From announcing that top 100 institutions in the NIRF ranking can conduct online classes without approval from the UGC to discussing future plans of those students who were aspiring to study abroad, UGC Chairman Dr DP Singh had a lot to say during The New Indian Express’ Expressions webcast.
"The UGC has also come up with a new set of guidelines that allow institutes with a NAAC rating of 3.26 and above or top NIRF ranked institutes to offer online degree programmes without any prior permission from the UGC," he said. The MHRD released the NIRF ranking for the fifth consecutive year on Thursday and various Universities and institutes had a lot to celebrate. The UGC's announcement comes as another big reason for celebration for these institutions.
Singh was speaking to senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai and the VC of SASTRA Deemed University S Vaidhyasubramaniam and the topic this time was - Post-Covid Policy Disruption. Singh started the discussion with the subject on every educator and student's mind today - online classes.
The Chairman said the UGC is taking a blended education approach with regard to the method of teaching. He also disagreed with the notion that the teacher-student gap is widening with the advent of online learning. On the other hand, he believes that this is a time when a teacher becomes much more involved in their work.
"People seem to think that teachers are going to become less relevant in an age of online learning but I think the opposite. I think, now more than ever, teachers have a huge challenge. They have to constantly be involved in developing good content, make the lessons more interesting and colourful, create new assignments, come up with innovative ways to keep students engaged. Their role has only gotten bigger. Teachers are important in the present, were important in the past and will only become more important for society in the future," the Chairman said.
Another important impact that the pandemic has had on education is on the prospects of Indian students wanting to go abroad to study. Students have probably never been faced with such a level of uncertainty ever before, so what happens to those who had plans?
UGC Chairman DP Singh on educating a post-COVID India https://t.co/3iNT6FIFeW— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) June 11, 2020
"The pandemic has taken a toll psychologically on students too. So, there will be a lot of students who want to go abroad and now all our best performing institutes must find ways to accommodate these bright minds. The institutes should also be able to provide the students with appropriate courses that they are seeking. This is a way to stop brain drain as well," he believes.
Vaidhyasubramaniam quizzed Singh on his previous experience of being a VC and asked him if there were any plans that he was working on that he might have had when he was on the opposite side of the table. "Yes, slowly I'm getting to it. I was also certain about holistic improvement of students and value-based education. So, I'm trying to implement the same through the UGC too," he said.
When asked what he thought about campus protests and activism, Singh said he didn't have to face any protests during his time at the Banaras Hindu University and believed that any problem could be resolved simply through dialogue.
"I believe campuses should contribute in holistic development - whether that be spiritual, physical - all aspects. Whatever a student needs, they should be given. But I believe the teacher-student relationship must improve and there should be a love for learning. They should be taught to be good and do good and I do believe all campuses want the best for their students," he said.
On the question of students facing difficulties with paying their fees, the Chairman said that the UGC had written to all universities and asked them to consider students' needs and defer the fees if they can. Also on the issue of students not having access to the internet, he said that programmes like e-vidya were working towards making access possible. The UGC, Singh claimed, had many projects in the pipeline to handle all the future challenges the pandemic would throw at them.