Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued new guidelines for transforming colleges and universities into multi-disciplinary institutions.


What does the UGC guidelines say?

The guidelines prescribe three approaches, which include —

  • Clustering of institutions located in proximity;
  • Merger of single-stream institutions with other multi-disciplinary institutions under the same management or different managements; and
  • Strengthening of existing establishments by setting up of new departments.


Key highlights of the guidelines issued

  • Clustering to institutions —
    • The UGC has suggested academic collaboration between institutions through “clusters” of higher education institutions (HEIs).
    • This is to promote multi-disciplinary education and research in online and offline modes.
    • Colleges with poor enrolment and fewer resources may benefit by forming clusters with other institutions.
      • This will enable students of these colleges to access better facilities as well as avail innovative courses.
    • This will also help such centres improve their grades in National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).
  • Merger of single-stream institutions with other multidisciplinary institutions —
    • The guidelines prescribed merger of single-stream institutions with other multidisciplinary institutions under the same management or different managements.
    • Students opting for courses offered as a result of collaborations and mergers can also avail credit mobility between partnering institutions.
      • This has been made possible by Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) platform, developed by National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (MeitY).
      • The platform allows students to open an academic account and add HEIs of interest and store credits earned from them for receiving degrees and diplomas.
  • Strengthening of existing establishments by setting up of new departments — It has also prescribed expanding the number of departments in a college or university by adding new subjects such as languages, literature, music, Indology, sports, etc.
  • Student orientation programmes as an important element —
    • The guidelines also identify student orientation programmes as an important element to familiarise them with the new options available to them.
  • Capacity building of faculties —
    • The UGC also suggests capacity-building for faculty so that they can teach, train and research in multi-disciplinary academic programmes.
    • This can be done through initiatives like Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) as well as investment in learning assessment tools.


Multi-disciplinary institutions and National Education Policy (NEP) 2020

  • More multi-disciplinary institutions in the country is one of the recommendations for higher education in the National Education Policy 2020.
  • The policy document has set a target of 2030 for all higher education institutions (HEIs) to become multi-disciplinary, and thereafter, increase student enrolments preferably in the thousands by 2040.
  • The goal is to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
  • The NEP proposes that though a number of new institutions may be developed to attain these goals, a large part of the capacity creation will be achieved by expanding and improving existing HEIs.


About the UGC

  • The UGC was formally established in November 1956 as a statutory body by the UGC Act 1956.
    • It was set up by the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education.
  • It was established for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education in India.
    • It is essentially an autonomous government agency that channels public funds (grants) to higher education institutions.
      • This is done in exchange for their compliance with set quality criteria.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi and it has six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.