Ab­sence of ded­i­cated reg­u­la­tor hits open var­si­ties

IN A FIX No ap­provals given for new study pro­grammes, no funds al­lowed for de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Gauri Kohli HT Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­re­spon­dent

E ve r s i n c e t h e D i s t a n c e Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil (DEC) of the Indira Gandhi Na­tional Open Univer­sity (Ig­nou) was dis­solved in 2012, open uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try have faced a num­ber of chal­lenges. Most of them have not been able to start cour­ses be­cause of lack of ap­provals. Some in­sti­tutes have also not been al­lo­cated de­vel­op­ment funds.

Reg­u­la­tory pow­ers re­lated to open and dis­tance learn­ing (ODL) were trans­ferred to the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) after the dis­so­lu­tion and it was given the task of fram­ing new reg­u­la­tions. How­ever, it was de­cided that till the new rules were no­ti­fied DECguide­lines for recog­ni­tion of ODL in­sti­tu­tions would be im­ple­mented.

No new cour­ses since 2014 have been recog­nised, says Pro­fes­sor Nageshwar Rao, VC of Ut­tarak­hand State Open Univer­sity. “We can­not start any new course. Even after in­spec­tion and per­mis­sion by statu­tory bodies such as the Na­tional Coun­cil for Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Coun­cil of In­dia, open uni­ver­si­ties are wait­ing for ap­proval for start­ing such cour­ses since 2014. Cour­ses de­vel­oped dur­ing 2013/14 have be­come ob­so­lete. The ODL sys­tem can­not con­trib­ute to the ini­tia­tives and thrust of the gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially dig­i­tal In­dia and skilling.”

The HRD min­is­ter had di­rected the dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion reg­u­la­tor to al­low ODL uni­ver­si­ties to start cer­tifi­cate and diploma cour­ses on their own on Au­gust 30 this year, but Pro­fes­sor Rao said he had yet to re­ceive the or­der. The ab­sence of a reg­u­la­tor af­fects qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion im­parted and new ini­tia­tives in dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion mode. “The DEC should be re­vived or a new reg­u­la­tory body should be formed. If both are not pos­si­ble, the UGC should be given ad­e­quate man­power to sup­port this ac­tiv­ity of reg­u­lat­ing ODL in­sti­tu­tions as the ODL sys­tem re­quires a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. At present, UGC as reg­u­la­tor mon­i­tors the ODL sys­tem with the mind­set of con­ven­tional ed­u­ca­tion,” Prof Rao adds.

Ig­nou was, in Au­gust 2016, granted ap­proval by the regu- la­tor to re­sume PhD cour­ses but some other state open uni­ver­si­ties have yet to re­ceive a let­ter of ap­proval.

Most of the state uni­ver­si­ties are also strug­gling to get fund­ing from the UGC’s Dis­tance Ed­u­ca­tion Bu­reau for their de­vel­op­men­tal ini­tia­tives as the reg­u­la­tor is now in­sist­ing that such in­sti­tutes be recog­nised under Sec­tion 12(B). “For recog­ni­tion under this sec­tion, the UGC re­vised the pro­vi­sions for an ODL univer­sity to have 15 acres of land. As no no­ti­fi­ca­tion was is­sued to im­ple­ment this, the re­view has be­come re­dun­dant and ODL uni­ver­si­ties are suf­fer­ing,” says Pro­fes­sor Rao.

On other chal­lenges, Pro­fes­sor Ashok Sharma, vice chan­cel­lor, Vardhman Ma­haveer Open Univer­sity, Kota, says, “We are strug­gling to get recog­ni­tion for new cour­ses. We were as­sured that we will get per­mis­sion till Oc­to­ber-Novem­ber for the Jan­uary ad­mis­sion cy­cle but we are yet to re­ceive the ap­provals. Get­ting grants is also a prob­lem. The Cen­tral gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated ₹ 100 crore as grant for state open uni­ver­si­ties but the funds are not re­leased yet. We are also made to take fre­quent ap­provals for cour­ses de­spite hav­ing the power to of­fer our own pro­grammes.”

T h e M a d h av a M e n o n Com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended that there is an ur­gent need to pass the Dis­tance Ed­u­ca­tion Bill which will also cover ODL cour­ses of­fered by pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties. Heads of ODL var­si­ties and ex­perts have said that the trans­fer of the Dis­tance Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil ( DEC) from Indira Gandhi Na­tional OpenUniver­sity (Ig­nou) to Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) is “not right’ and is caus­ing a num­ber of prob­lems for uni­ver­si­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to MM An­sari, for­mer mem­ber UGC, trans­fer of DEC from Ig­nou to UGC was “done ad­min­is­tra­tively” and was “il­le­gal.” The UGC ‘largely’ has the power to reg­u­late and fund con­ven­tional cour­ses. “The Ig­nou Act gives the univer­sity the power to per­form these roles for ODL in­sti­tu­tions. Both UGC and Ig­nou Acts have been passed by Par­lia­ment with the Ig­nou Act be­ing passed in 1985 – much after the UGC Act.”

Shift­ing of DEC from Ig­nou to UGC re­quired an amend­ment in the Ig­nou andUGCActs. The­p­ow­ers to reg­u­late in­sti­tu­tions have been vested with both through Par­lia­men­tary pro­vi­sions. The emer­gency clause, ie Sec­tion 20 (1) of the UGC Act was in­voked by the HRDmin­istry under which DEC was trans­ferred from Ig­nou to UGC. This clause can only be used spar­ingly for pol­icy mat­ters but this was not a pol­icy mat­ter, he says.

