The move of the University of Delhi to shift from a three-year undergraduate course to a four-year one has generated controversy as well as heat. This is perhaps understandable, given that this university is a premier one and its experiment with changes are watched with interest across the whole country to be replicated in other universities as well. The shift to a four-year course is in itself not wrong or bad provided the objective is to bring the student up to a higher level as compared to a three year degree. Certainly there is scope for innovation and reform in our university courses, which have tended to be stagnant and frozen. The university administration has, unfortunately, not been clear in explaining its motives for bringing about the change, which is perhaps the cause of much of the opposition it faces. It may have done better to have consulted more widely and longer to have come up with a consensus as well as an improved curriculum for the students. Certainly, it cannot be the goal of the switchover merely to facilitate admissions into American universities for which a four-year undergraduate degree is a requirement, which in any case would be elitist as only a small percentage of the students opt for them. Yet, perhaps there is no harm in borrowing some of the best features of American undergraduate education without aping its worst aspects.
The University of Delhi has followed standardised courses so far, which have served the purpose, but these could certainly do with the introduction of flexibility and innovation. Courses, which enable more of an interdisciplinary focus that may lead to a greater insight into the main discipline that is being studied, should ideally now be possible under the new system. However, it is not yet clear how well the new foundation courses that the student will now have to study in the first and second years serve this purpose. The danger with an ill-conceived design of the new four-year undergraduate courses is that students majoring in a subject will have studied less in four years than what they currently study in three years if the curriculum turns out to be fragmented and lacking coherence. If the University of Delhi is able to sort out these problems in the short time remaining before it before the new session begins then perhaps the new four-year courses may yet turn out to be a success.