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Gauri Kohli | Hindustan Times | New Delhi | Nov 29, 2016 | Opinion |
Heads of ODL varsities and experts have said that the transfer of the Distance Education Council (DEC) from Indira Gandhi National Open University (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 and UGC Acts. The powers 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 HRD ministry 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 recognition, 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 the advent of modern information and communication technology. Use of mobile, television and computer 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. – Courtesy
The Indian Express | Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | November 18, 2016 |
The ministry is learnt to have despatched the order in the first week of November after five earlier letters, urging the UGC to initiate stern action against erring institutions, went unheeded.
The HRD Ministry has ordered the University Grants Commission (UGC) to file FIRs against the management of universities that have been offering correspondence courses to students outside their territorial jurisdiction. The ministry is learnt to have despatched the order in the first week of November after five earlier letters, urging the UGC to initiate stern action against erring institutions, went unheeded. The government resorted to its extraordinary powers under Section 20 of the UGC Act to order the higher education regulator to file FIRs against vice-chancellors, deans and registrars in order to “safeguard the interests of the thousands of gullible students who have been cheated by such universities and institutions”. The UGC was asked to submit an action plan by November 15, sources said. UGC chairman Ved Prakash was not available for comment.
According to the rules, all state universities — private and government-funded — can offer distance learning programmes only within the state they are located in. If an institution violates this, then the certificates, diplomas and degrees awarded to students outside the state are deemed invalid. Sources said the recent directive could mean trouble for universities such as Sikkim Manipal University, Karnataka State Open University, Periyar University, Salem (Tamil Nadu), and Global Open University, Nagaland, which, according to HRD Ministry officials, have been violating UGC rules on territorial jurisdiction. A letter written by Higher Education Secretary V S Oberoi to UGC chairman Prakash earlier this year had identified the above institutions as regular violators and urged the UGC to act against them. Oberoi’s missive referred to advertisements released by Sikkim Manipal University in particular and stated that the advertisements were deliberately ambiguous and did not mention the institution’s jurisdiction, which results in a lot of outstation students being misled into enrolling for the correspondence courses. Sources said the Ministry did not receive any concrete reply to this and four other letters. – Courtesy
UGC directs universities to write ‘regular’ or ‘correspondence’ / ‘distance’ on student’s degree, mark sheets, Diploma, Certificates etc
The New Indian Express | Sanjay Singh | 02nd November 2016 | UGC directs universities to write ‘regular or non regular’ on student’s degree, mark sheets
NEW DELHI: The practice followed by many universities, academic institutions, offering education through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode, and issuing degrees, diploma, certificate and mark sheets without mentioning the mode of the education programme – whether done through correspondence or regular – will come to an end now. The University Grants Commission (UGC) taking a serious note of it issued directions on October 31 to all universities and institutions engaged in ODL programmes and for immediately putting an end to such a practice which it believes is unfair to those candidates who have undergone regular courses for the same programme. While issuing guidelines the UGC said: “It has been noticed that some institutions/ universities offering education through Open and Distance Learning mode have issued degrees, mark-sheets, diplomas, certificates etc to the students without indicating the mode of delivery of the programme”. “All the institutions offering programmes through ODL mode are essentially required to mention `Mode of delivery: ODL/ Distance’ on all documents issued to the students during or after the completion of programme.
The Commission has pointed out that “it had on September 2, 2016 decided that universities, institutions should reflect the mode of delivery of the programme on all the documents issued to students in order to erase ambiguities between conventional mode degree(s) with that of ODL mode degree (s)”. A top UGC official pointed out that any candidate undergoing educational course as a regular candidate and another through ODL or as a non-regular student are two different modes of education and that requires to be differentiated in all certificates, mark sheets, degree or diploma. “You cannot paint all with the same brush. A regular student puts in more energy and time for the same academic course in comparison to a candidate undergoing the same educational programme through correspondence, non-regular or ODL mode. This requires to be mandatorily written on the degree, diplomas, certificates or mark sheets,” said the official.
