Kerala's four-year UG courses: Higher credit requirements could deter enrolment

The UGC curriculum for the four-year UG programme has prescribed a minimum of 120 credits for the regular degree after three years and 160 credits for the honours degree after four years.
Minimum number of credits in each semester is 20 as per the national framework but 21-24 in Kerala.
Minimum number of credits in each semester is 20 as per the national framework but 21-24 in Kerala.Photo | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As four-year undergraduate courses are rolled out in arts and science colleges this year, in addition to universities, the state’s insistence on higher credit requirements, vis-a-vis UGC’s curriculum framework, and fewer exit options may deter many students from opting for the full four years of study, say academics.

The UGC curriculum and credit framework for the four-year UG programme (FYUGP) has prescribed a minimum of 120 credits for the regular degree after three years and 160 credits for the honours degree after four years. In Kerala, the minimum requirement has been fixed at 133 and 177 credits, an increase of 13 and 17 credits respectively for both options. Also, the minimum number of credits in each semester is 20 as per the national framework but 21-24 in Kerala.

Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) vice chairman Rajan Gurukkal defended the state’s stand saying the UGC has prescribed only the minimum requirement but the state enhanced it as part of raising academic standards. “There is no strict mandate on credits. Given the flexibility provided to students in choosing courses, earning the required credits would not be a tough task,” he reasoned

The state’s framework that prescribes the study of three of the five courses in the seventh semester from among the minor subjects has also not gone down well with academics. “This is an irrational requirement as an in-depth study of the major subject is desirable during the last two semesters. This will discourage students from attempting the honours degree,” opined Arunkumar R, associate professor and former syndicate member of the University of Kerala. Academics say the insistence on studying three minor courses in the seventh semester should be reduced to one. Instead, these could be included in the fourth and fifth semesters, if required. The minor course in seventh semester could be retained as a fourth-level course.

Fewer exit options

Another deviation from the UGC framework is the state’s single-exit option after the third year. In addition to the third year, the national framework had proposed two early exit options in the form of a UG certificate at the end of the first year and diploma after the second year provided the student has the required credits. The exit option was a bone of contention with the Centre but the state stuck to its stand that the option could be exercised only at the end of the third year.

“The state could consider awarding UG diploma to a student who has fallen short of acquiring the minimum 133 credits for award of degree after the third year,” said Sibi C Babu, member of the core committee that drafted guidelines for implementation of FYUGP at Kerala university, Such a proposal should be seen in the light of the low success rate of around 40-50% for undergraduate courses in the state, he added.

According to Gurukkal, the state’s policy is against awarding UG certificates and diplomas just for completing various segments of the course. “The academic bank of credits, through which the students can store the credits achieved and use it at a later stage for completion of the course, has been conceived primarily with this objective,” he said.

“A student who discontinues studies temporarily can use the credits stored digitally and continue the course in the same university or any higher educational institution of his choice. This facility is available for up to seven years” he explained.

Research component

For the four-year UG (honours with research) programmes, the role of research guides is critical. However, it is pointed out that some universities are restricting research guideship to faculty from postgraduate departments. Teachers’ unions have demanded that all eligible faculty members be allowed to function as research guides, without which the very structure of FYUGP would be compromised.

A section of faculty members has also pointed out that the syllabi of courses of the various programmes were still not complete at the university level. “The implementation of FYUGP will be in peril, given the current lack of academic preparedness of universities,” they said.

Government allays concerns; To hold orientation prog for students

T’Puram: The concerns of students over the upcoming four-year undergraduate programmes (FYUGP) will be addressed before its rollout this year in colleges, Higher Education Minister R Bindu assured on Wednesday. An orientation programme on FYUGP will be held for students who have cleared Plus-II and the general public. The statewide inauguration of the programme will be held at St Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Pattom at 10 am on Thursday. Senior officials of the Kerala State Higher Education Council will also attend the orientation programme. In a meeting with the minister here on Wednesday, representatives of various student unions expressed concerns over exams being held at the college level and the availability of sufficient courses to choose from. Bindu assured that the government will intervene whenever required to allay such concerns.

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