As things crawl back to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, a fresh batch of students is set to start their undergraduate education after combating the upheaval brought upon by the pandemic. This batch steps into college amidst a host of fresh regulations instituted this year by the UGC, all in a bid to implement the vision of the National Education Policy 2020.
Professor Jagadesh Kumar, Chairman, UGC, speaks to EdexLive about how some of these new measures will impact these students as they begin their higher education careers. Excerpts from the interview:
1. The launch of the National Digital University is due soon. Can you throw light on how this university will function and if it really will expand the reach of education in the country?
One of the primary objectives of the National Education Policy is to provide high-quality education with better access at an affordable cost. However, the university system in our country does not always support that. We have about 1,050 universities. Some of them are highly rated and some of them are located in rural set-ups with limited faculty and infrastructure. There is a clamour to join a few top universities where the admission procedure is through elimination rather than selection. A large number of talented students who are aspirational in getting access to high-quality education are not getting that opportunity.
And with this background in mind and also since the NEP emphasises the introduction of digital technology in education, we have decided that we will establish an Indian Digital University.
Hashing out the details
We are still working out if this university will be established as a deemed university or through an Act of Parliament. It will function as a hub-and-spoke model, with a technical and administrative team, including the Vice-Chancellor acting as the hub and other top-quality universities, including the IITs and the central universities acting as spokes. In due course, we will also be inviting top international universities and other organisations.
Digital content, mentorship and evaluation
We also need to work out how the digital content is going to be prepared, on which platform it will be placed and what kind of interactive sessions we can include. The university will also require a large number of mentors to provide guidance to the students in a live session. These could be retired professors, working faculty members or industry experts. We need to look at the process of evaluation for these students. Because ultimately the value of the degrees will depend on the trust people will have in the assessment and evaluation processes. One possibility is that students take online exams at designated centres.
Connecting the dots
In order to ensure placements for these students, we will have employers on the platform as well. The Digital University will connect the dots right from admission to selection of the programmes, to assessment and evaluation to mentoring through experts to finally job placement of these students.
2. Will the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system solve the issue of the delays that scholars are complaining about in receiving their scholarships?
Scholarships are a lifeline to students who qualify for UGC Junior Research Fellowship and it is important that they are disbursed on time. There should be almost no paperwork in this process, which is the reason why there have been such delays in the disbursal over the years. With the DBT, we have introduced several modifications to the existing Canara Bank Portal. We did this after a feedback session with about 40 research scholars from across the country.