Another official from the Union HRD ministry pointed out that there has been too much of ambiguity and confusion in courses like MBA and post-graduate diplomas courses in business administration/ management besides other professional courses. Many private institutions offering part-time, non regular, distance programme courses don’t mention the mode of education, owing to which companies hiring candidates do not come to know the real mode of education of the candidate they are hiring. “The UGC guidelines will put a full stop to such anomalies and ambiguity and make it clear if the candidate has passed a course through regular or through correspondence/ non-regular,” said the official. Every year approximately 35 lakh to 40 lakh students take up ODL degree post degree and diploma courses in India. Additionally, a regulator for distance education is also awaiting the nod of the Union HRD ministry to check malpractices owing to increasing number of registration of these non regular/ distance learning courses. At least 131 universities in India are offering ODL programmes. The UGC early last year allowed over 100 universities to continue offering academic programmes through ODL mode for the academic year 2015-16. – Courtesy Click here to download UGC Circular : Published on 02/11/2016 : UGC Letter reg.: Mode of delivery of programmes obtained under Distance and ODL Education
The New Indian Express | By S Vaidhyasubramaniam | 15th October 2016 | Opinion|
Any noodles brand will deliver steamy and tasty noodles in two minutes and none can deliver the same with untangled strands. Taste and entanglement are inversely proportional—the more you untie, the more the noodles will get cold and lose its taste. An entangled but tasty noodle is okay to satisfy the gastric appetite of students but educational policy-making needs a needle approach which directs the thread of thoughts and sews them together to create a fine educational fabric. The post-2004 charitable grant of deemed universities, the Supreme Court’s order on the Yashpal case, Tandon Committee’s armchair arbitrary and faulty analysis leading to paralysis of deemed universities, justifiable closure of IGNOU’s Distance Education Council (DEC) and taking over of distance education by the Distance Education Bureau (DEB) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) without any legislative sanction have all resulted in certain avoidable confusions in the current distance education policy-making. The unrecognised and unnoticed off-campus centres of deemed universities (winked at by the Tandon Committee), the mixing of Yashpal order on regular campuses and franchising of regular programmes in unauthorised study centres by regular State/private universities have resulted in the UGC’s understandable tri-state policy mind—caution, care and confusion.
The recent and hasty decision of an ‘expert committee’, constituted by the UGC to approve distance education courses for 2016-17 which have so far been approved, both by the erstwhile DEC and UGC’s own DEB, has rattled the distance education system. There is no need to emphasise the globally well-known fact that distance education provides accessibility, affordability, equity and continuity through life-long learning. All these ‘ities’ are bundled and thrown out by some of the DEB ‘expert committee’ recommendations, which not only lack statutory and regulatory source but are also arbitrary and unfair. For example, the DEB’s decision not to approve a university’s distance education programme if it is not offered in regular mode runs against our national policy of providing higher education to the deprived. The DEB’s decision is also against the spirit of UGC’s own SWAYAM Regulation 2016 allowing 20 per cent of a regular programme to be integrated with SWAYAM, a distance education MOOC platform that offers courses of other universities that may not offer such regular programmes. The lack of clarity in the operational approach of DEB on one hand is further compounded by exercising a power without any proper source.
The UGC in its June 2013 notification decided to adopt the DEC guidelines under the extant (but now repealed) Statute 28 of the IGNOU Act. This notification categorically stated that “modifications in these guidelines, if necessary, will be notified from time to time and in this, notification shall cease to be in force with effect from the date of coming into force of the UGC regulations on the subject mentioned therein”. No new regulation has been notified so far and without it as statutory backup or modifications in existing guidelines after following due process, an ‘expert committee’ decision without specific law or statutory rules runs contrary to the law laid down by many courts, including the apex court, in a catena of cases. There is an urgent need to come out of this year’s chaos. UGC should approve all existing distance programmes for the year 2016-17 and notify new regulations as per law for open and distance learning before the 2017-18 process starts. In short, distance education needs a needle pathway and not a noodles entanglement. – Courtesy
Gauri Kohli | Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Oct 04, 2016 |
A number of questions have arisen following the recent announcement by India’s largest open university, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) that it was resuming MPhil and PhD programmes scrapped by the University Grants Commission (UGC) more than two years ago. By doing so, has Ignou flouted UGC norms? The recent UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD Degrees) Regulations, 2016, say ODL (open distance learning) institutions cannot offer MPhil and PhD programmes in the distance learning mode. There is also no clarity on PhD degrees in technical disciplines. “Notwithstanding anything contained in these regulations or any other rule or regulation, for the time being in force, no university; institution, deemed to be a university and college shall conduct MPhil and PhD programmes through distance education mode. Part-time PhD will be allowed through distance mode, provided all the conditions mentioned in the PhD regulations are adhered to,” state the regulations.
