Editorial 1: Facilitating degrees within a degree


  • Even though the movement to specify frameworks for higher education qualifications had gained momentum across the world in the late 1990s, India remained without a National Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF) until recently. The idea was deliberated at the 60th meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education in 2012, which assigned the responsibility to the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The problem of plenty

  • 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 importance

  • By definition, a national higher education qualification must encompass all disciplines and must clearly provide for the eligibility conditions for the entry into, and completion of, all programmes of studies.
  •  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.
  • 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.

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.
  • Higher educational institutions with minimal infrastructure and meagre faculty resources may find this daunting.


  • The mystery of the learning outcomes borrowed liberally from the Dublin descriptors remains unaddressed. Whether generic or specific to a discipline, learning outcomes may vary significantly across disciplines. Besides, they may not be measurable by the same yardstick across disciplines.

Editorial 2: Environmental humanities: the need to expand our understanding of nature


  • The environment, from an academic point of view, has for centuries been understood from the lens of science. Scholars and experts have explored issues related to ecology and the environment through a utilitarian understanding of nature. While studies around the relationship between humans and nature have been more forthcoming in the last few decades, the field of environmental humanities is relatively recent.

Bias against ‘soft sciences’

  • Positioning themselves as scholars working on environmental humanities in a science and technology institute where the discipline of humanities and social sciences is part of their coursework.
  • The authors explain how the mere introduction of humanities as a chapter would not help remove the dichotomy between the sciences and the bias against the “soft sciences”.
  • The authors explain that instead of looking at science as the only solace to providing solutions to environmental issues, disciplines of humanities and social sciences must also be taken seriously to understand indigenous epistemologies that broaden our understanding of nature.
  • The nationalist project such as the Indian Knowledge Systems is dangerous as it is a mere replacement for the Western understanding of nature.
  •  It lacks the multitude of narratives and perspectives from various social and marginalised groups that discuss the entanglement of human beings with the environment.

The nation and nature

  • In India, nature has been considered intrinsically connected to society and culture.
  • The nation is seen through the lens of nature, ecology or as a sense of place.
  • There are two dominant understandings of a nation. The first one considers the nation as one place where nature is universal to its citizens as an ecological reality.
  • Ecological nationalism is used to justify the utilisation or restriction of nature.
  • The second understanding goes beyond the unitary sense of nation or nationalism and finds multiple perspectives that define the nation in connection to nature — as the affiliation to a piece of land and to its people who have various cultural identities. It is a sense of belonging, despite diverse notions about the ecology and environment.
  • In looking at the environment as a physical entity meant to be exploited according to man’s wishes, neo-liberal establishments have separated people’s indigenous experiences and narratives from our understanding of nature.
  • The dominant understanding of the environment while using gender, caste and tribal experiences as case studies, still largely remains androcentric and Brahminical, according to the authors.

Indigenous narratives on nature

  • The relationship that Dalits or tribal communities have with the environment is complex and much deeper than dominant narratives.
  • While they have been given limited access to space, land and water due to the exclusionary practices that persist, owing to the caste system, they have a stronger connection with nature as they consider the environment to have agency and influence.
  • Such narratives reject the reductionist attitude towards ecology/ environment that exists among mainstream understandings of the concept.
  •  Therefore, it is essential to incorporate the perspectives of different marginalised communities, such as those based on gender, caste, and tribal identities, into discussions within academic and policymaking circles to challenge the monopolistic understanding of the environment.

Way forward

  • Environmental humanities is an open-ended discipline that constantly evolves and continually redefines the perception of the environment.
  • In incorporating narratives about the interplay between nature and diverse communities through stories of rivers, landscapes, plants, animals, and the communities’ perspectives and ecological wisdom, the discipline enriches our understanding of the environment and helps us re-evaluate conventional notions of nature.