DEC can be given back to Ig­nou as it is legally pos­si­ble. “The UGC can­not keep it for long un­til the Par­lia­ment au­tho­rises both through amend­ments. The DEC draft bill is still pend­ing and can­not be en­acted. The UGC is under pres­sure after the Niti Aayog and Hari Gau­tam Com­mit­tee have rec­om­mended to mod­ify its struc­ture and stature. The UGC and DEC’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain, An­sari adds.

The Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy draft pro­poses set­ting up of an au­tonomous body, re­spon­si­ble for the pro­mo­tion, co­or­di­na­tion, reg­u­la­tion and main­te­nance of stan­dards in the ODL/Mas­sive On­line and Open Cour­ses sys­tem. This body will pre­pare norms, stan­dards and guide­lines for sys­temic de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­tion of ODL/ MOOCs. It will also de­velop a mech­a­nism for recog- ni­tion, trans­fer and ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cred­its earned through MOOCs, award and recog­ni­tion of de­grees, sug­gests the draft.

A Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee also di­rected the HRD min­istry ear­lier this year to speed up the process of ap­point­ing a dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion reg­u­la­tor.

Pro­fes­sor Ravin­dra Ku­mar, vice chan­cel­lor (in-charge) Ig­nou, says, “We hope the UGC will ap­pre­ci­ate that this kind of dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment will ham­per the growth of ODL in­sti­tu­tions and will jeop­ar­dise the long-term na­tional goal of pro­vid­ing wider ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion.”

Ku­mar feels it is fu­tile to re­vive DEC in its old form and that it is a bet­ter idea to re­vamp the erst­while DEC and make it ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with the “rapidly chang­ing uni­verse of open learn­ing”. He says, “It is a most glar­ing re­al­ity to­day that the con­cept of dis­tance learn­ing has evap­o­rated in thin air with thead­ventof mod­ern­in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy. Use of mo­bile, tele­vi­sion and­com­puter has com­pletely dis­solved the no­tion of dis­tance learn­ing and re­placed it with dig­i­tal learn­ing. We should com­pre­hend this re­al­ity with­out any fur­ther loss of time and regear ODL as open and dig­i­tal learn­ing sys­tem/s,” he says. In this sce­nario, the role of a reg­u­la­tor needs to be “ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to an­swer these is­sues.”

The UGC or DEC, any reg­u­la­tor, which does not com­ply with the chang­ing trends in dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion will “fail mis­er­ably in performing its task,” he says.

It must also be noted that a num­ber of ODL in­sti­tu­tions are of­fer­ing on­line cour­ses which are not valid. “This is mainly be­cause of the ab­sence of a proper reg­u­la­tor for such cour­ses. The UGC had set up a com­mit­tee to look into it. The DEC did not ap­prove any univer­sity to run a course solely through the on­line mode,” says An­sari. The French gover nment i s i nvit­ing ap­pli­ca­tions f rom in­ter­na­tional stu­dents for its Eif­fel Ex­cel­lence Schol­ar­ship Pro­gramme.

The schol­ar­ships were es­tab­lished by the French min­istry of for­eign af­fairs and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment to en­able the coun­try’s higher ed­u­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ments to at­tract top for­eign stu­dents to en­rol in their master’s and PhD cour­ses, ac­cord­ing to Cam­pus France, the French na­tional agency for the pro­mo­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion, in­ter­na­tional stu­dent ser­vices and in­ter­na­tional mo­bil­ity.

Schol­ar­ships will be of­fered in en­gi­neer­ing sciences (master’s level)/sciences (PhD level), eco­nom­ics and man­age­ment, law and po­lit­i­cal sciences. The dead­line for sub­mit­ting ap­pli­ca­tions is Jan­uary 6, 2017. Re­sults will be an­nounced by March 20, 2017. The pro­gramme is ded­i­cated to for­eign stu­dents only with no re­stric­tion on the na­tion­al­ity.

At the master’s level, the schol­ar­ship will be awarded for a max­i­mum of 12 months to 36 months for an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree.

At the PhD level, the schol­ar­ship will be awarded for a max­i­mum of 10 months. The schol­ar­ship for the master’s level in­cludes a monthly al­lowance of eu­ros 1,181 (₹86,000 ap­prox), a main­te­nance al­lowance of eu­ros 1,031 (₹75,000 ap­prox) and a monthly stipend of eu­ros 150 (₹10,000 ap­prox). In ad­di­tion, the fol­low­ing ex­penses are di­rectly cov­ered – one in­ter na­tional re­turn jour­ney; so­cial se­cu­rity cover and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. The schol­ar­ship in­cludes a monthly al­lowance of eu­ros 1,400 (₹1 lakh ap­prox) for the PhD level.

The Eif­fel schol­ar­ship can­not be held con­cur­rently with ei­ther a French gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship, an Eras­mus plus grant or a schol­ar­ship from the Agence Univer­si­taire de la Fran­co­phonie. Visit http:// www.cam­pus­france.org/fr/ for more.

IMAGESBAZAAR

Au­thor­i­ties at dis­tance learn­ing uni­ver­si­ties feel the ab­sence of a reg­u­la­tor af­fects qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion im­parted and new ini­tia­tives.

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