Calcutta University is switching to a semester and choice-based credit system next year for its undergraduate science and humanities courses, a transitional challenge far greater than what the commerce stream had faced because this one involves more than 2.5 lakh students.
“Calcutta University has set 2018 as its target to introduce semester tests in science and arts streams at the undergraduate level. Preparations have started to enable our affiliated colleges to switch to the new system,” pro vice-chancellor (academic affairs) Swagata Sen told Metro.
Under the new system, students would need to write papers carrying 2,600 marks over three years. Currently, it is 1,800 marks for an honours student.
The choice-based credit system brings with it the flexibility of picking subjects across disciplines – the options in terms of courses might be limited at first – along with the freedom to study a particular portion in a college other than the one a student belongs to. This is based on “credit points”, a product of “credits” assigned to a course and “grade points” scored by a student.
The transition to semesters along with the choice-based credit system is a UGC recommendation meant to bring “equity, efficiency and excellence” in higher education. Undergraduate studies in most universities are currently split into three parts and an annual examination for each. The semester system would require undergraduate students of Calcutta University to write six examinations instead of three over the duration of their courses.
The choice-based credit system is, of course, offered by many top universities across the world. In Calcutta, Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University have introduced the system. Calcutta University adopted the system at the postgraduate level before extending it to the commerce stream last month. Around 85 CU-affiliated colleges offer undergraduate commerce courses.
Nishat Alam, secretary of CU’s council of undergraduate studies, said the task of preparing a new syllabus for every subject had started. “The boards of studies for different subjects are working overtime to complete the draft syllabi as early as possible. The drafts will be forwarded to teachers and college principals for their opinion before we finalise the syllabi.”
The UGC’s deadline for all colleges to adopt the semester and choice-based credit system is 2018 “The original deadline was 2015. The UGC has unofficially informed us that there won’t be any further extension. CU has little choice but to switch to the new system next year,” a source in the higher education department said.
Going by the commerce experience, limited subject combinations might be available to students of the first couple of batches. For instance, an arts student might have to choose from only humanities subjects. The choice of institutes in which to study a particular course might not be available at first, but CU officials said that flexibility would gradually increase.
Metro spoke to principals of several colleges, all of whom said that effective implementation of the system would not be possible if every institute did not have the required infrastructure.
“It was easier to introduce the system in commerce because the number of subjects is fewer compared to science and arts. It won’t be smooth sailing in terms of getting infrastructure ready to simultaneously introduce the semester and choice-based credit system in science and arts in such a short time,” said the principal of a south Calcutta college.
According to the principal, arranging the required facilities would be more difficult than reworking the syllabi. “We appreciate the fact that the CU authorities have promptly started academic preparations by asking the boards of studies to draft new syllabi. But we cannot switch to the new system if we do not have the requisite facilities. We would need more classrooms and a larger pool of teachers too.”