• The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.
  • A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry next month, according to R.C. Agarwal, Deputy Director General for Education, at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. More than 45,000 students are admitted into agricultural universities every year, and the new policy is set to usher in some changes to their academic life.
  • The process started about two months ago, after the release of the National Education Policy. In many ways, agricultural education is ahead of its time, and already aligned with the NEP. The NEP wants a shift to four-year undergraduate degrees, and all agricultural degrees are already four-year programmes. Similarly, the NEP mentions experiential education, and it is already mandated since 2016.

Six-month internship :

  • The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship, usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, research expertise and entrepreneurship skills.
  • One major challenge is how to ensure that this experiential learning is made available to all students if we implement the multiple entry-exit system. Even if a student leaves after two or three years, even with a diploma, he should not miss out on it. The Deans Committee, responsible for creating consensus on changes in the undergraduate curriculum about once in 10 years, is likely to be called to meet in three to four months to ensure that such adaptations are possible.
  • Another major challenge for agricultural universities could be the push for multi-disciplinarity. Universities have been modelled on the land grant pattern, with a focus on research and extension, and deep community connections, driven by the philosophy that farmers need holistic solutions to their problems. However, in recent years, several domain specific universities in horticulture, veterinary science and fisheries sciences have come up. How to incorporate humanities and social sciences into these settings, that could be a big challenge.