by Prithaa More (UG ’24) and Sana Bashir (UG ’24)
In August, the MAA (Ministry of Academic Affairs) conducted a survey to gauge the student body’s views on reverting to the FC (Foundation Courses) bucket system. The MAA did not go through with it since their survey found that the majority of students had only one or two FCs left. For batches before UG ’23, 9 FCs were not compulsory, for example, UG ’22 only had 5 compulsory FCs. The ministry and the OAA (Office of Academic Affairs) instead proposed two reforms—to increase the variety in the FCs offered and to introduce the FC Student Representatives.
On 18th October, 2021, the MAA sent out an email stating that they would be implementing the FC Student Representatives for students having doubts regarding specific courses/departments. “The representative will work with the OAA and the FC Steering Committee to convey student feedback about the FCs.” While there is no official list for the members of the Steering Committee, it comprises professors from the academic council, the Chancellor and members of the OAA. The representatives’ job will be to aid students in planning their FCs. The representative body will comprise one first year undergraduate and two second year undergraduates of which one must be a STEM major.
The MAA further held an open meeting on 2nd November where they first clarified that a similar survey like the one for UG ’23 would not be released for UG ’24 since they were only informed of the one – 9 FC structure. Moving forward, they proposed a P/F policy just for Foundational Courses in the hope to reduce academic pressure. While the OAA has reservations about this, they were not averse to the FC Student Reps, when/if elected, pushing for the same.
A recommendation one attendee made was cross listing FCs with introductory courses or making them gateway courses. The MAA however mentioned that the Board of Management was adamant in abstaining from structural changes until the National Education Policy was implemented. Some students raised their concern about the weightage of FCs since many of the courses are new resulting in many performing poorly. The MAA reiterated that the administration will not agree to do so because FCs are an intrinsic part of the university’s curriculum. There was also a discussion on the random allotment of ICT where the MAA acknowledged the disadvantage and recommended reaching out to sources such as the CWC for help with their papers.
The Edict also reached out to the MAA via email. When asked to elaborate on the need for such representatives, they said, “Department representatives often act as an intermediary between students and academic departments, bringing up the issues they are facing.”
The MAA was also questioned on the reason behind having 3 representatives for the 9 FCs. They justified that by firstly stating that ICT already has a peer tutor, thus for the 8 remaining FCs it’ll be beneficial and “keeping in mind the number as well as the different nature of foundation courses three representatives were felt to be appropriate”. This number was also felt to be appropriate to “streamline the communication”.
Due to the nature of the FC Rep proposal, one wonders whether this means that the FC system is now permanent. The MAA said that the FC structure falls under the jurisdiction of the FC Steering committee, who are open to student feedback regarding the system. Furthermore, besides the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and non-STEM second year posts, there will be no consideration for a candidate’s major. They said that STEM had been an underrepresented major in the FCs, so they were hoping that such an appointment would fix this issue. Moreover, they said that the same would be done for any other major, if it was underpromoted in the future. This was specifically mentioned to be “a suggestion made by the OAA and Dean of Academic Affairs, who believed that representation of STEM in Ashokan academics needs to be increased”.
Further, while one could argue that a representative from the new batch might be too inexperienced with regards to the system, the MAA had a different take. They said that the freshman representative will only begin their work towards the end of the academic year and so will be almost serving as a second year rep. They further added that having representatives from different batches and with varied experiences would help them address student concerns better.
While some may consider the FC Rep proposal to be futile, the MAA seems to want to ease the process of settling into academic life at Ashoka whilst keeping in mind the liberal arts structure the university enshrines. What is left to be seen is whether the proposal lives up to its word.