New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has released draft regulations for establishing an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) in line with the new National Education Policy (NEP).
Similar to a bank account, the credit bank will be a repository where students’ academic credits — calculated based on classwork and tutorials — will be stored, according to the regulations.
The commission sent the regulations to all colleges and universities last week and sought their feedback.
Simply put, a credit bank will allow students the freedom to design their own degree. They will be allowed to shift from one institution to another in the middle of their course, and the credits will carry forward. They can also drop out in the middle of their programme and join again — the same institute or a different one — whenever feasible, over a certain time period. To do this, they will have to retrieve their credits from the bank, where they will remain stored in the interim.
Institutions that are willing to offer this flexibility to students will have to register under the ABC scheme, provided they are eligible for it, the guidelines state, before listing some eligibility criteria like UGC recognition.
The ABC is among the initiatives announced by the government in its NEP, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet last year. Union Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare said in August 2020 that work on the credit bank has already begun and the government is eyeing a 2021 rollout.
Speaking to ThePrint, educational institutions and experts described ABC as a good initiative — one that will not just be beneficial to students but also colleges and universities. However, they noted that a lot depends on how its implementation pans out.
What do the Regulations say?
The regulations drafted by the UGC, which oversees higher education in India, say the ABC “shall provide a variety of services including credit verification, credit accumulation, credit transfer/redemption and degree authentication”.
The credits, they add, can either be kept for a maximum duration of seven years or “as specified separately by ABC for different subject disciplines”.
All higher education programmes under the purview of the UGC can enrol for ABC, but professional courses such as engineering, medical/dental, law etc will require the approval of the “appropriate statutory/regulatory professional council”. This means, for example, an engineering institute will only be able to enrol for ABC if the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) approves.
The objectives of the ABC, the regulations state, is “to enable students to select the best courses/combination of courses to suit their aptitude and knowledge thirst”, and to allow “students to tailor their degrees or make specific modifications/specialisations rather than undergoing the rigid, regularly prescribed degree/courses of a single university/autonomous college”.
It will also allow multiple entry/exit options for courses. Delhi University is among the institutions planning to offer this from the next academic session, amid discussions to bring back its four-year undergraduate programme.
The credit bank, the regulations add, will not be a degree-awarding authority in itself. “The statutory degree-awarding power shall continue to be vested with the eligible higher education institutions,” the state.
“ABC shall act as the empowered body by UGC/MoE (Ministry of Education) to provide authenticated records of credits earned by students from approved HEIs (higher education institutions),” the regulations state.
The credit requirements, as well as essential components of study for enrolment in courses — UG/PG degree or diploma — and the course work requirements for PhD programmes, will be defined by the respective universities or autonomous institutions, they add.
To offer students the flexibility
The ‘credit transfer’ system is followed by universities in the US, the UK and Europe. Some universities have also tied up with private Indian institutions to allow local students this option.
Manipal Academy of Higher Education and Lovely Professional University are among the private institutions that currently allow credit transfer with international universities. This means students can earn a certain number of credits in the foreign universities with which their university has a tie-up.
However, these institutions are exceptions, and the concept is largely novel for India.
Institutions that offer credit transfer say it gives students flexibility.
“Credit transfer has benefits for students, especially in terms of choice. They will have the flexibility to study from different geographies — stay at home for a few years and then shift to a college in another state,” said Prof. Nandita Abraham, president, Pearl Academy, a private creative education institute with branches in Delhi, Jaipur, Bengaluru and Mumbai.
“The student will also have the option of experiencing or learning from colleges with different specialisations and learning environments,” she added.
“At Pearl Academy, we currently assess students’ prior learning from within India and internationally, assign them credits, and admit them to an equivalent level. Many of our students transfer their credits internationally and proceed with their studies abroad at universities like the University of the Creative Arts and Nottingham Trent University in the UK,” she said.
Former UGC chairman Ved Prakash also cited flexibility as a benefit of credit transfer. “The credit bank provides flexibility to students to design their own degree so it’s a good idea in that sense. But a lot will also depend on how it is implemented across institutions. Whether a college of a certain rank will allow its students to earn credits from a college lower than itself, and whether students will shift to different institutions just for the fees… these are things that will have to be seen once the policy is implemented,” he added.
Dr Vishal Talwar, dean of the School of Management and director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at BML Munjal University, Haryana, said the credit bank “is not just good for students but also institutions” as it will enable competitiveness between academic institutions.
“The ABC is a good idea in its spirit and intent,” he added. “It should enable access, flexibility, choice and an intrinsic competitiveness between academic institutions to go the extra mile as far as student learning is concerned.”
“It will bring into focus purposeful designing of curriculum, its integration and relevance to the students over a period of time,” he said. “An efficient guidance and mentoring system will be essential to ensure student direction and employability gains from this credit bank approach.”