July 29 marked one year of the launch of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020. On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Academic Bank of Credit’ scheme that paves the way for multiple entry and exit options for students in higher education. Promoted as a ground-breaking reform, the Centre has said it will lead to a reduction of dropouts and an improvement in the enrolment ratio. What it implies on the ground is greater flexibility for college students to choose their subjects and pursue the course they want to.
What Is The Academic Bank Of Credit?
Saying that an undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration, NEP 2020 had envisaged multiple exit options within this period for students beginning right with the completion of the first year of college. NEP said that a student could get a certificate after completing her first year in any subject, including vocational and professional courses. Complete two years, and she is eligible for getting a diploma while a Bachelor’s degree would be awarded after a 3-year programme.
To that extent, the NEP had said that an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) would be set up to “digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized higher educational institutions (HEIs) so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned".
On July 28 this year, the Centre notified the University Grants Commission (Establishment and Operation of Academic Bank Of Credits in Higher Education) Regulations, 2021, thus formally clearing the decks for the formal launch of the initiative.
How Will The ABC Help?
The Centre has said that the ABC scheme will be applicable to all universities in India at the central or state level, deemed universities and autonomous colleges. A key goal of NEP 2020 is to provide flexibility to students when it comes to the choice of subjects as well as the prescribed trajectory for pursuing higher education.
Look at it this way: a student enters a particular course at a certain college. But one year down the line she may find that she would be better off pursuing a different course. Or, due to family or financial reasons, she may be unable to continue at that college. In the normal run of things, she would have to drop out. If she enrols in another college, she loses a year, and the fees she has paid during that time. And, if she comes to back to studies later, even in that scenario, she has lost one year and the money spent at college.
NEP 2020 provides a solution for such students by bringing in a “creative combination of disciplines for study with multiple entry and exit points". The idea is to “remove rigid boundaries and create new possibilities for students to choose and learn the subjects of their choice". What it further seeks to achieve is “seamless student mobility between or within" a college through a “formal system of credit recognition, credit accumulation, credit transfers, and credit redemption". It is in this regard that the ABC assumes importance.
What Is The Credit System?
According to the UGC notification, one ‘credit’ is awarded upon completion of “one hour of theory or one hour of tutorial or two hours of laboratory work, per week for a duration of a semester (13-15 weeks) resulting in the award of one credit".
The ABC now permits a system of ‘credit accumulation’, which is to be facilitated by the opening of an Academic
Bank Account (ABA) by students in order to transfer and consolidate the credits earned by them in the course being pursued by them. ‘Credits-recognition’ implies the transfer of credits earned by students to the ABC while ‘credit transfer’ is the process through which HEIs can receive or provide credits into a student’s ABA.
UGC said that credits obtained at registered HEIs during or after the academic year 2021-2022 alone are eligible for credit transfer, credit accrual and credit redemption through ABC.
How Can A Student Use The ‘Credit’ System?
Under the credit-based system, the multiple entry and exit option is available at both the undergraduate and Master’s levels. To enable multiple entry and exit in HEIs, a student’s academic journey is divided into “levels in an ascending order from level 5 to level 10 (where) level 5 represents certificate and level 10 represents research degree".
Say you have just enrolled in the first year of an undergraduate course. You are thus at Level 5 of the credit system. At the end of the first year you are required to have collected 36-40 credits, which would make you eligible for the award of an undergraduate certificate. Now, let’s assume you quit the course. When you are ready to come back to it, you will have to join the second year, which is level 6. For this, you need to have the certificate obtained after completing the first year of the undergraduate programme. If you exit at the end of this second year, you’ll receive a diploma for which you need 72-80 credits from levels 5 to 6, with 36-40 credits at level 6.
For the third year of your undergraduate studies, you will need to fulfil entry requirement for level 7, which is the two-year diploma. After you complete three years of college, you will be awarded a degree shall be awarded at level 7, which requires 108-120 credits from levels 5 to 7, with 36-40 credits at level 5, 36-40 credits at level 6, and 36-40 credits at level 7.
Level 8 in a Bachelor’s course involves Honours/Research and requires a student to have completed level 7 qualifications. “After completing the requirements of a three-year Bachelor’s degree, candidates who meet a minimum CGPA of 7.5 shall be allowed to continue studies in the fourth year of the undergraduate programme to pursue and complete the Bachelor’s degree with Research," UGC says.
A structure along similar lines governs post-graduate education. UGC said that “the validity of credits earned will be to a maximum period of seven years or as specified by the ABC".
How Can You Open An Academic Bank Account?
The ABA is an individual account in the ABC that is to be opened and operated by a student, “to which all academic credits earned by the student from course(s) of study are deposited, recognised, maintained, accumulated, transferred, validated or redeemed for the purposes of the award of degree/diploma/certificates etc. by an awarding institution".
The ABC is described as an academic service mechanism that is in the form of a digital or virtual or online entity established by UGC with the approval of the Centre. It will allow “students to become its academic account holders, thereby paving the way for seamless student mobility".
As to the lateral entry system, or switching of courses, UGC said that HEIs may earmark seats for in that regard “if the student has either (a) successfully completed the first year/second year/third year of the same programme in any institution, or (b) already successfully completed a first degree programme and is desirous of and
academically capable of pursuing another first degree programme in an allied subject".