According to Professor Ravindra Kumar, vice chancellor (incharge) Ignou, the UGC has permitted the university to start MPhil and PhD so long as it complies with the regulations. Other open universities have also approached the commission for permission to start PhDs in accordance with these norms. Professor Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor, Uttarakhand State Open University, says, “We have also submitted our case with the UGC and are likely to get clearance on starting PhD courses. Others such as Uttar Pradesh Rajarshi Tandon Open University and MP Bhoj Open University have also approached the commission. They are likely to be granted permission, provided they adhere to the UGC norms laid down in the 2016 regulations.” Clarifying things, Professor Kumar says universities have not been barred from offering the MPhil and PhD programmes and there was a need for them to follow regulations “scrupulously.” It seemed the procedural aspects of MPhil/PhD programmes have not been carefully examined and some “blanket disapprovals have been made operational. If the universities have to follow the UGC regulations for MPhil and PhD 2016 scrupulously, there is no scope for the dilutions or deviations. This fuss about not permitting MPhil/PhD in distance education mode is frivolous and reflective of unfounded anxieties,” he says.
In a recent letter to universities across the country, the UGC secretary has said that as per the 2016 regulations, there are certain procedures which the universities need to follow. “These include eligibility criteria for admission to the MPhil/PhD programmes; duration of the programme, procedure for admission; allocation of research supervisors; course work; setting up of Research Advisory Committees; following the evaluation and assessment methods and submitting the electronic copy of thesis to an inter-university centre of UGC, besides other clauses,” says Professor Dr Jaspal S Sandhu, secretary, UGC, in the letter. Ignou has not enrolled students since the time of the UGC directive. Many scholars enrolled till 2014 have not completed their work. “Such students are facilitated by the university to complete the programme as per regulations of the statutory bodies of the university and UGC regulations on MPhil and PhD of 2009,” says Professor Kumar. Ignou’s PhD course that was stopped in 2014 was unconventional, says a senior university official. “Also, Ignou was not in the ambit of the UGC or the Distance Education Council as it has been established by an Act of Parliament,” says the official. – Courtesy
The Economic Times | By Anubhuti Vishnoi, ET Bureau | 24 May, 2016 |
SWAYAM or Study Webs of Active –Learning for Young Aspiring Minds programme
NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is set to make online courses count towards the college degree. University Grants Commission, the apex higher education regulator, sources said, has agreed to factor in scores achieved in official online courses towards total marks scored and transfer credits for them — a move that will mainstream online courses and increase their acceptability and credibility in the Indian higher education system. It will also allow students across institutions in India to take up courses which may not be available at their institute and also win credit for them. One condition is that the online courses must be one of the 400 plus courses on offer through the government-backed massive open online course (MOOC) platform SWAYAM . Also, no more than 20% of the total score can be achieved through SWAYAM courses. So an Institution can only allow up to 20% of the total courses being offered in a particular programme in a semester through the online learning courses provided through SWAYAM platform.
Online courses are so far only seen as complementary skillsets acquired by an enthusiastic student but they do not in any way reflect in the student’s marksheet or enhance his overall score. UGC will soon notify setting up of a standing committee for SWAYAM courses and a national MOOCs coordinator that will coordinate with all universities and institutions on the MOOCs on offer. A special set of regulations — UGC (Credit Framework for online learning courses through SWAYAM) regulation 2016 — have been formulated under Section 26 of the UGC Act. It will provide for transfer of credits of such students who are enrolled as regular/part-time students in any educational institution in India. – Courtesy
Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Hexaware founder Atul Nishar invest in education startup Avagmah
The Times of India | Shilpa Phadnis | TNN | March 16, 2016 |
BENGALURU: Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan and Hexaware founder Atul Nishar have invested in Bengaluru-based Avagmah that enables universities and distance education providers to make higher education accessible to a broader audience. Avagmah, which means understanding or intelligence in Sanskrit, was founded in 2013 by NIT Kurukshetra alumnus Karthik KS, Sankar Bora, co-founder of Myntra, and Prasad Palla, who previously worked with Microsoft and Informatica. The company has raised $5 million in funding in last 18 months. Avagmah’s existing investors including Lionrock Capital, Singapore, Ganesh Krishnan, serial entrepreneur, and Neeraj Bhargava, founder and CEO of Mumbai-based investment firm Zodius Capital have also participated in latest round.
