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Standalone Institutions, which have been offering programme in distance education programmes for over 2 decades now, have seen see-saw of their fate in last 1 year. Starting with threat of closure under the UGC Regulations, 2017, then revived by a Court Order and now been shifted from UGC to AICTE, which is yet to frame any regulation, they have seen it all. But atleast they have a regulator now.

UGC had last year in June 2017, notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode.

Regressively, the Regulations dealt a big blow to the Standalone Institutions. Regulation 19[2] of the UGC Regulations prescribed that the Standalone Institutions cannot admit students beyond the academic year 2016-17, which meant they were asked to shut down. Else they were asked to convert themselves to Universities.

However, some of the standalone Institutions challenged the legality and validity of the Regulation 19[2] of the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017 interalia seeking interim relief that they should be allowed to continue admitting students for the academic year 2017-18. It was prayed to the Court that it should direct Government of India and UGC to consider constituting, Distance Educational Council of India, which was recommended by the Madhav Menon Committee.

The High Court after hearing the Petitioners, allowed the Interim Relief of the Standalone Institutions and permitted them to admit students for the academic year 2017-18. The Respondent Government of India and UGC during the hearing also informed the Court that they are considering to amend the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017.  In terms of submissions made before the High Court, UGC has notified the University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2017, thereby amending the Regulation 19[2] to give effect to the order of the Hon’ble High Court.

However, now it has transpired that UGC has taken a stand that it cannot govern and regulate the Standalone Institutions, as it regulatory spread is limited to Universities. Considering this and the piquant situation of their 2 decades of existence, AICTE has been vested with the power to regulate the Standalone Institutions and also to frame regulations for conducting open and distance learning programmes by Standalone Institutions.

AICTE, after being vested so, discussed the issue in detail in its 112th Meeting of Executive Committee held on 22.01.2018 and it was decided to collect information from all the concerned standalone Institutions, to facilitate the Council to provide approval for the Academic Year 2018-19, and also for framing of appropriate Regulations, keeping in view objectives of the proposed ODL Regulations, vis-à-vis the needs of such Institution imparting distance learning and also the aspirations of the learning community in ODL Mode.

AICTE has sought details of programme being conducted under the distance education mode, prior approvals by UGC, mode of conducting the programme, mode of examination, details of faculty etc.

AICTE has therefore written to the standalone Institutions seeking information by 15.02.2018.

EduLegaL View:

From the brink of closure to have a new regulator, Standalone Institution has come a long way in pursuit of their survival in last 1 year and the Government needs to be complimented for the same.

However, as we all know, AICTE covers the spectrum of “technical education” only and hence it will not be in a position to grant approval, which are beyond the definition of “technical education”. Many of these standalone Institutions have courses running diploma programme in different subjects of law, humanities, arts, so what happens to those courses? Will they again meet the threat of closure.

An effective solution is to create a Distance Education Council of India, which will regulate the entire Open and Distance Learning System, rather being split between UGC and AICTE, for different subject, the former regulating the Universities and the latter regulating the Standalone Institutions. Such situation also leads to anomalies in matters of policy decision.

The argument will continue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | | 

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