Mumbai: The vast majority of college-entering students in Maharashtra will have to wait another year to enroll in the multi-disciplinary and flexible courses promised under the National Education Policy (NEP).
With most of the state's public universities yet to complete the necessary preparation for the new policy, the state has decided to limit its implementation to the autonomous colleges, university campuses and post-graduation (PG) departments at all the colleges for the new academic year 2023-24. The government has now set December 31 as the new deadline for varsities to resolve the issues in bringing out the NEP-prescribe courses and prepare a plan to roll out the policy in all institutes by 2024-25.
Under the new policy, the colleges are to start four-year undergraduate and one- and two-year post-graduation programmes for traditional courses such as BA, BCom, BSc, MA, MCom and MSc. These programmes would have multiple-entry and exit options for students, and offer them a chance to study subjects other than those belonging to their core discipline. They would also provide apprenticeship and research opportunities.
Among other benefits of NEP, the students can pursue some of the courses from institutes other than their own. This is facilitated by the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC), an online repository where students can 'store' their course credits and retrieve them as needed.
The government was hoping to set the ball rolling for NEP at all higher education institutes in the state from the upcoming academic year itself. For this purpose, a credit framework has been prepared for both UG and PG programmes, and the colleges and varsities have been directed to use it for designing academic programmes and course baskets.
Speaking at a Press Conference in the city, the state Higher and Technical Education Minister Chandrakant Patil said that the autonomous colleges will serve as the laboratory of NEP, with other colleges taking cues on bringing changes to their own curriculum next year. "The credit transfer system is about to be completed. We will soon undertake a massive campaign to raise awareness about the policy among students," he said.
According to an official from the Higher and Technical Education Department, the colleges were reluctant to start NEP courses this year, as their teachers felt that they were not taken into confidence beforehand. The Vice Chancellors of the public universities also said that they need more time to implement the policy.
Maharashtra has around 42 non-agricultural universities, including 13 public universities. Of 3,318 colleges (1,172 aided and 2,146 unaided) in the state, only 144 colleges are autonomous. These include 87 institutes offering traditional courses, while the remaining 57 are technical institutes. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently awarded autonomy to 36 additional colleges from the state.
In addition to autonomous institutes, the PG departments at universities and colleges will also begin NEP implementation this year. "It's relatively easier for PG courses to be aligned with NEP, as they only need to add research and internship components to existing courses. In any case, many colleges already have them in their programmes," said Dr Nitin Karmalkar, Chairman of the state's steering committee for NEP implementation.
Patil said that, in the wake of the NEP rollout, the government has given aided colleges and universities approval to fill over 2,000 vacant posts of teachers. "We are also clustering the colleges so that if there's any requirement for a teacher for a particular subject, it can be fulfilled by teachers at othe rinstitutes. And if there's still a need for more teachers for new subjects, we would approach the finance department [for grants]. The teachers need not worry about them being rendered surplus. Their services will be utilised," he said.