Avagmah equips universities to enroll working professionals to pursue higher education from remote locations through its SaaS-based technology platform. About 45% of those enrolled on the Avagmah platform are from tier 2 & 3 cities. “Students pursue courses that would supplement domain knowledge, but having a degree is important to get them a job,” said Karthik. Avagmah currently works with three universities — Pondicherry University, Bharathidasan University and Los Angeles-based UCLA Extension. In the last 18 months, it has enrolled 3,651 students. Avagmah offers MBA, BBA courses and other post-graduate degrees like those in finance and human resources. The opportunity is huge as the enrollment ratio for higher education in India is 24% and the government has set an ambitious target of it to grow 30% by 2020. This would practically mean setting up of 1,400 colleges to meet the requirement, which is difficult. Gopalakrishnan said he current brick and mortar higher education system s facing major challenges of excellence and access. – Courtesy /
Avagmah: In keeping with this commitment, we work towards enabling universities and distance education providers leverage avagmah’s state-of-the-art education technology services that we call – ‘avagmah technology platform’ or just ‘ATP’. The ATP is an amalgamation of cloud-based software-as-a-service technology and managed services solutions that enables universities increase reach and appeal of their programmes. With this, we offer a complete bouquet of services that include marketing, student counselling, virtual classroom, student engagement and retention in a seamless manner. The ATP, thus furnishes universities with the desired, comprehensive operating infrastructure they need to reach, attract, enrol, educate, support and graduate students; blending technology with their core i.e. academic curriculum and faculty expertise to extend high quality degree, diploma and certificate programmes to the deserving. – http://www.avagmah.com/
Business Standard | Vinay Umarji | Ahmedabad March 9, 2016 |
NPTEL, which is offering 990 course today, has seen rise in number of registered candidates to over 620,000
Taking its massive open online courses (MOOC) platform to next level, the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is in talks with universities as well as industry bodies such as The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) for endorsing its course certificate for students and recruitment candidates. Run by seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) including IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Guwahati, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, and IIT Roorkee, along with IISc Bangalore, NPTEL is in the process of partnering with colleges and universities for endorsing its course certificates as part of their curriculum. Moreover, talks are on with industry bodies like Nasscom for recognising the MOOC certificates as part of recruitment in the IT industry, sources said. “Already couple of universities have recognised NPTEL course certificate and are asking students to take up the same. Some of them have incorporated NPTEL course credits as part of their assessment system. What’s more, the NPTEL MOOC certificates are also emerging as a faculty development program add-on with educational institutes asking their faculty to also take up these courses,” NPTEL sources said.
Offering already over 990 courses, NPTEL has seen a rise in number of registered candidates to over 620,000. Since January, NPTEL has been offering certificates for 65 courses for which evaluation will be conducted based on assignments and exams. “In September, NPTEL conducted exams for 18 courses which were taken by 5,500 students. Of the total 65 courses now being offered as certificates, exam for 29 courses would be conducted in March which are likely to see 13,500 students taking the tests,” sources said. NPTEL has been conducting tests at across its test centres in 70 cities through testing partner TCS iON. The MOOC certificate are also being showcased as skill upgradation tools for employers. Already product engineering and software firm Aricent is learnt to have been using NPTEL’s MOOC certificate courses as pre-training material for its recruitment process, NPTEL sources said. Meanwhile, NPTEL is also likely to approach All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for a wider reach for the MOOC program. – Courtesy
Hindustan Times | Gauri Kohli | New Delhi | March 04, 2016 |
UGC, in its January 2016 order, said it “does not endorse the idea of allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously.
A recent notification by the University Grants Commission (UGC) has left Komal Sharma (name changed on request) worried and confused. She had enrolled for two courses – an MA in economics at a Central university and another master’s in a distance learning institute last year. She wanted to add value to her CV and save an academic year by pursuing two degrees. However, UGC, in its January 2016 order, said it “does not endorse the idea of allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously.” The education regulator directed universities to conduct programmes according to the First Degree and Master’s Degree Regulations 2003 and also follow norms prescribed by the statutory councils, wherever applicable. “I am not sure how this will impact my qualifications or job prospects,” says Sharma.
