New HRD minister grapples with call to scrap 4-year degree

In her response to the rollback of DU’s four-year undergraduate programme, Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said she will follow the “available” constitution process. 

She is likely to meet a delegation of teachers on Monday to discuss the future of the programme.

A section of university teachers and students have been demanding withdrawal of the four-year undergraduate programme from the academic session beginning July 2014. 

Irani, along with senior BJP leaders and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad members, had campaigned against the introduction of the programme in 2013.BJP had also made a poll promise to rollback the programme. Now, the call for the rollback has gained momentum ever since BJP formed the government at the Centre. 

Assuring intervention through “available” constitution process, Irani said there is a need to restore dialogue between the DU administration and the democratically elected bodies representing students, teachers and university staff.

Former president of National Democratic Teachers’ Front, Inder Kapahi, told Irani that the four-year programme has no legal sanction as it violates the University Grants Commission norms. “The university followed the democratic process. The four-year undergraduate programme needs immediate review,” Kapahi said.

A delegation of Delhi University Teachers’ Association, which met Irani on Friday, said dissenting teachers are being threatened with action by the DU administration. 

“She reiterated the government’s commitment of resolving the issues listed in its manifesto and bringing relief to teachers and students of Delhi University,” the teachers’ association member Abha Dev Habib said.

Accusing DU Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh of implementing the programme in a hush-hush way, Abha said that they have demanded his removal in their memorandum to Irani.

Amid apprehensions that DU’s School of Open Learning may no longer be offering three-year undergraduate degree programmes, teachers also asked Irani for immediate intervention. 

The School of Open Learning, which offers Honours degrees in Arts and Commerce, may now be limited to an institution giving diplomas and certificates, if university sources are to be believed. The teachers’ association said scrapping of degree programmes will harm the career prospects of students. 

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