The University Grants Commission (UGC) today allowed undergraduate students to pursue two full-time academic programmes physically. The UGC has put in place a set of guidelines for the purpose, which will be uploaded on its official website on 13 April.
Earlier, the UGC regulations did not permit undergraduate students to pursue two full-time courses. They could pursue only one full-time degree along with online, short-term or diploma courses.
The UGC guidelines will apply to all the programmes available across the country. Students can either choose a combination of a diploma programme and an undergraduate degree, two master’s programmes, or two bachelor’s programmes. In the case where a student is eligible for a postgraduate degree but also wants to enrol in a bachelor’s degree in a different domain, he/she will be able to pursue an undergraduate and postgraduate degree simultaneously, provided the time tables of the programmes do not clash.
“In the last commission meeting held on 31 March, it was decided to issue guidelines which will enable students to pursue two academic programmes simultaneously because the NEP 2020 emphasises the need to facilitate multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education forms, in the sense that a combination of the physical model, as well as the online form, should be used to provide more freedom to the students to acquire multiple skills,” UGC chairman Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar said.
There is no restriction to stick to any one of science, commerce and arts (humanities) either. Following the new guidelines is optional for universities, though. They can be executed in practice only after the approval of the universities’ statutory bodies. The eligibility criteria for each of the programmes will remain unchanged and admissions will be conducted based on the existing UGC, university norms.
“A student can pursue two full-time academic programmes in the physical mode provided that in such cases, class timings for one programme do not overlap with the class timings of the other programme. Universities will have the flexibility to decide if they want to offer such a scheme of programmes or not. The guidelines will only be applicable to lecture-based courses, including undergraduate, postgraduate, and diploma programmes. MPhil and PhD programmes will not fall under the same scheme,” Kumar said.
The UGC decision permits an undergraduate student to not just enrol in two physical programmes simultaneously but also pursue two academic programmes — one in full-time physical mode and the other in open and distance learning mode. The student can also join a programme in a physical mode in a university, along with another programme in an online mode. The third choice for students is to pursue two online degrees simultaneously.
Since all academic programmes have minimum attendance requirements for students to be able to take the examinations, universities will have to formulate the attendance criteria for these courses. “UGC does not mandate any attendance requirements and these are the policies of the universities,” Kumar said.
“With the rapid increase in demand for high-quality higher education and the limitation of only enrolling about 3 per cent of students on physical campuses, there have been many developments in the fields of open and distance learning, as well as online education. Many universities are now offering both offline and online programmes,” said Kumar.
The UGC chairman said that the commission would release revised regulations for online education within two weeks, after which many top-quality institutes in India will start offering online degrees.