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Onmanorama Explains | How 4-year degree courses will be different from existing system

From July 1 this year, it will be a radically different undergraduate programme that will be available in arts and science colleges under all universities in Kerala. Universities like Kerala have already notified the admission process.
The usual three-year degree courses will be subsumed within a highly flexible Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). The nature of post-graduation, too, will be substantially altered. PG can be a one-year affair and, in certain cases, can even be done away with.
Nonetheless, students will still be given the option to exit the FYUP at the third year, and then opt for the traditional two-year post-graduation.

Kerala's FYUP has been designed on the basis of the recommendations made by the Higher Education Reforms Commission chaired by Prof Shyam B Mohan. Model guidelines for the implementation of the FYUP have been prepared by a 39-member curriculum committee chaired by Prof Suresh Das, and model regulations have been drawn up by the Higher Education Council.

What is FYUP
It is not just the simple addition of an extra year to the existing three-year course. In addition to knowledge, the FYUP curriculum has been designed to give equal importance to two other aspects of education: skill and aptitude. As a result, there will be a root-and-branch reform of teaching, learning and evaluation.
Learning will be taken out of the classroom for all courses, not just for science courses. Teaching will use the possibilities of field and industrial visits and also interactive methods like group discussions, interviews, seminars and video presentations. The final evaluation will also be based on these activities.

The FYUP offers three choices for a student: A student can exit at the third year and secure a 3-year UG degree. Those wanting to extend their UG programme for a year more will have two options: 4-year UG degree (honours) and 4-year UG degree (honours with research).

How does 4-year degree work?
Under 4-year UG degree (honours), there will be regular classes for the first semester of the fourth year. The eighth semester will be fully dedicated to project work and internships. A student can do her project/internship in any part of the world and also within the campus. Along with the internship and project, s/he should also complete two online courses. If a student is not interested in project/internship, s/he has to do three online courses.

Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam
Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Photo: Rijo Joseph / Manorama

A student who has completed the honours degree will get a lateral entry into the second year of post-graduation. In other words, a student holding a 4-year UG degree (honours) needs to study PG for just one year.
To become eligible for the second 4-year degree, 4-year UG degree (honours with research), a student should secure 75 per cent marks during the first three years.
This course is conducted in research departments with at least two recognised research guides and basic research facilities. The first semester of the fourth year will have regular classes and in the last semester, the student will have to complete a thesis.
A successful student can, without doing PG, directly enrol for PhD and write the NET exam.

What is credit system?
Academic credit is defined both in terms of efforts put by the student and the teacher.
For a student to gain one credit for ‘theory’, s/he has to spend 45 hours in learning activities. This will include 15 hours of lecture and 30 hours of the student's engagement in course-related activities such as seminars, assignments, field visits and interviews.

For one credit in practical, s/he has to engage in learning activities for 30 hours per semester. To gain one credit in field-level study, 'experiential learning', s/he has to spend 45 hours a semester in such activities.
A 3-year UG degree (exit option) will be awarded to a student who had secured 133 credits. The minimum credit requirement for a 4-year degree (honours with research) is 177.
In the FYUP, one semester is 18 weeks with five working days per week. In each semester 15 days (3 weeks) will be kept aside for exams, including internal examinations evaluation and other academic activities.

How flexible is FYUP?
There is great flexibility for both teachers and students.
The curriculum allows teachers, at the college level, to design courses in their area of specialisation and offer 'signature courses'. In fact, teachers are given the academic freedom to design 20 per cent of a course designed by the university.
For instance, certain teachers in a college qualified in AI or data sciences can come together and draw up a syllabus and offer it as a 'signature course' that is studied as part of a physics or mathematics major course. Another set of teachers in another college can draw up a course on poetry reading or writing for the corporate media. These ‘signature courses’ can then be used to lure students to these colleges.

As for students, they get to choose from a basket of subjects. Under the existing system, a student who opts for Physics, say, will have no choice but to take Chemistry and Mathematics as secondary subjects. Under FYUP, a student who had opted Physics as her main discipline can reach across the science stream and pick Music or Journalism or Literature or Economics, or a combination of them (maximum three), as her secondary subjects.

Just as a student can opt for multiple minor subjects for her course (major with multiple minor disciplines of study), s/he also has the freedom to limit the learning to two subjects, say Physics major with Mathematics minor (degree major with minor) and can even choose to study just one subject (degree with single major). She is also empowered to take a vocational minor course, say data analytics, with a major course like Physics (major with a vocational minor). These multiple options available to a student is called 'academic pathways'.

University of Kerala. File Photo: Manorama

Can students take a break from studies?
A student needs to complete her degree only in seven years. In between, she can take a break and then return and complete her course.
In such instances, colleges are empowered to create additional (supernumerary) seats. After the interval, the student can also opt to study in another college or even a university.

Can a student migrate to another college/university?
S/he can, thanks to the software Kerala Resource for Education Administration and Planning (K-REAP). A student securing admission to any university in Kerala is given a unique ID. All the credits students acquire is deposited in the credit bank linked to the unique ID.
In the event of a student migrating to another college or university, this system allows that student to take the credits along. S/he just has to acquire the remaining credits in the new college/university.

Are there major concerns?
On May 11, Onmanorama reported that universities in Kerala had diluted the guidelines related to 4-year UG (honours with research).
UGC framework says the programme can be offered only in departments with research facilities and at least two PhD supervisors. Kerala universities diluted the clause and made it any department with at least one teacher with a PhD degree.

The other area of concern is events that happen outside the control of a college or university, say a strike or a natural calamity that can rob students of learning hours.
A semester is defined as 90 working days and winning credits can be acquired only if most working days are utilised. What if lot many working days are lost due to strikes or rains, not a remote possibility in a state like Kerala? What happens if students fail to accumulate the adequate number of credits for no fault of theirs? These factors, many say, are not factored into the curriculum.

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