In a watershed decision, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has stated that only universities can offer distance learning programmes in India. With the earlier decision of the Distance Education Council overturned, standalone institutes can no longer continue to run programmes via distance mode.
Across the country dozens of B-schools are raking in crores by offering diploma management courses via distance education. They will all have to cease operations as the UGC will not extend their recognition.
The decision was notified in the last week of June in a UGC gazette notification: The minimum standards of instructions for the grant of first degree through non-formal distance education in the fac ulties of arts, humanities, fine arts, music, social science, commerce and science.
The decision was taken after a committee headed by Prof N R Madhav Menon submitted its recommendations to regulate distance education in India. Ctificates or diplomas or post-graduate di er plomas awarded by the standalone institutions, which also have been approved by the Commission based on the policies of the then Distance Education Council, of the Indira Gandhi National Open University , for running open and distance learning programmes till the academic session as specified in recognition letters already issued at the level of the Commission, shall remain valid in the field of open and distance learning mode of education and once the recognition period to these standalone institutions ceases, such institutions cannot offer open and distance learning programmes,“ it read.
These institutes can offer distance education courses if they are converted to university or deemed to be university , “failing which, the Commission shall not accord approval to open and distance learning programmes of standalone institutions.
“Standalone institutes were free from university regulation. As they offered diploma courses, they did not fall under the All India Council for Technical Education too. Many institutes hence started offering distance education courses and made a lot of money .Soon, there was management in hospital administration, forest management, agriculture and plantation management, etc.,“ said a former director of the Institute of Open and Distance Learning, Mumbai University . In Maharashtra, the UGC's diktat will affect about a dozen institutes.
New rules also freeze the jurisdiction that universities can operate within. Study centres cannot go beyond their jurisdiction. “For instance, Pune University has a centre in Belapur. That will now have to close down,“ said a state government officer from the higher education department.
UGC rules also state examination centres shall be located in government schools like Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Sainik school, etc, including approved affiliated colleges under the university system and no centres shall be allotted to private organisations.