Distance education: institutes must become deemed-to-be varsities

Distance education: institutes must become deemed-to-be varsities

Standalone higher educational institutions, which offer various certificate and post-graduate diploma programmes in the open and distance learning (ODL) mode, will have to qualify for deemed university status to continue their operations from the next academic session.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has amended its ODL regulations for this.

The revised UGC (ODL) regulations, 2017 are applicable to all standalone institutions which have been offering distance education with the approval of the erstwhile Distance Education Council (DEC) under the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou).

The standalone higher educational institutions include those which are not affiliated or recognised by any university.

"Certificates, diplomas or post-graduate diplomas awarded by the standalone institutions, which have also been approved by the commission based on the policies of the then Distance Education Council till the academic year 2016-17, shall remain valid programmes till the academic session 2017-18," the UGC said, notifying the changes in its ODL regulations in an official gazette on October 11.

"Thereafter, they shall be free to get their standalone institution status converted to university or deemed-to-be-university for the purpose of these ODL regulations, failing which, the commission shall not accord any approval to the ODL programmes of standalone institutions," it said.

This comes after many standalone institutions faced UGC regulations banning them from offering any distance education programmes earlier this year, even though they were running the courses with the approval of the DEC.

Some of these institutions, including Maharashtra Academy of Engineering and Research, approached the Delhi High Court, seeking relief.

Hearing their petition, a division bench of the high court recently directed the government to let all approved standalone institutions continue offering distance education programmes, as approved by the DEC, in the current academic session of 2017-18.

It also held that petitioners may, in the meantime, commence the process of admissions to the courses they offer.

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