Resolve KSOU crisis soon

For several years now, abuse of power, corruption and maladministration have dogged many universities in Karnataka, but none more than the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU), which was derecognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2015. Karnataka had the distinction of having one of the first universities in the country in 1916 - the University of Mysore was established during the reign of the 'maharajas' of Mysore. The KSOU was founded in Mysore in 1996 to meet the growing needs of distance education. With a fairly good infrastructure in place, KSOU soon became extremely popular, attracting students from across the country. At last count, KSOU had 3.94 lakh students on its roll. It also earned recognition from the University of Distance Education Council, Association of Indian Universities and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

But the decline had begun much earlier under the stewardship of ambitious and reckless vice-chancellors. The KSOU had established learning centres all over the country and was offering professional and technical programmes without UGC approval and in violation of the norms of regulatory bodies concerned. The university started online programmes which were not recognised by UGC and at one point had signed MoUs with 95 institutes, offering 422 subjects, including engineering and paramedical courses, ignoring the warnings of the Distance Education Council not to do so as it had no competence. The university was also marred by allegations of financial irregularities and corruption. A Commission of Inquiry headed by former high court judge, Justice Bhaktavatsala, confirmed this and indicted two former vice-chancellors - K S Rangappa and M G Krishnan. The CID took over the investigation and registered cases against the two former vice-chancellors and five other officials for irregularities committed during their tenure.

The UGC has retrospectively derecognised KSOU from the 2013-14 academic year, which has affected over 6 lakh students whose exams were cancelled or degree certificates rendered worthless. It has also ordered a comprehensive enquiry into financial irregularities amounting to Rs 580 crore. State Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddy has ordered a parallel enquiry and threatened to close down the university permanently. Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, who was silent for a long time, has now assured that KSOU won't be shut down and that the UGC will find a way to bail it out, but after cleaning its affairs. The state government and the UGC should work hand in hand to find a viable solution as the future of lakhs of graduates and more than 900 teaching and non-teaching staff are at stake.

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