From 2014, BU to have 4-year degree, less classes and more practicals

Bangalore University has decided to do away with the age-old three-year BSc, BCom, BA degrees, and introduce four-year BS and one-year MS courses. How will this impact students?

Nazia Hanifa, 31, a resident of Jayanagar, is frustrated about her career. The reason: she wanted to be a scientist, but did not get a suitable job after completing her Masters in Microbiology.

After working for six years in a multinational company without any promotions, she quit her job earlier this year to be a homemaker. She is now considering taking up a course on business analysis, so that she can restart her career.

Nazia says that if she had got the right advice in her college to take up right courses and subjects, things would have been different. “If there is guidance in right direction during and after college as to which industry has what scope, what are the demands of various industries etc., and if industries communicate to colleges about their expectations, things would be different for many students including me.”

There are many like Nazia, who say that they were forced to take up other jobs after their studies, as there were no suitable jobs to be found after their degree programmes.

Degree students now have variety of choices, including exit option at the third year, or continuing to do the honours and masters. File pic.

Change in the offing?

Bangalore University (BU) now wants to change this scene. In order to boost career prospects and help students grow, BU will now start four-year degree courses — Bachelor of Science (BS)  honours, Bachelor of Arts (BA) honours, Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) honours and Bachelor of Business Management (BBM). The university will also reduce the post graduation course from two years to one year.

Says BU Vice-Chancellor B Thimme Gowda: “We want to upgrade the education system. This pattern is being introduced from the next academic year (2014-2015). We are not the only universities- Delhi University  and Indian Institute of Science too follow this model.” Gowda says BU planned to introduce this three years ago, but could not, due to lack of infrastructure and lack of coordination with language courses.

What is the course structure?

Thimme Gowda says that the three-year degree course will be replaced with the four-year honours course.

  • Students will have the exit option in the third year with a BSc, BCom, BA or BBM degree.
  • If students decide to continue to the fourth year for an honours degree, they can acquire practical training as well as continue their studies.
  • They can do a one-year Masters course after honours.
  • In the third year of the programme, that is in 5th semester, students will choose a major subject, along with other subjects being ‘minor’ and ‘allied’.
  • In the fourth year, that is in 7th semester, they will be specialising in one subject and get a degree of that subject, eg, BS in Chemistry, Zoology or Botany. There will be in-depth study, but there will not be duplication of subjects. For the structure of BS programme, click here.
  • The syllabus in the fourth year will be similar to that of the first year of the Masters course. Duration of studies will remain five years as before.
  • Students who wish to take up PhD can skip the one-year Masters course and directly enroll for the three-year PhD, thus saving one year. In effect, this reduces the doctoral level of education from eight to seven years.

“This is because we have generally seen that many students take up jobs after their degree and do not opt for higher studies. If they have a specialisation in a particular subject, it will help them. It is being introduced for all streams except CET-based courses, BEd and MEd,” Thimme Gowda adds. There will not be any change in existing courses.

Option of open book exams

Thimme Gowda adds that like in US, students will now have the option of taking up open book exams, to gain additional knowledge, where students can answer questions by referring to various sources, not just the classroom material.

Apart from annual examinations, there will also be semester examinations and projects. Students will be assessed throughout the course for their theoretical and practical knowledge. This is being done to bring all students, especially science students, on par with engineering students.

Thimme Gowda says that there will be dialogues with other autonomous universities and companies soon, to make them understand the structure, take their opinions and rope them in. It will be beneficial if all universities opt for this model. However, if students from any other university wish to pursue their studies after three-year degree here, they can join the 4th year of the UG programme and continue to the one-year masters programme.

While Dr Fr Daniel Fernandes, SJ, principal of St. Joseph’s College, an autonomous institution, is in favour of this form of education, he feels that specialisation in subjects can be introduced in 3rd year itself, instead of 4th year.

System needs to improve

Bangalore University is still working on:
  1. Coordination with companies and industries for guidance and training is yet to be started
  2. Coordination with other universities, so that all students are at par
  3. Talking to students and seeking their opinions on the new form of education
  4. Ensuring there are no loopholes with the language departments and other classes for the open book exams
  5. Value-based education and proper teacher training.
  6. Finalising fee structure

Fernandes points that credibility and honesty of lecturers is very essential in this system. “They should ensure that there is no difficulty for students and the university to take the new structure forward. There should be proper infrastructure for students and lecturers who are following two different structures (existing and new). Most importantly, before starting the course, the university must ensure that the fee is not hiked,” he adds.

He opines that this format would be beneficial mostly for science and arts students, where placements are a little difficult soon after degree. “BU should pay special attention to students coming from rural backgrounds, as they need maximum help and support,” he suggests.

