From Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI : Resentment is mounting among over 100 universities against UGC's
circular dated March 21, 2016 seeking applications for
approval of their distance education programmes.
The universities, including 15 open universities,
have written to the UGC against
the new practice.
The circular from the UGC's Distance Education Bureau
asks universities running distance education courses to
submit fresh applications for renewal for their
programme for the year 2016-2017.
The circular gave reasons for inviting fresh
applications and cited Human Resource Development
Ministry' gazette notification dated June 10, 2015 which
said : "all qualifications awarded through Distance
Education by the Universities established by an Act of
Parliament or State Legislature, Institutions Deemed to
be Universities under Section 3 of the University Grants
Commission Act, 1956 and Institutions of National
Importance declared under an Act of Parliament stand
automatically recognized for the purpose of employment
to posts and services under the Central Government,
provided they have been approved by Distance Education
Council, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New
Delhi and wherever necessary by the All India Council
for Technical Education, New Delhi"
The circular said that all universities who were granted
approval for the year 2014-2015 are required to submit
fresh application in a given format for the year 2016-17
by April 26, 2016. This has triggered anger in the
universities who feel that the DEB authorities were
needlessly harassing the universities.
Till 2012, open universities and other institutions had
to seek recognition from the distance education council
(DEC), created under Indira Gandhi National Open
University Act. The DEC functioned under IGNOU, granting
recognition to institutions, not specific courses. For
technical and professional courses, the institutions had
to seek approval separately from the respective
In 2012, control of the DEC was handed to the UGC by an
executive order of the HRD ministry. Subsequently, the
UGC set up a distance education bureau (DEB) to
discharge the functions of the DEC and regulate the
distance education sector.
March 21, 2016 the DEB
wrote a letter to all universities offering distance
education asking them to seek course-wise approval from
it -- and this triggered resentment.
"According to the act under which each university is set
up, each institution can devise and offer its own
course. For distance education, the institution needs
recognition of the DEC. There is no need for course-wise
approval by the UGC or the DEB," said an outspoken
vice-chancellor who refused to be named.
The universities are also upset that UGC rules have not
been allowing MPhil and PhD programmes by distance mode
An IGNOU faculty member said the UGC did not ask for its
approval for regular courses offered by any university.
The UGC act has no provision to approve courses, he
"UGC does not ask for regular courses to be approved by
it. It is a violation of the principle of equality. The
UGC has banned MPhil and PhD in distance mode since
2009. We are yet to understand the reason for such
decision," he said.
UGC chairperson Ved Prakash and secretary J.S. Sandhu
could not be contacted for comment despite making
several phone calls and sending texts.
A UGC source said the quality of distance education was
an area of concern, calling for tough measures. After
the protest by universities, the UGC has set up a
committee under former IGNOU vice-chancellor H.P.
Dikshit to examine the matter.
About 10 million students are enrolled in
distance-learning programmes at present. Over four lakh
students take admission into these courses every year.