Dr Venunadhan B. Pillai, Executive Principal & Head of International, Curricula, SSVM Group of Institutions, Coimbatore
The University Grants Commission (UGC) recently released the National Credit Framework (NCrF), a revolutionary system that aims to transform higher education in India. The NCrF is a comprehensive framework that provides standardised guidelines and criteria for credit accumulation, transfer and recognition across higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country. It is a significant and long-awaited step towards improving the quality of education in India and making it more accessible to students from different backgrounds. It will promote academic mobility and foster competition and innovation among universities and colleges in addition to collaboration and partnership among institutions, as they can share resources, faculty, and programmes.
NCrF consists of four levels of qualifications – certificate, diploma, undergraduate, and postgraduate – each with a defined number of credits that reflect the programme’s level, duration, and complexity. The framework is based on the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), which universities and colleges in Europe have widely adopted. Under the NCrF, one credit is equivalent to 30 hours of learning, including lectures, tutorials, seminars, practical sessions, assignments, and self-study. The use of credits will enable students to measure their academic progress, plan their curriculum, and transfer their credits across institutions.
The NCrF will not only harmonise the credit accumulation and transfer system across different academic disciplines, levels, and institutions in the country but also promote transparency and flexibility in the credit transfer process and facilitate the recognition of prior learning and non-formal education. The framework will offer students opportunities to diversify their academic programmes, switch institutions, and accumulate credits from multiple sources simultaneously as it provides students room to pursue interdisciplinary courses, take on additional courses, and even take a break from their studies without losing their academic progress as it gives the flexibility to choose their courses, pace their studies, and take up internships or part-time work while studying.
Another benefit of the NCrF is that it will encourage the recognition of prior learning and non-formal education. This means that students who have acquired knowledge and skills through work experience, volunteering, or informal learning can get credit for their learning and use it towards their formal qualifications. The NCrF recognises that learning is not limited to the classroom and that students can acquire knowledge and skills from various sources. This will promote lifelong learning and enable learners to upgrade their skills and knowledge throughout their lives.
In addition to healthy competition, collaboration and partnership, the NCrF will enable institutions to offer new and innovative academic programmes aligned with the needs of the marketplace and society. Institutions will also be able to benchmark their educational programmes against national and international standards and improve their quality and relevance.
The NCrF has been received positively by the academic community and education experts in the country. Dr Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), lauded the UGC’s efforts in introducing the NCrF, stating that “it will align the higher education system with global best practices and promote student mobility and employability.” He also emphasised that the NCrF would help bridge the gap between academia and industry, an imperative in today’s rapidly changing job market.
Prof. R.S. Bawa, Vice-Chancellor of Chandigarh University, stated that “the NCrF will help bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical aspects of education and provide students with a broader perspective on their chosen subjects.”
Dr. Sushma Yadav, Associate Professor of Education at Banaras Hindu University, said, “The NCrF is a much-needed initiative to bring standardisation and transparency in the credit transfer system. It will enable students to move freely from one institution to another and choose the programmes that are best suited to their interests and career goals. This will have a positive impact on the quality of education and promote innovation and collaboration among institutions.”
Dr. Deepak Singh, Assistant Professor of Economics at Delhi University, said, “The NCrF is a major step towards improving the quality and relevance of higher education in India. It will enable institutions to offer programmes that are aligned with the needs of the industry and society and provide students with skills and knowledge that are in demand. The NCrF will also promote competition among institutions and foster innovation and creativity.”
However, some experts have raised concerns about the implementation of the NCrF and its impact on the autonomy and diversity of higher education institutions in the country. Dr V.S. Chauhan, former Chairman of the University Grants Commission and a leading educationist, suggested that the UGC should focus on improving the quality of education in India rather than introducing new systems. He recommends that the NCrF should be implemented in a phased manner, with a focus on building capacity and infrastructure in institutions.
Dr. Rameshwar Prasad, Associate Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, “While the NCrF is a welcome initiative, it should not be imposed on institutions without taking into consideration their unique missions, identities, and cultures. The NCF should not compromise the autonomy and diversity of institutions and should respect their academic freedom and innovation.”
Though the NCrF may not be a panacea to cure the Achilles heel of Indian education, the overall consensus is that, despite the above concerns, it is a bold and visionary initiative that has the potential to take Indian higher education to greater heights. Its implementation requires the cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders, including the government, universities, colleges, students, and employers. Therefore, the success of the NCrF will depend on the willingness of institutions to embrace change and innovation and the commitment of students to make the most of the opportunities it offers.
Undoubtedly, with the NCrF, India is poised to leapfrog into a new era of higher education that is flexible, innovative, and responsive to the needs of learners and society.