Recently India has witnessed a surge in the number of institutions offering integrated degree programs at the master’s levels. In a country with rigid approach to higher education, such changing trends in education sector are noticeable. This changing concept has triggered various debates and objections from the University Grants Commission (UGC). If UGC has objections over integrated programmes, then how come IITs are offering these degrees to students? What is the rationale behind dual or integrated degree programmes?
UGC has its different view over the dual degree concept. It has stated that the academic philosophy/rationale behind offering joint, dual and integrated programmes should not be for economising on course requirements. UGC has recommended that universities providing such programmes should reform their curricula to provide a foundation in basic skills and promote advanced skills. These recommendations from the highest education governing body of India suggest that UGC doesn’t like the fast track approach of universities in granting the dual degrees to students.
Understanding the growing need for specialised higher education options in India and abroad, many universities are offering joint, integrated and dual degree programmes in bachelor’s and master’s levels. IITs for example, conduct IIT Joint Admission Test for Masters (IIT-JAM)
for enabling students to get admission to M.Sc. and other post B.Sc. programmes. Pursuing dual degrees at the same time doesn’t mean that students have to manage double course load. Integrated degree programmes are well structured courses that allow students to balance their two degrees while gaining interdisciplinary knowledge and insight to create a niche career path for themselves. A dual degree programme offers cost advantage and time benefits, and exposes students to research opportunities which they otherwise never consider pursuing.
Last year, UGC sent a notification to all state and deemed universities insisting them to increase the duration of integrated courses from the academic year 2014-15. The governing body also added that universities will have to take a newer approach towards framing of curriculum and include more interactive courses. Institutions offering joint degree programmes will be allowed to offer such courses only when they will not compromise on any of the course requirements such as intensity of courses, learning hours and credits.
Top institutions such as IITs, IISc and BITS, Pilani, Goa believe that pursuing two degrees simultaneously makes students more competitive, and it helps them diversify and open up new career opportunities. An important motive of integrated courses is to increase research output as universities are able to retain more students doing master’s doctorate.
Dual degree courses are not a cakewalk as they require a lot of planning and of course hard work. Some universities are seeking correction to the notification to UGC secretary. The new rules issued by the UGC regarding integrated degree programmes essentially ask the institutions (including IITs) to reform their current offerings. Let’s see how these rules affect students and also what steps will be taken by universities to save their dual courses in the years to come!