In a major reform in higher education, the Centre has decided to allow students to pursue two full-time, same-level, degree programmes simultaneously, the University Grants Commission (UGC) announced on Tuesday.
UGC Chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar said that the reform is in accordance with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 that envisaged multidisciplinarity and a holistic education across the domains including sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and sports.
“The NEP 2020 recommends providing as much flexibility as possible to students to personalise and customise their education so that they can receive multidisciplinary and holistic education across the disciplines. So, if the students want to pursue two degrees simultaneously, they will have an option now. It all depends on the choice of students,” Kumar said.
The two programmes opted by the students at the same time have to be of the same level. For instance, they can only pursue two undergraduate or two postgraduate, or two diploma degrees together.
According to the draft guidelines, a copy of which was reviewed by HT, the students can pursue two full-time degrees in three ways. First, they can pursue both academic programmes in physical mode provided that in such cases, class timings for one programme do not overlap with the class timings of the other programme. Second, they can pursue one programme in physical mode and another in online or distance mode. And, third, they can pursue upto two degree programmes in online or distance mode simultaneously.
Kumar said the provision will be applicable to non-technical courses affiliated by the UGC. To be sure it will not include engineering, and medical courses.
“For instance, if a student is pursuing a BA Economics programme at a university or college in a physical mode, the students will also have an opportunity to do another degree programme of the same level in a nearby university or college as an evening course. The two universities or colleges should be in proximity with each other. It is not possible to pursue two programmes in physical mode from two universities located in different cities,” the UGC chairperson said.
“The students can also pursue the second programme from the same university or college from where they are pursuing the first one if the respective university allows them to do so,” he added.
The UGC also cautioned that the online programmes, under this provision, shall be done only from the higher education institutions that are recognised by the commission, or the government of India for offering such programmes.
The Commission is planning to implement the reform from this year. “These guidelines shall come into effect from the date of their notification by the UGC. No retrospective benefit can be claimed by the students who have already done two degrees simultaneously prior to the notification of these guidelines,” the draft guidelines stated.
Kumar further clarified that it will not be mandatory for the university to adopt these guidelines. “Once the guidelines are released, the universities can devise mechanisms, through their statutory bodies, for allowing their students to pursue two academic programmes simultaneously. It will not be a mandatory requirement for them. But we are hoping that more and more universities and colleges will allow students to pursue two degrees together,” he said.
The admission in both the courses will also be done as per the existing process followed by the respective higher education institution, Kumar said.
Meanwhile, Kumar also clarified that the students will not be allowed to use the credits earned in one programme to fulfill the requirement of another programme. “Each programme has its own credit requirements and they have to fulfill that. They can use one set of credits for two degrees,” he added.
When asked about the possibility of overlapping examinations, Kumar, “It will be upto the institutes. If two institutions have an MoU and have decided to let each others’ students pursue two simultaneous degrees then they can work out the examination schedule easily.”
Meanwhile, faculty members at the central universities raised concerns over the announcement. Abha Dev Habib, an associate professor at Delhi University’s (DU) Miranda House college, said, “The UGC, by issuing any such guidelines, will be diluting its full-time degrees and their worth. For holistic growth, classroom time has to be balanced with time for self-study, group study, extra curricular activities, summer projects etc. Education is a social activity and students learn through interactions. There has to be time built in for that. It is one thing to allow students to earn degrees with extra credits but to allow students to pursue two “full-time” degrees will be disastrous.”
Rajesh Jha, a professor at DU’s Rajdhani College, said, “This will reduce the purpose of education to just getting degrees rather than acquiring knowledge. How will it be possible for students to fulfill the requirements of two full-time degrees simultaneously. It is not humanly possible.”