India: Four-year degree fight reaches IITs and private institutions

September 23, 2014
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation

By Ann M. Koenig, AACRAO International Education Services

India’s University Grants Commission (UGC) has followed up its recent action forcing the University of Delhi to discontinue its new “four-year undergraduate program (FYUP)” and return to a three-year bachelor’s program, by notifying the prestigious 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore that they too must abandon their four-year bachelor’s degree programs.

The IITs are autonomous engineering institutions governed by a specific act of parliament and funded directly the central government of India, not the UGC. Some top IIT administrators question the authority of the UGC’s action, while noting the essential roles that their institutions’ degree offerings play in developing opportunities for research and innovation for Indian’s brightest students. Dual degrees are also popular at the IITs, and these will also be scrutinized by the UGC.

It is assumed that the UGC will also review four-year engineering degrees offered by universities. 

A compromise was reached with the IISc, which will return to a three-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) but offer an option for a fourth BSc research year. In 2011, the IISc received permission from UGC to add a fourth year to its BSc to strengthen students’ research skills. Now both a three-year BSc and a fourth-year research component will be available. Critics have noted that no such compromise was offered or suggested in the UGC’s dealings with the University of Delhi.

The UGC is also targeting private institutions that are offering four-year undergraduate programs. One institution, the non-profit Symbiosis International University, which had been authorized by the UGC to admit students to its first four-year liberal arts degree program in 2011, planned to take the matter to court. The UGC’s directive is reflected on the Web pages of Ashoka University, a private nonprofit institution on the outskirts of Delhi. Originally planning to welcome its first cohort of liberal arts students into its four-year degree programs this August, Ashoka has changed the structures of those programs to three years by order of the UGC, as explained on its “Programmes at Ashoka” page.

While the UGC had approved four-year programs at higher education institutions in the past, a change in the national political environment appears to have affected the UGC’s autonomy. The higher education news source University World News has several articles relating to the changes.