IGNOU's flip-flop on aeronautical course hits students

At a time when students are wrapping up their academic year with annual examinations, the situation is traumatic for a section of students pursuing a B Tech course offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

The students do not know whether they will have their annual exams or not. In fact, they are unsure whether their course will continue at all as they don’t even have their enrolment numbers yet.

The ‘Face-to-Face B Tech Aerospace Engineering’ course of the IGNOU has left the students in disarray. The students, a year into the academic year, are now being told that their course may be scrapped.

The programme was approved by IGNOU in 2009. Unlike the other distance education courses, this face-to-face course is conducted like a regular engineering course. Colleges conduct the course after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with IGNOU.

However, the university, in 2012, all of a sudden asked the colleges to withdraw the course. The decision (in August 2012) came after the classes had begun for the academic year (in July 2012). Through the year, colleges tried to impress upon the university that they could not withdraw the course after admissions. However, the students were kept in the dark about the developments.

In November last, a group of colleges approached the Delhi High Court against the open university. With the case pending before the Court, students are keeping their fingers crossed for a favourable verdict.

Students, however, are disappointed as quitting at this time of the year is futile, since it is too late to get seats in other courses. “It has been my dream to study aerospace engineering. The prospects of it now look bleak with all the uncertainty. We are tired of living in the hope that something good will come out of this,” a student of Agragami VSM Institute of Aerospace and Engineering and Technology told Deccan Herald.
Another student said that he had paid Rs 1.5 lakh for the first year and from the next year, the fee will be Rs 60,000. “I feel guilty that things turned out messy after my parents invested all the money,” he said.

While there are 28 students pursuing the course at the Agragami college, there are 120 students for the same course at the Hindustan Academy.

In Bangalore alone, there are three colleges offering the course, including the aforementioned institutions and the Siddhartha Institute of Aeronautical and Information Technology. Across the country, there are 12 institutions that are part of the programme.

Background

In 2009, as part of the pilot initiative, the course was started in Pune. Later, it was extended to Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata.

Sources in Hindustan Academy said the decision was not in compliance with the directions issued by the Board of Management of IGNOU.

While the Board of Management had asked the varsity to review the existing course, the then Acting V-C Prof M Aslam (who is the present V-C of IGNOU) instructed colleges to keep the course in abeyance. Surprisingly, six months earlier, the colleges were told that they could continue the course if they had a minimum of 15 students.

Apathy rules IGNOU

IGNOU collects 30 per cent of the fee taken by the colleges for this course. This fee was returned to the colleges in September last saying that the status of the course was uncertain.

Principal of Hindustan Academy Air Cmde Sajjad Rahim (retd) told Deccan Herald that IGNOU has been inconsistent with respect to its other decisions too. Not just the first year BTech students, their seniors too are facing problems. A fortnight ago, the college received a shocker when the university said group projects would not be accepted and students had to submit individual projects.

“The projects were already completed and there was no information about this from the university’s end,” Rahim said. They were adamant that if students do not submit individual projects, they would not evaluate it.

While IGNOU seems to be oblivious to these issues, students are anxiously waiting for the Court verdict. The next hearing is scheduled for May 1.

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