Students take up to or more degree programme at one time for added qualifications and improved CVs. Whether they should be allowed remains a much-debated issue. Some experts say pursuing two degrees together helps students in many ways. Their knowledge base is expanded and multidisciplinary education, a must for all-round development of young minds, is encouraged. Others say it may not be feasible with practical challenges like the choice-based credit system, different modes of evaluation, faculty-student ratio etc. Professor Nageshwar Rao, vice chancellor (incharge), Indira Gandhi National Open University, says, “Universities in India are more focussed on knowledge-based education. In such a situation, allowing students to pursue two degrees together may not serve the purpose of gaining meaningful education. The focus should be on skill-based education and the human resource development ministry along with other institutions and universities is working towards this. The National Skills Qualifications Framework is a step in this direction that aims to organise all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. Allowing students to go for short-term courses in part-time/distance learning mode is a good idea.”
According to MM Ansari, former member, UGC, “University degrees are getting increasingly delinked from jobs. Why should students chase degrees that do not enhance their social and economic status? In fact, course content of every degree programme is planned in such a way that students can master the theoretical and practical components. Learning requirements and time frame for doing justice with the process of teaching and learning are duly kept in mind. We can’t, therefore, allow two or more degrees simultaneously at the cost of diluting standard of education.” Interestingly, UGC had accepted a proposal to allow students to take up two degree programmes together in 2013. An expert committee of the commission had recommended in 2012 that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional degree simultaneously under open or distance education mode.
An expert committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Professor Furqan Qamar to look into the issue. The committee suggested that a student enrolled in a degree programme under regular mode may be allowed to pursue a maximum of one additional degree programme simultaneously under open/distance mode from the same or a different university. However, two degree programmes under regular mode may not be allowed simultaneously as it may create logistic, administrative and academic problems. Another suggestion was to allow students pursuing a degree programme under regular mode to pursue a maximum of one certificate/diploma/advanced diploma/PG diploma programme simultaneously either in regular or open and distance mode in the same university or from other institutions. UGC, at a meeting on July 31, 2013, had decided to accept the panel’s recommendations on allowing additional degree programmes. “I endorse the committee’s recommendations as these were made in view of the changing higher education scenario,” says Professor Iqbal Ahmad, who was a member of the committee. The Distance Education Council in June 2012 had said that two degree programmes could not be pursued simultaneously. – Courtesy
The Open University (OU), the UK’s largest university, is set to share knowledge and expertise with India. The need for higher education development is crucial in India, having an estimated 40 million university places to fill by 2020. The OU is currently working to support this aim, using distance learning as the way to do it. Vice Chancellor Peter Horrocks and Director of External Engagement Steve Hill paid a visit to India on February 16, 2016 to exchange a Memorandum of Understanding with Amity University. This exchange will allow the British university to share its expertise and leadership in research, technology and innovation in distance education with a leading Indian institution. Open University specialises in flexible distance learning, teaching over 1.8 million students since it opened in 1969. The aim is to reduce the distance of learning from the university to the student, creating a less formal and strict structure to the work load and delegation of the lectures. Steve has commented on this exchange: “This important agreement is a further demonstration of The OU’s on-going mission to develop distance learning capabilities both at home and abroad. “We have always sought to bring the benefits of education to partners, economies and individuals by widening access to high-quality university education. He goes on to state that the OU has over 40 years of experience which combines technology and education:
“The OU is ideally placed to play a central role in sustaining development in innovative economies such as India’s. “Our vision at The OU is to continue helping build capacity in online and distance education to address global skills shortages, which will ultimately benefit societies and economies all around the world.”. India should benefit from this change, due to having a large population of English speakers and strong links to Britain. The sharing of British higher education should contribute enormously to the current students in India. However, the visit is representative of the wider trend of internationalisation in British higher education, which now no longer just consists of foreign students coming to the UK for a limited period of time. Instead, this now sees British institutions establishing a presence abroad. Open University is also known to work in partnership with many UK businesses. This partnership will provide training solutions that are aligned with business needs. It is this type of education that the University believes will be of great value to India. India needs to train 500 million people in the next year to sustain its phenomenal economic growth, currently the fastest in the world at 7.6 per cent per annum. The OU are the UK’s leader in part-time education, and have 76 per cent of their current students studying with them whilst simultaneously working full or part time. The higher education institution believes it is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces. – Courtesy