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Universities upset over UGC notice on distance education programmes

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The Hindu | | R. Sujatha |

The University Grants Commission’s notice that all State and private universities should seek its approval before setting up off-campus/ study centres and outreach centres has confused higher education officials here. The notice, available on the UGC website, says the laws enacted by the State legislatures will apply to the Universities – State and private – have a limited jurisdiction within their respective states and only Parliament is competent to enact laws for the whole country. “No off-campus / study centre / outreach centre is established by your esteemed university outside the territorial jurisdiction of the state. If you are a private university, even within the state, the off-campus / study centre / outreach centre should be established with the prior approval of the UGC as mandated in the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulations, 2003,” the notice states. The UGC has said that many private universities have not taken its permission prior to establishing study centres within and outside their respective States. .

Offshore campuses

The University of Madras, which has two academic admission seasons each year admits thousands of students in each season. It also has campuses in the West Asian and South East Asian countries. Officials here said they had expressed their worries to the government. Each year, around 10 lakh students graduate from Class XII but less than 3.5 lakh students go for higher education. The rest seek higher education through distance mode. “In a country which is looking for 100 per cent literacy we do not understand the need for such restrictions,” an official pointed out.

Money spinner

For the State universities, the open and distance education programme is a revenue generator. Each university also runs constituent colleges. The government provides grants for the first five years, after which they become the responsibility of the university. “The distance education programme generates revenue which we use to maintain the colleges. Such regressive measures do not auger well,” said a university official from down south. S.Manian, Vice Chancellor of Annamalai University, which has been running distance education programmes since 1979 when it was a private university, said the programme was “a mode of equipping a person after taking up a job.” The university has 30,459 candidates on campus, while as many as 2,84,061 candidates are enrolled through its distance education programme. “We have a strong infrastructure and faculty strength of around 4,000 to run these programmes,” Dr. Manian said, adding he had not yet received the notice.

Quality concerns

According to S.P. Thyagarajan, former VC of the University of Madras, the UGC’s distance education council was created to maintain standards. To regulate proliferation of such programmes, territorial jurisdiction for all State Universities was sought. Concern for quality led the UGC to debar conduct of the programmes in 2010. “In the new knowledge era what we need is quality benchmarks for universities to be allowed to conduct courses,” he says. “Quality dilution has warranted these stipulations. However, regular faculty and a network of training for candidates will prevent quality dilution.” He also suggests that the programmes are reviewed every five years. – Courtesy   /   12/08/2015UGC Letter reg.: Territorial Jurisdiction of Universities/State Private Universities


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