UGC Announcement On Double Degree: Needs Discussion For National Rollout

Thanks to the vision of the UGC and the Government of India the Double Degree idea would definitely lead to achieving the intended goals of building competence and developing of skills representing diverse domains in an individual

The announcement of the Double Degree concept by the University Grants Commission (UGC) is a welcome development and demonstrates the UGC's proactive lead to provide multiple opportunities to the students on Indian campuses. If there is one top-of-the-mind recall of immediate gains from the National Education Policy, undoubtedly the double degree stands out!

A student pursuing BE can now, in parallel, enrol in a BBA program.

The most ideal situation is for a student pursuing an MTech degree to also join an MBA. Or join an MCA as the first degree and MBA as a double/ second degree. 

A master's in engineering/ MCA will make an individual very strong technically and in a chosen domain. Adding an MBA to this student's learning menu would empower him/her with the needed skills derived from a management program. The skills of an MCA and MBA are quite different. But if it is present in one individual the movement to the decision-making levels is faster. An individual who acquires these multiple skills is definitely in a stronger position to ideate in his core specialisation and transform that idea into a business proposition faster and with greater accuracy; experiencing higher chances of success. The new knowledge gained in the MBA program would open up higher starting positions with matching salaries in the corporate sector.

Another example is the need for a Civil Engineer to require strong IT skills to stay competitive or even relevant in one’s profession. Good knowledge of planning, architecture, human psychology, and management subjects is becoming critical. The job of a civil engineer today is to be seen in an enlightened society. Every civil engineering project could impact the environment. The human factor becomes core. But the project execution has to be by the Civil Engineer. The claim of the individual and the society on common rights on free flows/movement of natural air, light, water, pathways, felling of trees, and disposal of new waste that would be created as a result of new construction is real.  Thus apprehensions of the community in the vicinity of possible discomfort and disaster to the ecology, endangerment to health and life becomes real. In such situations, the judiciary rightly could frown on an executive or even a private operator if the rights of an individual are trampled upon. The imagined or real hardships can go viral in a fully networked world. And the backlash is bound to come!

Great combos: BE/BTech in  Computer Science (CSE) with Data Science and BSc Hons with Maths would be a great combo. Again a BE/BTech in E&C can go very well with BSc Hons in Physics. 

Thus being multi-skilled is no more a choice. It is becoming a necessity. If an employer and the employee have to survive and flourish multi-skilling among key workers is a must. It will result in a win-win for both. 

Success in corporate jobs demands several skills generally not covered in a pure tech program. Thus, there is a strong logic for the adoption of the double degree program option.

With technology embracing all domains especially in healthcare now and poised to take a more dominant role in the immediate future a doctor, pharmacist, or nurse cannot confine to their main professional field of study.  The healthcare professionals have to immerse themselves in related fields especially technical developments - that can bring faster relief to a suffering patient and also make life easier for the specialists in treating a patient.

In the Plus Two level, a student is very strong in science and maths. However, when a student joins programs in medicine etc the focus completely shifts to subjects outside of the core fields of study in classes ten and twelve. This is a great loss to the individual and the community. 

Discoveries can happen when a medical doctor can be part of the design and development of new solutions for use in healthcare. The outcomes would be of great precision and fast.Elaborating further on the Karnataka CET or NEET - students seeking admission to the MBBS program are tested for their competence in Physics, Maths, Chemistry, and Biology. So a top scorer eligible to study medicine will move away from maths and physics as he/she goes into higher classes in a medical school. 

Similarly in Engineering: The divorce we see among science/math students, opting for Engineering - exhibiting lay knowledge of anatomy and functioning of the human system - as they move to higher levels of study in BE/BTech. 

The double degree is a godsend! This should work. Convergence of the engineer, scientist, and medical professional working together would now be natural. 

CDSIMER (the Dr Chandramma Dayananda Sagar Institute for Medical Education and Research in Bengaluru) was founded on this very idea. UGC's announcement is commendable and timely and is a definite reflection of the thinking at Dayananda Sagar University and the medical school/teaching hospital. As a very practical first step, the School of Engineering would be housed on the same campus. 

Great discoveries in healthcare could happen if students pursuing an MBBS were to also enroll in BE- Medical Electronics or Biomedical Engineering or even Mechanical or Chemical Engineering programs. There are synergies in these programs. A student could be given credits for the common subjects in these two programs; reducing costs and time. This could be an ideal situation and a great start for the UGC to prove to the world its intentions while also demonstrating great examples of how effectively the double degree could work in a real-world scenario. 

Similarly, dentists cannot stay away from engineering. Especially mechanical engineering could become their first choice. The tools, real hardware..drilling machines, motors, and bearings of high precision and materials that a dentist uses in his clinic or his operation theatre can confuse a layman if he was in a workshop or a doctor's office! Of equal importance could be aerospace engineering. One can find the surprising discoveries and richness in going into these streams that could benefit dental sciences now to find answers bothering the dentists for decades. 

Extending the concept further, students in B Pharmacy or Pharm D could pursue in parallel a BE in Chemical or Mechanical Engineering. Or in a BSc - Bioscience. Or a pure BSc with Physics, Chemistry, and Maths or BSc with Chemistry as majors. It makes sense. Afterall discovery of drugs is one. But the manufacture of the same and its distribution to national and global markets requires core pharma knowledge strongly supported by the science of large-scale manufacture, logistics, supply chain, etc. 

It would be timely to recall Dr Abdul Kalam the renowned space scientist and former President of India who on many occasions reiterated that engineering and medicine are to be taught and studied on the same campus! The time has come, now.

The challenges

New initiatives bring with them newer challenges that need to be addressed. How will a student attend class on two different campuses/colleges if both the programs are delivered offline? After all the calendar for all academic programs would generally be similar. 

Can the first-degree program be offline and the other online? Or can some courses in both degrees have a blend of offline and online? 

To institutions that plan to offer double degrees, would it be admitting these students in the ongoing batches; which may be required due to credits being given for common courses?

Or would a new batch be started? What happens if the required numbers don't enrol? The economics/sustainability of such initiatives would prove a disincentive. Would UGC provide grants; if so to what extent? Financial support for the first five years to cover the deficit would be a great start. 


The calendar of a second-degree program:

  • Should not clash with the first-degree program
  • As also the second degree should not become a burden to a student or a college/institution
  • The college/institution offering the second degree may have to plan a Second Shift
  • A second shift would require resources: teaching, physical infrastructure..etc.

Impact on intake

Would the UGC allow automatic adjustments in faculty, Student-Teacher Ratio, and infrastructure needs? If it is an affirmative response all the players in the system could gain. 

To ensure the success of the Double Degree concept the UGC could offer clarifications on these and many more related issues that could come up when execution is taken up briskly across the nation. 

DSU could respond comprehensively to the UGC decision due to its commitment to bring in the integration of education spanning different domains and the foundation the university has already laid in this direction which is now being taken up for execution. The UGC decision on the double degree concept is commendable and is very timely at least for Dayananda Sagar University in Bengaluru.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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