Choice between 3 or 4 year undergraduate courses, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, adding 3.5 crore seats in higher education institutions which will now have a single regulator, discontinuation of MPhil programmes and fixation of fees are among the higher education reforms outlined in the new National Education Policy (NEP).
The NEP was approved on Wednesday by the Union Cabinet.
Elaborating on the reforms, HRD Secretary Amit Khare said at a press briefing the policy aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3 pc (2018) to 50 pc by 2035 and 3.5 crore new seats will be added to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
The undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications -- a certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor's degree after a 3-year programme.
"The 4-year multidisciplinary bachelor's programme shall be the preferred option since it allows the opportunity to experience the full range of holistic and multidisciplinary education in addition to a focus on the chosen major and minors as per the choices of the student," Khare said.
As per the new policy, the system of affiliation will be phased out over 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism for granting graded autonomy to colleges, through a transparent system of graded accreditation, will be established.
Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an autonomous degree-granting college, or a constituent college of a university.
The policy has called for a single higher education regulator called Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). However, medical and legal colleges will be kept out of its purview.
Among the key reforms in the policy are common entrance exam for admissions to universities and colleges to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA), discontinuation of MPhil programmes, common norms to be in place for private and public higher education institutions and fee fixation under a broad regulatory framework.
To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP has recommended setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs, and use of mother tongue or local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes.
"An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned. Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, will be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
"The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education. Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world-ranked Universities to open campuses in our country," Khare said.