Electronic degrees

The Union Minister for Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal’s announcement that a national data base of educational qualifications would be created in electronic form is an important initiative to modernise and improve the existing system. The move is innovative like many educational reforms which have recently been proposed. It involves dematerialisation of all degrees and certificates from the school to the university level, holding them in the data base to be maintained by a registered depository and making them available online. The process is the same as the dematting of shares which was successfully done some years ago. It makes the issuance and holding of documents a simpler and easier task. There are two depositories now registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India — the National Securities Depository Ltd and the Central Depository Services Ltd. The idea is to entrust one of these with the job of maintaining degrees and certificates or to create a new agency for the purpose.

The system will eliminate the need for students to hold their degrees, marks sheets and certificates in paper form. They won’t have to worry about getting transcripts and attested copies of degrees, and duplicates when the documents are lost. Retrieval and verification will also be easier when the certificates are to be vetted by an higher educational institution or by an employer. Institutions will not have to preserve degrees in physical form. More importantly, the new system will put an end to the problem of fake degrees and fake institutions. A fraudulent document cannot find place in the depository and a fake institution cannot be part of the system.

The move is proposed to be introduced from the next academic year on the basis of details to be worked out before March by an expert committee. It will need legislative support which is being planned. At a later stage the scheme will also be tied up with a unique identity (UID) plan for educational institutions. Since old degrees can also be dematted, it will also help those who already hold degrees and certificates. The entire scheme poses a gigantic challenge but the results will be worth the effort because, as the minister said, it can ensure greater confidentiality, authenticity and fidelity to academic degrees and certificates. It will take the country’s educational system into a more technology-driven and even environment-friendly future.

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