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News: University Grants Commission (UGC)’s letter has asked central universities to offer/teach courses based on student demand that is on the basis of number of enrolled students.
Why it can be a problematic move?
Students often enrol for a course depending upon whether the course boosts their chances of employment or not.
For a University, this should not be the sole criterion in determining the span of its academic ambition.
Universities should not only provide a gateway to the job market but also focus on producing knowledge, training students in critical thinking and pushing ideas towards new frontiers.
What will be the implications of the move?
This can have grim consequences for social science and language departments as they are given less value in the society as compared to science field.
It can also lead to job losses for those who teach in them.
What are the challenges that Indian higher education system faces?
Although universities need to ensure the employability metric, but there are some other challenges also that Indian higher education needs to overcome.
Degree of autonomy: There is a need to give universities the freedom to design courses, and draw up syllabi. This is a basic demand, but only few public universities have this autonomy.
Lack of funds and inequality between institutes: There is huge gap in terms of funding requirement for research, availability of resources in different institutes, etc.
National Education Policy (NEP)’s emphasises for greater autonomy to higher, interdisciplinary learning, will be affected by the reduction in the number of courses.
What is the way forward?
Each university is unique and should find the answer for its requirements on its own terms.
UGC must not impose a top-down criterion that can further shrink the space for experimentation and innovation in higher education.
Higher education needs a comprehensive reform, not a lopsided one.
Source: This post is based on the article “Wrong answer” published in The Indian express on 6th Jan 2022.