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National Higher Education Qualifications Framework UPSC NOTE

 National Higher Educational Qualification Framework (NHEQF)

  • The NHEQF seeks to bring changes in the education system right from the school to the higher education levels. 

  • Under the NHEQF, the higher education qualifications such as a certificate, diploma, and degree will be awarded based on the demonstrated achievement of learning outcomes and academic standards expected of graduates of a programme of study.

  • The framework intends to provide a “nationally accepted and internationally comparable and acceptable qualifications framework to facilitate transparency and comparability of higher education qualifications at all levels”, the document states.

  • It has been collectively developed by the department of school education, the department of higher education and the department of skill development.

Key features:

  • The framework divides education into eight levels. 

  • The first four levels are the school levels, while the last four are governed by higher education.

  • The first four levels will be taken up under the National School Education Qualification Framework (NSEQF), while the last four levels will come under the ambit of NHEQF. 

  • Based on a set of performance criteria, the NHEQF represents a comprehensive framework that classifies qualifications. 

  • It specifies qualification types and framework levels and the expected learning outcomes corresponding to these qualification types.

  • Qualification type refers to the broad discipline-free nomenclature such as a certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and PhD. 

  • The NHEQF also incorporates the qualifications from technical and vocational education and training and professional and technical education programmes, except medical and legal education under one qualifications framework.

  • The document, however, does not propose uniform curriculum or national common syllabus for a programme of study or to prescribe a set of approaches to the teaching-learning process and assessment of student learning levels, the document clarifies. 

  • It will be applicable to all the modes of learning and ensure both comparability and transferability not only between institutions but also across different delivery modes.

Levels in NHEQF:

To exit the level with a certificate, it will require minimum credits mentioned above.

Need of NHEQF

  • The higher education system in India has a varied structure that leads to a lack of comparability of outcomes depending on different qualifications across institutions. 

  • Consequently, this affects the employability of the students in the future also, some of the Indian qualifications are not recognised abroad whereas, some of the qualifications from abroad are not accepted in India.

  • Given the fact that India has a comprehensive higher education system and diverse institutions and programmes of study, the country needs to develop a nationally accepted and internationally comparable and acceptable qualifications framework. 

  • Also, institutions of varying levels need to ensure that the educators need to implement strategies that incorporate multi-disciplinary education.

Challenges and Criticisms

  • Globally, higher education qualification frameworks include details of the definition and requirements of credits. 

  • The UGC has chosen to prescribe two separate frameworks — the NHEQF and the National Credit Framework. 

  • Higher educational institutions are separately required to implement the Academic Bank of Credits as a mandated modality for recognising, accepting, and transferring credits across courses and institutions. 

  • Additionally, there are many other regulations that impinge on higher education qualifications. All of these could have been integrated into the NHEQF. 

  • This defeats the purpose of prescribing a qualification framework. 

  • After all, a qualification framework must minimise ambiguities in comprehending qualifications in a cross-cultural context.

  • The NHEQF does provide exit requirements, but eligibility conditions and pathways through which a student can enter a programme at a particular level are alluded to vaguely. 

  • Besides, higher education qualifications awarded by disciplines such as agriculture, law, medicine, and pharmacy are conspicuous by their absence. 

  • These disciplines may be under the jurisdiction of separate regulators, but they could have been included in the NHEQF through consensus across various regulatory bodies.

  • Considering that India proactively seeks to obliterate all traces of its colonial past, it is strange that this document draws copiously from the Bologna process that led to the European Qualifications Framework and the Dublin descriptors. 

  • The higher education system in India is far more diverse and complex than the European Higher Education Area. 

  • It warrants much wider and more intense consultations with the States. Doing this could have substantially enriched the NHEQF. 

  • The process of formulating the NHEQF should have duly recognised the sheer size of the higher education system and the variations in it, as well as the federal structure, constitutional provisions that put education on the Concurrent List, and the fact that States spend a lot more on education than the Centre. 

  • The Dublin descriptors are the ‘learning outcomes’. They are designed principally by European educationists.

  • The Indian higher education system could have benefited from those experiences and processes, but those outcomes may not be easy to replicate in this country. 

  • Most importantly, the European higher education reforms happened some two decades ago.

  • The document fails to recognise that learning and knowledge must go beyond earning a livelihood. 

    • If it does recognise this, it does not sufficiently highlight it. 

  • Education is not only about an individual’s learning capacities and capabilities; sociocultural and politico-economic factors also determine learning.

  • The overall framework appears to facilitate ‘degrees within a degree’. 

  • Those who hold four-year undergraduate degrees with a minimum CGPA of 7.5 are eligible for admission to PhD programmes. This will make the higher education system elitist. 

  • After all, merit is a social construct; the academic performance of students is invariably mediated by their socioeconomic conditions.

Difficulties in implementation:

  • At a practical level, there might be some serious difficulties in implementing the NHEQF. 

  • The document places all higher education qualifications on a continuum of 4.5 to 10. 

  • The framework equates postgraduate diplomas with four-year undergraduate programmes.

  • This poses a problem in determining the level of such undergraduate degrees that are pursued after another undergraduate degree, like B.Ed.

  • Further, the idea that a B.Ed could be completed in one, two or four years is confusing.

  • The credit framework document of the UGC mandates that each semester must have a minimum of 20 credits. 

  • This document suggests that one credit must comprise 15 hours of direct and 30 hours of indirect teaching. 

  • This means that students are required to study for a minimum of 900 hours per semester or close to 10 hours a day. 

  • This is ambitious even for fully residential higher educational institutions. Higher educational institutions with minimal infrastructure and meagre faculty resources may find this daunting.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: National Higher Education Qualifications Framework UPSC NOTE
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