M K Sridhar, former knowledge commission member secretary and Director of Canara Bank School of Management studies, says there is a need to study the system in other countries before starting it. “It is high time we changed the 200-year-old education pattern which was brought by the British. According to my data, only 10-15% students undertake PG courses. This system is better only because of the integrated training programme,” he adds.

Mixed reaction from students

While some students think that this will benefit students in their career, some are sceptical as they think students will have to study too much.

Says Sakshi K, a first year BCom student of KLE College. “On the surface it appears interesting, but it depends on which companies come forward to tie up with independent colleges to take students for training. Because companies and colleges are equally selective.”

However, Neha M, a BA student in East West College, says that she would not want to study for four years. “All that matters in getting a job and sustaining it is how smart you are. What you study is secondary,” she opines.

Pic: Bangalore University

‘Helps in learning, but no substitute for on-the-job training’

Sr Juanita, principal of Mount Carmel College, a BU-affiliated college, says that the proposed system’s training component may not necessarily be beneficial; students who are hired by companies from the campus get trained by the companies themselves, based on their requirements.

In the present system, many colleges do offer optional job-oriented courses like language classes, SAP, Tally, Travel and Tourism etc., so that students gain additional knowledge. Course-based internships are also arranged. Smart students make their way to the same companies after their studies, says Juanita.

Mahesh Mishra, head of IT operations at Lamglow Solutions, a placement agency based in Mahalakshmipuram, says that this system will be better. However, universities should also tie up with placement companies in addition to industry. Training on soft skills could be provided by placement companies who know what companies want.

Shobha Ahmad, a business manager in Urjja, a job placement and consultant firm, wonders how changing the education pattern will help in getting jobs, as many companies want freshers as they can train and mould them according to their needs.

Vishal Rao, a business development manager from People Tree HR Services Private Limited, also agrees, and says that even after job-oriented training in the college, firms will have to formally guide freshers on work culture, ethics, project-related technical training etc.

How can this programme help get jobs?

Benefits and drawbacks
What is the benefit?
  1. The biggest benefit for students is that if they want to go abroad, they have 16 years of education, unlike before where after 15 years of education till degree, students had  to take up a year-long course.
  2. Training and internships will be available at the end of every semester
  3. Students are given grades and marks. They are evaluated both on theory and practical knowledge
  4. Choice of subjects is available in the fourth year, thus reducing the number of subjects and giving students the option of specialisation.

What is the drawback?

  1. This system is better for students if they want to pursue masters after their degree and for PhD students. For others, it makes no difference.
  2. The number of subjects is not reduced, it is not job-oriented. Theory subjects are still the same.

Says Asha P Dass, an MSc graduate who is now a lecturer in a Chennai-based college: “This (training) could be a good option as many who study a particular subject do not pursue that as a career due to lack of resources. MSc students suffer a lot as they don’t have jobs, unlike those taking up CET-based courses. Combining courses and training will be beneficial.”

Nazia says that number of subjects should be reduced. Companies should come forward and tell students what they want. They should explain to colleges the kind of equipments and posts they have so that teachers and students have clear knowledge. Unless this is done, no new form of education will benefit students.

How can this system change the game?

Sridhar points that any change will have a lot of opposition. Bangalore University should be ready for it. The real pros and cons will be known only when the system starts. Though it is a risk, it should be faced, and that is where the exit option plays a crucial role.

Shridhar adds that, the training module should be properly worked out as companies are not interested in students who come for a month. A training for around four months will be better, as students learn and companies gain. Only then will employability be better.

He suggests that the finishing school options should also be integrated with the training programme in new system.

Abraham V M, assistant Vice-Chancellor of Christ University, says that education should be more practical-oriented. New system should make students think. “In India, unlike in other countries, students are not made to think and decide. They attend classes for hours together in classrooms and then write three-hour exams. The teaching hours should be reduced, time should be given to students to go to field, do projects and understand the subject. Questions of objective type for an examination of 45 minutes is enough to assess students based on the knowledge,” he adds.

He also suggests that the four-year degree should be optional and the subjects should be structured in such a way that students take them seriously and not want to bunk classes. Experts and professionals from the field should be invited to lecture students.

Fernandes says that if given a choice, they would like to emulate the model. “I would take it a little ahead and give students the option of finishing the four-year UG in three or three and half years by breaking down the credit system further. This would be beneficial to students. Students could also be given multiple subjects to choose from instead of following the same syllabus.”

Mohandas Pai, Chairman of Manipal Global Education, says that this form of education will enhance student’s knowledge level. Companies look for ability to learn, soft skills, curiosity and some domain knowledge. “Bring in flexibility in courses, based on major and minor subjects, the credit system, more project work, more application of knowledge and more subjects of study, to make the course student-centric not institution or faculty-centric,” he recommends.

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