Regulatory policy

UGC policy allowing students to pursue two offline degrees needs HEIs to alter admission rules

University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently asked all universities to make appropriate changes to enable students to pursue two degrees simultaneously in offline mode. While a similar model has been in place at various IITs for the last few years, central universities are apprehensive about the changes required to implement this policy.

Explaining the change
M Jagadesh Kumar, chairman, UGC, says, “Now, students can do two degrees simultaneously in the physical mode, one in physical and the other in online mode or both in an online mode. The idea of ​​promoting this program is to encourage multidisciplinary education from across domains. For example, a student of MSc (Maths) may additionally do a BSc (Biology) for a career in the specialization of Computation Biology.”

However, before choosing the second degree programme, students should assess whether the required additional academic effort will affect the preparation required for the primary degree course in any way. “Only those students who have the necessary academic preparation should opt for two degrees. Also, the choice of the second degree should be made depending on what the student wants to do in the future,” says Kumar.

Kumar adds, “Every university has its own admission policy and academic rules and regulations. While HEIs need to make student-friendly changes, students opting to pursue two degrees from different institutes need to understand the policies of each institute before making the decision.”

Already in place
Deepankar Choudhury, professor and head, Civil Engineering, IIT Bombay, talks about a similar program that has been ongoing at the institute since 2017. “We offer three type of BTech programmes, including BTech, wherein students specialize in a single stream; BTech with Honors, which enables students take up five-six extra courses in the same specialization, and BTech with Minors, where students take five to six additional courses in another specialization.”

These alternatives have been added for students who might not have been able to get their preferred stream due low scores. “Only high performing students in the first year can opt for either BTech with Majors or BTech with Minors courses in their second year. The institute has maintained a cap on the extra seats that can be given to such students,” adds Choudhary.

This ‘overloading’ of courses requires students to take between three to eight hours of extra preparation time per week. “Students who opt for these courses pass out with a degree in their chosen stream, with extra credits in the additional courses, which would help them in their respective careers. Since its inception, around 10% of high-performing students have opted for these new courses, while 5% have passed out with these extra credits,” says Choudhary.

Giving a similar option to UG students across disciplines is a good way forward. “Students, parents and educators have to become more vigilant so that students are able to make a more informed choice of their way forward in higher education,” adds Choudhary.

Roadblocks ahead
A senior educator from University of Delhi (DU), on the condition of anonymity, shares his apprehensions. “Opting for two degrees simultaneously, one in physical and the other in distance mode would still have been possible but pursuing two degrees offline at the same time seems difficult. Managing attendance, added work pressure and failure to prioritize required academic efforts are few immediate concerns,” says the educator. The matter has to be presented before DU’s academic council and the administration is not yet sure about the way forward, he adds.