Compulsory course in rural community engagement by UGC

The University Grants Commission (UGC)

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has begun a move to introduce a compulsory course for undergraduate and post-graduate students across all disciplines including engineering, aiming to 'foster' social responsibility and community engagement in the higher education institutions.

The higher education regulator has come up with a draft national curricular framework and guidelines for implementation of the proposed 30-hour duration compulsory course in community engagement which will fetch two credits to the students.

While 50% of the course will have field work, the theory is proposed to have four modules —Appreciation of rural society, Understanding rural economy and livelihood, Rural institutions, Rural development programmes.

In order to promote the practice of sustainability in infrastructure and functioning of the higher education institutions, the draft curricular framework, prepared by a committee of experts, recommends for undertaking research in partnership with the local community.

The draft framework proposes that the HRD ministry may request the Corporate Affairs Ministry to include activities undertaken for fostering social responsibility and community engagement by the higher education institutions under the list of eligible areas for receiving CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds.

This comes about eight years after a committee of experts, set up by the erstwhile planning commission of the UPA era, conducted a national review of community engagement in India and made a host of recommendations to foster social responsibility and community engagement through the higher education institutions.

A couple of years ago, the ministry rolled out Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), based on a policy decision taken in 2012 to promote stronger community engagement among higher education institutions in the country.

Under the programme, higher education institutions are encouraged to adopt at least five villages in their vicinity and work towards improving socioeconomic conditions of the villagers. Many of the centrally funded institutions including Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are implementing the programme.

The draft says that there was no well-designed compulsory community engagement course that provides opportunity for immersion in rural realities, though many schemes and programmes have been undertaken by the higher education institutions under community service.

“New generation of students are increasingly unaware of the local rural surrounding their institutions,” the draft framework adds. The compulsory course in community engagement will help them learn about rural challenges and develop understanding of “rural wisdom and life-style in a respectful manner.”

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