To get started, the UGC needs to get the right credits

Having course credits commensurate with teaching hours, as outlined in its draft NHEQF, will impact faculty

Having course credits commensurate with teaching hours, as outlined in its draft NHEQF, will impact faculty

As I went through various documents that are usually referenced in any discussion of a four-year undergraduate program in India – starting with the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), the Learning Outcomes-Based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) and the Le University Grant Commission’s (UGC) latest draft National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) document – the lost undergraduate in me was happy.

Implications for teaching

Anyone who has gone through the rigid and woefully outdated course structure of degrees like B.Com or BA at most Indian universities would be really happy to see choice, flexibility and liberal ethics embedded in their vision. Following the proposed changes in higher education under the New Education Policy (NEP), it looks like Indian students are finally on the verge of getting a real education and not just meaningless pieces of paper. pretending to be diplomas. Despite this bold vision, however, there seem to be quite a few issues that need to be ironed out on a conceptual level before embarking on its implementation. Here I deal with the implications of the credit system as it is currently envisioned in these documents. vis à vis teaching quality and faculty research productivity embraced by the NEP.

As the NHEQF attempts to provide much-needed clarification on a variety of issues, course types in the initial and later years of a four-year degree, and associated nomenclatures for multiple exit options, it continues to assimilate a credit to one teaching hour. If the CBCS or LOCF credit structure of core courses of six credits and electives of four credits each is to be followed, this has serious implications for teaching workload (of which there is not much of discussion in any of these documents). At six credits for a core course, with an emphasis on tutorials in sections of no more than 20 students, a faculty member would end up teaching about eight hours per week per course. If, as stated by the NEP, a faculty is responsible for course content, assessments and grading, this would require at least double the hours of preparation. Given the considerable ambiguity in UGC’s description of faculty workload, many institutions could inadvertently end up mechanically imposing two such courses on a faculty member, adding the hours at 16 per week.

Credit Interpretation

Before delving deeper into the matter, let’s think about the concept of college credit. Although it is often used as a unit to describe student workload, its meaning and interpretation differs from continent to continent. In the UK or as part of the Bologna process, a core undergraduate course may be listed as six to seven credits, indicating the total commitment expected of the student, including time spent in lectures and in tutoring. The implications for the teaching load of faculty are very different from those of students. A seven-credit course can mean about two hours of instruction per week, with the remaining hours credited for preparation and assessment. A faculty’s standard workload is usually decided through negotiations between faculty unions and the university administration, making it difficult to officially obtain information. But a quick Google search shows that a typical UK university faculty should teach around two hours a week.

In the United States, the situation is a little different. The credits listed for a course generally indicate hours of class engagement, with actual student workload not defined. On average, at most US universities, a typical undergraduate course is three credits and therefore about three hours of classroom instruction in total for one faculty per course. Depending on the nature of the employing institution, faculty workload can range from two classes per year at a research-intensive university to four or five classes per semester at a community college. Clearly, professors with lower teaching loads have higher research productivity and possibly better teaching content and delivery. A credit also signifies the acquisition of minimum skills to move from one level to another in education. Based on personal experience teaching at American universities, a three-credit course would mean at least four additional hours of student commitment, making it an equivalent of six to seven credits of a course. base in the UK.

In India

Despite these differences in the treatment of credits on both sides of the Atlantic, they have in common the fact that the teaching hours of professors per course are much lower than what is currently practiced in Indian universities and described in several UGC documents. If the higher education regulators in India are serious about increasing faculty research productivity while remaining true to the liberal ethos of the NEP, then we cannot have course credits directly proportional to teaching hours. education. Or reduce the credits per course in accordance with the practice of North American universities. We need to ensure that faculty have enough time to create quality teaching content and engage in research. For this, we will have to train students to take more responsibility for their learning. Considering the very high number of students who need to be educated in India, creative solutions such as larger technology-assisted classrooms for introductory courses in universities with the help of graduate students as Teaching assistants can be implemented to save teachers time and effort.

At a more fundamental level, we must recognize the resources and time devoted to the production of research and teaching. Otherwise, we risk perverse results that would undermine the very objectives of the NEP. The vision is grandiose and must absolutely be translated into reality. However, we must now clearly articulate the resources needed to make this vision a reality. The higher education sector in the United States, which seems to underlie much of what was said in the NEP, evolved to its present state over a long period of time — at least a century. It is also one of the least regulated education sectors in the world. So, we are literally trying to replicate the result of unregulated organic growth through a deliberate change in policy. It’s like taking a finished product and taking it apart to figure out how to produce it. For starters, we need to think about how to design regulations that incentivize stakeholders in the higher education sector to behave in a way that collectively leads to the desired outcome. Not a trivial task, I would say!

Parag Waknis is Associate Professor of Economics at Dr. BR Ambedkar University, Delhi. Opinions expressed are personal

Norma A. Roth