’s proposal to award an honours degree after four years of undergraduate programme (FYUP) could help students aiming for higher education overseas but needs to teach employable skills, said experts.
Indian students now get an honours degree after three years. In a new draft prepared with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in mind, UGC will allow students to obtain an undergraduate honours degree after they complete a four-year course and earn 160 credits.
The new draft, ‘Curriculum and credit framework for four-year undergraduate programmes’, will award a common UG degree after three years and 120 credits.
According to education experts and consultants, UGC’s draft is in line with international standards. Narayanan Ramaswamy, national leader for education and skill development at KPMG in India, said the draft is a “positive measure” that will give students flexibility in pursuing higher education in India or abroad.
“The move becomes relevant for higher education, especially overseas. Earlier Indian students had to do post-graduation (PG) and then go for PhD courses abroad. Now with FYUP, they can directly go abroad for PhD,” said Ramaswamy.
Courses in analytics, financial economics, financial engineering, mathematics, economics, data science, and business finance, will open up for Indian students with the FYUP ‘honours’ degree, according to consultants for overseas education.
Globally 16 years of education is the norm, especially in programmes offered by the likes of Columbia and Duke universities in economics, finance, analytics, and other specialised fields. Many Indian students are ineligible for the same, said Adarsh Khandelwal, co-founder and director of Collegify, a Delhi-headquartered overseas education consulting platform.
“Indian students were so far at a disadvantage internationally. So consultants were so far asking students to do an additional science-based one year programme. Now, a large number of students interested in overseas education will apply for FYUP,” Khandelwal said.
UGC’s draft has scope for improvement when it comes to making students employable, said experts. According to Neeti Sharma, president and co-founder at TeamLease Edtech, markets and recruiters are asking for students and candidates to learn on the job.
“The question is how to make students employable and can they earn while they are learning. NEP is mandating apprenticeship. If the new draft by UGC can execute apprenticeship properly then it will work. We have to look at how upskilling will work and not just revise courses. If the FYUP is making the child employable then we will have to ensure that learning on the job is integrated. And also ensure that by the time they end FYUP they are completely employable,” said Sharma.
Khandelwal said UGC’s FYUP ‘honours’ degree offering apprenticeship will help students learn job skills. “Internships will now be in second and third year, which, according to recruiters, is a better bet because students are one year more mature and will carry one year additional industry experience. Average salaries will go up if implemented properly,” he said.
UGC’s draft allows students who wish to pursue a research specialization to undertake a relevant project during the FYUP.
“Students who have already enrolled and are pursuing a three-year UG programme as per the existing Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) are eligible to pursue a four-year undergraduate program (FYUP). The university may provide bridge courses (including online) to enable them to transition to the extended programme,” the draft said.
It also allows students to leave the course before completion of three years and rejoin within three years of their exit and thereby complete the course within seven years.
Depending on the year of their exit, students would be provided academic recognition of certificate while exiting after one year, diploma after two years and a Bachelor’s degree after three years.
The draft has recommended widening the curriculum of four years UG programme to comprise major stream courses and minor stream courses, along with other disciplines, language courses, skill courses as well as courses around digital and technological solutions, health and wellness, yoga education and sports & fitness, among others.