Jamia ready, JNU not so excited

The two reputed universities see CBCS from two completely different lenses

The clamour over the “forced” implementation of the CBCS is very loud in Delhi University but nothing much is being heard from the two other central universities in the national capital, Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

While both the administration and the students of Jamia Millia appear excited about the new programme, its implementation in JNU has been put on the backburner.  Professors and students alike don’t think the system can work there.

As far as Jamia Millia is concerned, the institute is in the advanced stage of implementing the new  Choice Based Credit System from the current academic session for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The administration is confident of its success.

Jamia Millia spokesperson Mukesh Ranjan says one of the main advantages of the change in the system is that the students will have a choice of courses from allied disciplines. “CBCS is giving us mobility in disciplines. The syllabus already exists and many of the courses are being restructured to make them amenable to CBCS,” he says.

When asked about the challenges cited by Delhi University students while switching to a new system, Ranjan says, “Every university has different dynamics. We are more focused on our postgraduate courses. Though we have undergraduate courses, Jamia is more known for its postgraduate courses and the opposite is the case with Delhi University.”

“We have not faced any major problems. There has been no tweaking in the workload as there have been complaints by teachers of other universities. UGC has specified guidelines and we are following those. Whenever something new is introduced, we have to orient ourselves. So, we are working on the model,” he says.

Mohd Asaduddin, Dean Academics and also the in-charge of the project, says the university is collating the courses for the implementation of the CBCS, and there are no differing voices in the institute on this.

Dr Durgaprasad Gupta, Head of Department, Hindi, believes the CBCS has opened new horizons for the students of the institute.  “Suppose a student is studying History as his main subject and is also interested in Filmmaking, he can give one paper of this subject. So, a student is not only just learning his core subjects but is also looking at skill enhancement,” he says.

He also reiterates Ranjan's claim that there is no complaint from teachers about fluctuating workload. The only challenge at Jamia, according to him, is the management of the timetable.

The schedule for different courses opted by a student can sometimes clash and some professors believe creating a timetable for the whole university is a “humongous” task. “We are keeping our fingers crossed,” says one.  Jamia students may now end up having a longer workday.

Jamia Millia has also done an internal assessment to determine if there is shortage of staff to teach a particular course.

“We found that for the present semester at least we can make do with the current faculty,” says Asaduddin.  But if more professors are needed in the coming semesters, the university can plan to hire.

Students in the institute have genuine concerns but have welcomed the system.
Saira (name changed), a postgraduate student says, says, “I am doing Political Science, but am also interested in Persian Studies. So, now with the new system, I can study both. But managing the schedule is a problem. I hope the university does something regarding this.” Similarly, Sreelakshmi, a student of MA, Development Communication, says that her department is offering three additional courses this year.

“We have the choice of South Indian Cinema, Media Law and Ethics, and Communication Skills, besides our regular modules. I have opted for Media Law and Ethics as I feel it will help in my core subjects. Plus, many in my batch are excited to take up South Indian Cinema. They think they will get to learn the techniques of cinema along with their communication course, which can open up new prospects for them,” she says.

However, there are some dissenting voices in the institute. Prof M S Bhatt, General Secretary, Jamia Teachers Association, says the system has been introduced in haste, without a formal debate and fears it will erode the autonomy of Jamia Millia.

“The institute won't have any autonomy to frame courses, they will be framed by the UGC,” he says.

“The Centre wants to pass Common Central University Act under the guise of this new system. So, what will happen to the Jamia Act, 1988 or JNU Act, after which these universities were formed. Now, for example, Islamic studies is a compulsory paper here.

If tomorrow, UGC says that under the common course structure, they want to introduce Yoga instead of the existing course, we can’t do anything. So, something for which Jamia is famous won't exist. Similarly, each university has a unique characteristic which will be diminished,” he says.

He also questioned the rule of mobility of students under the new system. According to Bhatt, Jamia doesn't have the infrastructure to accommodate more students than the prescribed limit currently.

Obaid Siddiqui, Professor of Journalism, is more positive than Bhatt on the implementation of CBCS.

“Choice Based Credit System may be new for India but it is not new for the rest of the world, particularly the western countries. If it can be successful there, I don’t see any reason for its failure in India,” he says. He adds that Jamia Millia offers nearly 200 programmes and there is no dearth of courses for CBCS in the university.

The professor sounds a word of caution about borrowing ideas from the West. “One major challenge was and still is to understand the nitty-gritty of the CBCS. Not only in Jamia but in almost all the universities a large number of faculty members do not fully understand the system and thus are totally confused, to say the least.”

But he is optimistic and hopes that the efforts made by concerned faculty members will be successful.

JNU story
Though the Jamia Millia administration claims that the new system will be successfully implemented in its PG courses, the students and the teachers at JNU don’t think CBCS is on the agenda currently.

“We are not giving any thought to it currently. It was basically developed for undergraduate courses, and we don't have many undergraduate courses, except languages. I don't think CBCS will be successful in this university,” JNU Professor Rajan Kumar says.

Expressing concerns similar to those by Jamia Teachers Association’s Bhatt, he says, “Every university is different. How can you encroach upon their autonomy.  In JNU, we have a different examination and evaluation structure. If a student comes from a different university under the student mobility rule in CBCS, how will he be able to adjust.”

Another professor cautions, “If there is a uniform pattern for all universities, then some which have a very high standard of efficiency, like JNU, may have to conform with standards prescribed by the UGC, which may not be good enough.”

Even the students there are not enthusiastic about the new system. “It is not being discussed here. You will not see any protests like in DU because it is almost a non-issue here,” a postgraduate student says.

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