New academic credit system needs all institutions aboard

Furthermore, institutions that place great emphasis on value-based holistic education will struggle to realise it owing to student volatility.
Picture credits: Express
Picture credits: Express

Within the framework of the New Education Policy 2020, hailed by some as a pioneering, revolutionary and innovative vision document, promising substantial potential for transformative impact on the Indian educational system and the University Grants Commission (UGC), the regulatory body entrusted with upholding the highest standards in higher education in India has recently unveiled a suite of crucial initiatives.

Among these, the National Credit Framework (NCrF) and the Academic Bank of Credits warrant particular attention and in-depth scrutiny, given the significant apprehensions and discussions they have sparked among academicians. A thorough analysis of these schemes will illuminate their objectives, potential challenges for teachers, students and higher educational institutions and their likely impact.

The NCrF stands as a comprehensive and inclusive meta-credit framework with three verticals: the National School Education Qualification Framework, the National Higher Education Qualification Framework and the National Skills Qualification Framework. Its overarching goal is to consolidate all credits earned by students across school education, higher education, and vocational and skill education onto a unified virtual platform. Among its myriad objectives, the framework significantly emphasises on providing a broad-based, inter and multidisciplinary holistic education, allowing students the flexibility to craft combinations of subjects. This meta-framework ensures accessibility and smooth functionality for both students and institutions. The adoption of a credit-based system also aligns with international practices, poised to foster the internationalisation of education through credit transfer, enhancing the recognition and acceptance of Indian institutions on a global scale.

The credits earned by students at various levels find a repository in a digital archive known as the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC). This platform facilitates the accumulation, verification, and redemption of credits. It serves as the authentic reference to check a student’s record at any given point in time, albeit with a validity period of seven years. According to the UGC, the benefits of NCrF and ABC include the promotion of student-centric learning, the implementation of inter- and multidisciplinary learning, freedom for students to choose courses of their interest, and the ability to learn at their own pace due to multiple entry and exit options within the same or different institutions.

Undoubtedly, these schemes offer significant advantages to students, granting them the freedom to design and pursue their educational journey. However, this flexibility also places the responsibility on students to make informed choices aligned with their career aspirations. While the multiple entry and exit options enable students to study at their preferred institutions and pace, the potential downside lies in the uncertainty regarding the return of students to academics after an extended break.

For faculty, these initiatives may result in increased or decreased workload as the fluidity in student numbers will impact faculty strength. Institutions unprepared for the changing landscape through contemporary and future-focused curricular updates may face enormous challenges. Seamless implementation of these schemes necessitates a common timetable and, perhaps, a uniform syllabus to avoid disruptions in timelines and admissions. However, a uniform syllabus could compromise institutional autonomy and homogenise the entire system, leaving no room for institutional branding and distinctiveness. Continuous student inflow and outflow may impact classroom dynamics and revenue generation, favouring better-established institutions while posing challenges for others, especially those without National Assessment and Accreditation Council accreditation.

Furthermore, institutions that place great emphasis on value-based holistic education will struggle to realise it owing to student volatility. Promoting their unique selling propositions may be difficult due to the fluidity in student composition, causing instability and even disillusionment. Infrastructural challenges and a lack of a robust administrative system with sufficient and efficient human resource capabilities, especially for larger institutions, may impede the successful implementation of the envisaged cafeteria scheme.

While the UGC’s intentions behind these initiatives are welcome and commendable, their implementation without due consideration of these challenges may backfire. Currently, there is low awareness and understanding of the schemes among students, teachers, and administrators. According to the latest communication from the UGC, since the introduction of ABC in 2021, nearly 3.17 crore students have registered out of the currently enrolled 4.32 crore students in higher education institutions. Considering the fact that more than two years have passed, this is not a staggering record. Therefore, training and awareness campaigns are imperative. In addition, adequate funding for infrastructure enhancement and faculty training to align with the credit-based system is mandatory for successful implementation.

Unless all institutions accept and align with these initiatives, the desired results will remain elusive. Even now, some states within the country are opposed to the New Education Policy for various reasons. Discussions and deliberations are required to bring about consensus. Failure to achieve it will adversely affect students, teachers, and the entire system, causing anxiety and hardship to all the participants in the higher education system. Unifying all involved with a common will is mandatory for these initiatives to be realised beyond rhetoric.


John J Kennedy, Professor and Dean, Christ (Deemed)University, Bengaluru

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