The UGC allowed students to pursue two academic programmes simultaneously, including physical degrees, online degrees, and even diploma programmes from the same university or two different universities as long as the classes and other academic activities for both degree programmes do not clash.
In the course of the year, it was seen that many students were unable to seek admissions in physical mode to dual degree programmes because of the mandatory requirement of submission of migration/school leaving certificates at the time of admission. In Jan 2023, the UGC urged the universities to devise mechanisms facilitating students so that they can pursue two academic courses simultaneously.
Purely academic courses will not help
While central universities such as the University of Delhi (DU) are still working towards implementing dual degree programmes. State universities including the University of Burdawan, West Bengal, are mulling over the effectiveness and possibilities of offering them while some private universities began offering them in 2022 itself but didn’t find many takers.
“Dual degree programmes are almost non-starters. They demand a lot of time from students, hence pursuing them in the physical mode is not feasible. Recent reforms in higher education have mandated that students earn credits in three ways: one is academic credit units, the second is skill-based credits units, and the third is experience-based. Unless students have work experience how will they earn these credits and they are encouraged to take internships, apprenticeships, or part-time jobs. This does not leave scope for another degree, even if students go for two degrees, they will only be academic in nature and may not help them much. The recruiters too focus on work experience,” says Raj Singh, spokesperson JAIN Online and VC, JAIN (Deemed-to-be-University), adding that the requirement of migration and schools-leaving certificates cannot be waived as this could be misused by some students who might seek admissions in multiple universities at the same time.
“We have not seen much enthusiasm among students so far. A full-time degree requires students to do projects, and assignments, which are done after class hours, so it doesn’t leave much time for them. Only a small percentage of academically bright students might opt for dual degree programmes,” elaborates Singh.
“Policies will remain on paper unless effectively executed,” says Shalini Kalia, dean, JAGSOM, Vijaybhoomi University, Bengaluru, adding that the students are currently struggling to pursue the dual-degree programme as HEIs insist on the submission of school-leaving and migration certificates, in the absence of these certificates, they are not granted admission. Creating facilitative mechanisms including accepting proof of enrolment in other programmes rather than asking for school leaving and migration certificates to allow students to pursue two academic programmes together, says Kalia.
Create new structures
Maximum utilisation of infrastructure, faculty resources and the scheduling of classes require strong collaborations between HEIs. “There is a huge gulf between the number of students pursuing higher education and the number of professors available. For around 3.85 crore students, there are 15.03 lakh professors. This raises concerns about the pressure that teachers would face, once students start taking two degrees at a time. Thus, there is a need to recruit more faculty members. Also, we will have to invest heavily in digital platforms and learning management systems (LMS) for the training of faculty and staff. Another challenge would be to decide upon the fee and faculty remunerations instead of increasing the workload,” explains Taruna Gautam, Vice-Chancellor, IILM University Greater Noida.
Jaskiran Arora, dean, School of Management and dean, Education Quality, BML Munjal University, Haryana, says, “Of the minimum 160 credits required for a four-year programme as per the proposed credit framework issued in December 2022, about 50 credits could be common to any programme irrespective of the degree and almost 110 credits are specific to the discipline under study. Programme structures must be devised to accommodate these 100 credits in the curriculum.”
The institutions will have to look at gaps in the timetable and the college where the student is pursuing the second degree will have to make adjustments to the timetable. “Two offline programmes may not be immediately feasible unless the institutions where the students pursue the courses are co-located. Universities need to come together and work out mechanisms and that may take some time. A combination of offline and online degrees can be immediately implemented and both offline and online degrees have to be from UGC-recognised institutions,” says (Col) A Garg, director, KIET Group of Institutions, Ghaziabad, adding that the college/university where the student is currently enrolled can issue a certificate to the college/university where the student wants to pursue a second degree, certifying that the student is currently enrolled in a particular programme for a certain duration giving the reference of the UGC notification and that should be acceptable by institutions.