The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has introduced innovative concepts to improve access, equity and quality education in India. It is forward-looking and student-centric, giving students the freedom to choose disciplines, colleges and universities. This freedom is envisioned through the choice-based credit system, multiple entry-multiple exit (MEME) options in a programme and, most importantly, the establishment of an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC). ABC will digitally store academic credits earned from recognised higher education institutions (HEIs) and allow for credit redemption in order to be awarded a certificate, diploma or degree.
ABC is an online entity to be established and managed by the ministry of education. It will function much like a commercial bank with students as account-holders to whom the bank provides services, including credit accumulation, credit transfer, credit redemption through the opening, closure and validation of accounts. Students who pursue education as freelancers can also accumulate credits. These credits can be deposited to student accounts. After the accumulation of credits, a student can redeem these in order to get any academic degree. It works on the principle of MEME as well as “anytime learning, anywhere learning, and any level learning”. It can facilitate the integration of campuses by creating student mobility within the university system. ABC can also help integrate skills into a credit-based system by providing a credit recognition mechanism. It will, however, not give awards, degrees or certificates. Opening an account with ABC is not mandatory.
Its objectives include promoting student-centricity in higher education and enabling them to select courses, departments or institutions; allowing students to choose a pace for their studies along with associated cost, and enabling MEME for students to complete their degrees as per their preferences; and permitting teaching-learning activities with increased integration of campuses to facilitate lifelong learning among formal and informal students for full-time and part-time modes.
Students who may or may not have been enrolled in HEI but wish to pursue an education and consolidate their academic records for employment or other purposes can register with ABC. It enables a student to accumulate institutional credits from numerous sources into a single account.
It will maintain academic records and issue an official transcript. This transcript will be recognised by all the member-universities of ABC. If students are working towards a qualification, they will have to accumulate sufficient credits to gain the total credit value of the qualification. Students may be able to transfer their credits as part of one study programme to another, offered by the same institution, and/or transfer credit when moving from one institution to another. How students can transfer credits is determined by each institution’s assessment regulations. However, the transfer of credits between HEIs of similar categories will be allowed to ensure quality. For instance, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) A-grade credits can be transferred to other A grades and to B or C grades. However, credits earned from HEI with lower NAAC grades may not be transferred at the same value to higher NAAC grade institutions.
ABC can be operationalised under a standard framework such as the National Academic Depository under the aegis of the ministry of education. A participating institution/university will have to formally qualify and agree to be a part of ABC. The credits earned will be recorded with an approved national agency and will have a fully-defined shelf life for its value in the award of a degree/diploma/post-graduate diploma/certificates.
ABC is a revolutionary step which will promote access, equity, quality, flexibility, mobility, collaboration, transparency, and integration to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of India’s education system.
Bhushan Patwardhan is vice-chairman, UGC and Pankaj Mittal is secretary general, AIU
The views expressed are personal